Edmonton housing staff are embarking on a plan to find ten locations through out the city to create supportive housing. It’s the outcome of a report that’s looked at the growing number of homeless who camp out in the river valley.
City housing director Jay Freeman told Council’s Community and Public Services Committee that they are hearing rumblings that both Federal and Provincial funding is on the horizon, however details are still to be worked out.
It’s been long argued that the lack of supports, especially for those with mental health issues, are lacking and individuals are winding up in area hospitals and the emergency wards, which cost the taxpayer an extreme amount of money.
“We need to get ahead of this issue. We need to solve this issue,” said Coun. Scott McKeen who argues the millions will be better spent on helping the addicted through supportive housing. “It didn’t even come up that the business revitalization zones are starting to lose business because of pan-handling and loitering and sleeping in and around their shops. The economic costs don’t even factor in the lost business.”
“To just put someone in a place who has extreme high needs and is one of those 300-600 individuals, they need intense supports to manage those needs,” said Aidan Inglis from Boyle Street Community Services. “Just moving those people and having a support worker who’s maybe going to be able to check in with them once or twice a week isn’t the reality that is going to keep them able to sustain that place, and from losing their housing.”
The idea behind a strategy is to find ten locations around the city, and come up with a communication plan ahead of time to help the community understand what is being proposed McKeen said who remembers the plan in Terwillegar and how that fell apart.
“These facilities are completely safe,” McKeen said. “They’re not going to be escaping the facility and attacking kids in the playground.”
“Ambrose Place houses 65. If we take the high number, 600, we’ll need ten more Ambrose Places.”
Another part of the strategy will be to find ways to combine housing with supports to deal with mental illness and addictions. “At the provincial level we need to see housing and supports integrated,” Freeman said. “They currently operate as almost two parallel systems and that needs to change.”
A motion was made Monday, and a report is expected to come back early in the new year with the strategy.