(WATCH: Edmonton’s homeless population is growing, but not by much. Social agencies say there’s still a lot of work ahead, especially when it comes to youth. Fletcher Kent reports.)
EDMONTON – Despite rising rental costs, low vacancy, and high in-migration, the latest count shows Edmonton’s homeless numbers are stable.
The 2014 homeless count found 2,252 people are homeless in the city. That’s an increase of 78 people (or 3.5 per cent) from 2012. Over those two years, Edmonton’s overall population has grown 7.4 per cent. The homeless count is done every two years.
“That numbers are stable in the face of rising housing costs, low vacancy rates, and high levels of in-migration – which have all previously contributed to increases in Homeless Count results – shows that we’re making a difference,” said Susan McGee, chief executive officer of Homeward Trust Edmonton. “However, those pressures remain. With more than 2,200 Edmontonians without a home, we are reminded that we still have lots of work to do.”
We “cannot become complacent as a community.”
In 2009, Edmonton launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness. Since 2008 – the last homeless count before implementing that plan – homelessness has gone down 27 per cent.
This year’s count revealed there are fewer people unsheltered and provisionally housed, and fewer sleeping outside or couch surfing. However, the count found emergency shelter use has increased. In fact, it’s up 26 per cent from two years ago. The number of homeless youth and families has also gone up.
Between 2012 and 2014, the number of homeless youth increased by 17 per cent and the number of homeless people with children was up by roughly 25 per cent.
“I’m way over being shocked by anything,” said McGee. “The youth numbers can’t help but surprise all of us.
“The question ‘why?’ keeps us up at night.”
Of those counted, an estimated 16 per cent are new to Edmonton within the last year and 47 per cent identify as aboriginal.
“The count results tell an important story about people who are experiencing homelessness and where we need to put our efforts as a community,” said McGee. “Over the next year, we will focus additional resources on rapid rehousing to reduce the pressure on emergency shelters. We will also focus on culturally appropriate housing and supports for aboriginal peoples, and focused interventions for families and youth.”
All cities part of 7 Cities of Alberta (Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Wood Buffalo, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat) held homeless counts within the same week, and are releasing preliminary results Friday. In total, the counts recorded 6,600 people across Alberta as homeless. Five communities held counts in 2008. Since then, Alberta has seen a 16 per cent reduction in homelessness.
A full report, including analysis, will be available in January.