Home­less­ness a key elec­tion is­sue

City needs tran­si­tional hous­ing, say ad­vo­cates

StarMetro Edmonton - - News - Omar Mosleh

Ed­mon­ton is mak­ing strides in its plan to end home­less­ness, but needs to pro­vide a wide range of hous­ing stock if we’re go­ing to be suc­cess­ful, ad­vo­cates say.

As of one year ago, the Poin­tIn-Time Home­less count showed 1,752 peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in Ed­mon­ton. About 24 per cent were un­shel­tered while 35 per cent had some sort of ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“We are miss­ing some re­ally im­por­tant hous­ing prod­ucts in our com­mu­nity that pro­vide sup­port on site for in­di­vid­u­als with more com­plex needs,” said Susan McGee, CEO of Home­ward Trust, an Ed­mon­ton or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on end­ing home­less­ness.

Close at­ten­tion also needs to be paid to those at risk of home­less­ness, which in­cludes about 20,000 Ed­mon­ton house­holds liv­ing in what is called ex­treme core hous­ing need. That means they earn less than $20,000 a year and spend at least 50 per cent of their in­come on rent.

“You’re liv­ing in ex­treme poverty, which puts you in a hous­ing cri­sis. If you have one emer­gency, that puts you at se­vere risk of home­less­ness,” said Can­dace Noble with Boyle Street Com­mu­nity Ser­vice.

As it stands, most of Ed­mon­ton’s af­ford­able hous­ing units are in es­tab­lished neigh­bour­hoods in­clud­ing Lon­don­derry, McCauley, Al­berta Av­enue, Cas­tle­downs and down­town. There’s also a clus­ter in Mill Woods but no fur­ther south, Noble said.

Fund­ing for af­ford­able hous­ing largely falls on the shoul­ders of the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ment, but it’s the city’s job to main­tain those units and plan ar­eas for new projects.

“Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties don’t have the re­sources to build hous­ing, but they have the op­por­tu­nity to have a vi­sion and cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where it can be suc­cess­ful,” McGee said.

The city could do that by up­dat­ing by­laws to re­quire new build­ings to have some af­ford­able hous­ing units, and also by re­quir­ing de­vel­op­ments to be closer to tran­sit and so­cial ser­vices.

Metro file

Home­ward trust Ceo Susan McGee speaks at ed­mon­ton’s city hall in March.

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