The results of the 2010 count of Edmonton’s Homeless population was released this morning as the 7-City Road Home conference started in our city. It was positive to see that the number of homeless counted this year was 2421, which is a decrease from the 3,079 counted in 2008. According to the organization that conducted the count, Homeward Trust, this year’s numbers are the lowest since 2004, when Edmonton’s homeless population was counted at 2,192 people.
These numbers are positive for our city and show the progress that has been made through the creation of housing-focused programs that provide stability, rather than band-aid solutions. Many of these programs were only made successful through the cooperation of the City of Edmonton and the provincial and federal governments.
“Edmontonians have said that homelessness is unacceptable” said Mayor Stephen Mandel. “With the adoption of the ten year plan and its implementation through Homeward Trust, working with the Homeless Commission and our city’s agencies and service providers, we are already seeing tremendous results in the first two years.”
The numbers are positive, but also show how much more work needs to be done in order to reach the goals set in the 10 year plan to eliminate homelessness. The work done over the past two years also signals a shift by the provincial government, which spent much of the 1990s cutting funding for many of the social and mental health programs. Those cuts created an environment where chronic homelessness became the only option for some of our City’s most vulnerable people.
Over the past year, I have volunteered at two of the Homeward Trust-organized Homeless Connect events at the Shaw Conference Centre and for the recent homeless count, from which the numbers released today were collected. As I have written before, they were both sobering and fulfilling experiences. As someone who is lucky to have a stable life and home, I find it is sometimes easy to forget about the people in our city who are not so lucky. Volunteering at these events have been both a healthy reminder and a way to help some of our neighbours who are not as well off.
The result of the economic slowdown over the past three years has affected the numbers, which show less strain on homeless shelters and a higher vacancy rate, but there have also been over 900 people housed through the programs funded through Homeward Trust.
In a media release distributed this morning, Homeward Trust Executive Director Susan McGee clearly described the successes and continued challenges facing our city when it comes to ending homelessness:
“We’ve seen signs of success in implementing the provincial and civic plans to end homelessness” said Susan McGee, Executive Director of Homeward Trust Edmonton. “Over 1000 people have found homes through Housing First, and overnight shelter use is decreasing. But the need for services and programs remains high, and with over 2400 Edmontonians still without a home, there is still a lot of work to be done.”