Homelessness on the rise in rural Alberta

Above: Homelessness is often seen as a big city problem, but as Vinesh Pratap reports, research suggests focus should also turn to rural-based solutions.

EDMONTON — The federal government is set to announce an investment plan to help the growing problem of homelessness in rural Alberta. MP Kevin Sorenson will make the announcement Tuesday morning at the Alberta Rural Development Network in Sherwood Park.

Most Alberta communities that were part of a new study released Monday reported five to 10 homeless people per year, though some had as many as 30.

The study, sponsored by the Interagency Council of Alberta and the government of Alberta, looked at 20 rural Alberta communities and another 20 communities across Canada.

“The boom and bust cycles inherent in our resource-based economy play an important role in local rural homelessness dynamics,” said researcher Dr. Waegemakers-Schiff.

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“Economic growth can add pressure to limited rental units in rural communities, squeezing out lower income residents.”

Much of the homelessness in rural communities is hidden, the study found. People aren’t necessary sleeping on the street, but they don’t have a stable home.

The report recommends more research on the impact of aboriginal migration, which it found has a significant impact, “particularly where proximity to aboriginal communities exists and where rural centres act as access points to services and opportunities.” Researchers found numerous cases of aboriginal women, youth and children fleeing violence, who went to rural communities with services and shelters.

While some communities in the study had a few affordable housing units, none had provincially funded emergency shelters, and none received provincial funding for affordable housing. Most cited funding as the primary challenge to meeting the needs of homeless residents.

To combat the problem, researchers recommend considering alternatives to shelters; increasing awareness of and leadership around homelessness; and responding to the needs of aboriginal people, victims of domestic violence, youth, seniors and immigrant newcomers.

Read the full report below:

Alberta Rural Homelessness Report

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