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Number of people sleeping on Edmonton streets falls: Homeward Trust report

WATCH: New numbers released Thursday reveal the extent of homelessness in Edmonton. The good news is numbers are going down. But, as Julia Wong reports, there are still many people living on the streets.

The number of people who reported experiencing homelessness in Edmonton is down.

New numbers, released by Homeward Trust, show 1,607 people in the city experience homelessness this year, compared to 1,923 in Dec. 2018.

READ MORE: Homeless camps set up in downtown Edmonton raise questions over safe spaces for less fortunate

Out of the 1,607, 354 were considered sleeping rough or sleeping without a shelter. That number is also down from 499 in Dec. 2018.

“It’s where we focus a lot of our energies and our effort because we also know part of what can help us help individuals accessing housing is moving them from an experience of sleeping rough to the shelters,” said Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust.

Chris Whitehead, 32, has been homeless for five years. Whitehead had a job but in 2014, his grandmother passed away and he said alcoholism took over his life. He said he then became homeless.

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“I feel lost. I’m lost everyday. What am I going to do? Where am I going to go?” he said.

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Whitehead said life on the streets can be tough.

READ MORE: New stats show increase in Edmonton homeless camps

“[One time] I woke up and someone stole my shoes and my socks. I could not believe that,” he said.

The Edmonton man would like to find housing, saying it would make him more responsible though he said he would need help and supports from agencies.

“When I hear people [say] I’m going home, I have a home, an apartment. It just lifts up my spirit because I don’t have a home,” he said.

Watch below (July 9): What is it like to be homeless in Edmonton? Lisa G has been on and off the street for about five years and describes the struggles she faces every day.

What is it like to be homeless in Edmonton?
What is it like to be homeless in Edmonton?

McGee said it can be a challenge to break out of the cycle of homelessness.

“We really need more housing but we also need supports to go with that housing,” she said.

“Individuals who have had long experiences with homelessness, making that transition is a very big step.”

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McGee said she has been making an appeal to the UCP government for support.

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Finance Minister Travis Toews said protecting the most vulnerable is a key priority for the budget.

“Our budget will reflect that,” he said, adding the provincial government is focused on bringing in more investment to grow the economy and create jobs.

“The dignity of a job, the dignity of being able to provide for yourself and your family is so essential. We’re committed to providing that kind of environment for this province.”

Watch below (Sept. 13): With dozens of tents lining some streets in downtown Edmonton, advocates are asking officials to hold off on evicting the homeless. Sarah Ryan reports.

Edmonton’s homeless camps raise questions over safe spaces for less fortunate
Edmonton’s homeless camps raise questions over safe spaces for less fortunate