Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Friday, July 7. It was updated on Wednesday, July 12 to include comments from the mayor.
An updated plan to end homelessness in Edmonton suggests an additional $230 million will be required over the next six years to house people experiencing homelessness.
The City of Edmonton and Homeward Trust released the updated plan on Thursday, which sets goals through 2026 and aims to end chronic and episodic homelessness by 2022.
“It’s absolutely achievable. We know that the model works,” Mayor Don Iveson said, stressing the importance of spreading out the housing, rather than building it all in the centre of the city.
“To put the 1,000 units of supportive housing that we know are needed all in the core neighbourhoods is probably not appropriate,” he continued.
“Council unanimously said, ‘We believe in the idea of distributing affordable housing – including housing for our most vulnerable Edmontonians – around the city rather than continuing to risk over-concentrating it in the centre of the city.”
The original 10-year strategy to end homelessness was launched in 2009. While strides have been made on the original 10-year plan, the city said some areas were not resourced to the level it required.
The original plan called for 1,000 new units of permanent supportive housing, but just 200 units have been added.
“Affordable housing has not been created at the levels we need; permanent supportive housing for people with high levels of need remains scarce and underdeveloped,” read the report.
“If we get those 1,000 units, I am confident we’ll be able to address chronic homelessness and if we focus on rapid re-housing, we can prevent long-term homelessness,” Iveson added on Tuesday.
“So, people will not have a home for a short period of time but they will not become chronically homeless on our streets.”
The new plan sets out several goals, including housing an additional 4,000 homeless people between April 2017 and March 2020.
The report says $30 million per year in new operational funding will be needed to ramp up the new system. Currently, $35 million per year is being spent.
While additional funding is needed, the city estimates $230 million will be saved over 10 years when it comes to costs for health care, emergency services, police and other resources.
Iveson said provincial and federal money is “forthcoming.”
“We’re spending money over here reacting when we could be strategically preventing and dealing with people from a health and wellness point of view rather than from a criminal justice reaction or acute care, critical care, medical point of view,” he said.
“We know that that’s the answer, we just need the funders to come through.”
More than 3,000 people were consulted on the updated strategy.
“Valuable perspectives from a wide range of stakeholders – both inside and outside the housing and social service sectors – people with lived experience, and thousands of Edmontonians formed the backbone of the plan update,” said Walter Trocenko, with the city’s real estate and housing branch.
“This is truly a community plan. The city has also been diligently advocating and working with other orders of government and its partners, recognizing that ending homelessness is an even higher priority for Edmontonians in 2017 than it was in 2010.”
The report states about one per cent of Edmontonians, or 11,300 people, experienced homelessness in 2016. Of those, 48 per cent are indigenous; that’s compared to five per cent of Edmonton’s overall population who are indigenous.
“The impacts of intergenerational trauma, residential schooling, systemic marginalization and racism are key drivers that explain this overrepresentation,” the report reads.
The city said remediation requires conscious action from all Edmontonians.
Over the last eight years, more than 6,000 people have been housed under the plan.
The updated plan, posted below, will be presented at the city’s Executive Committee in the fall.