Alberta Politics

homelessness in edmonton.

Earlier this week, I hit the streets of Edmonton donning a bright yellow and orange reflective vest. I could have easily been mistaken for a parking inspector, but I handed out no tickets. I spent most of the day on Tuesday volunteering for Edmonton’s biennial Homeless Count.

Coordinated by Homeward Trust, the count is a city-wide enumeration done by over 300 volunteers every two years. In 2008, the Homeless Count counted 3,079 people as homeless in Edmonton, which was up from 2,618 people counted in 2006. The results of the count provide numbers to help determine trends in the homeless population and does an important job of raising public awareness about homelessness in our City.

As I spent my morning talking with people at the Strathcona Bottle Depot, it dawned on me what a bizarre gathering spot it was. On one hand, I spoke with some homeless people cashing in after a night of bottle collecting, many of them very friendly and up front about their addictions or mental health issues. Coming from a very different situation, I spoke with people who arrived in mini-vans or sports cars, and obviously did have a permanent residence to stay at. As a volunteer, we asked everyone who we enchanted if they had a permanent residence to stay at that night. Not surprisingly, this generated some confused looks.

Over the past year, I have become more aware of homelessness and housing issues in our City. I have particularly become interested in how federal and provincial government policies from the 1990s have contributed to the rise of homelessness in our cities, particularly when it comes to the number of homeless people facing mental health issues. It has been positive to see that after years of having to rely on band-aids and stop-gaps, many social agencies have become the beneficiaries of renewed interest in housing issues by the municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Alberta’s two largest cities have taken different paths in dealing with the challenge of homelessness, but have already accomplished a lot through their 10 year plans (Calgary, Edmonton).

It is difficult to believe that any government-supported initiative of this magnitude will last a decade, but even if it does not survive past the next provincial election, the 10 year plans have already had a positive impact. According to Homeward Trust, since April 2009, 900 people have found housing through the housing first program; 85% remain successfully housed, meaning they have either graduated or are still in the 12 month program.

After volunteering at Homeless Connect earlier this year, I felt like I gained a valuable experience. Even though I live in a downtown neighbourhood, I had until that point never engaged in a real conversation with a homeless person. Once I cast aside all the stigmas and unconscious anxieties that I was carrying, volunteering for Homeless Connect quickly became a rewarding experience and one of the reasons why I did not hesitate to sign up for the Homeless Count.

Homeward Trust will be holding another Homeless Connect event on October 17, 2010 and are looking for volunteers.

5 replies on “homelessness in edmonton.”

Because homeless people don’t vote, it sounds cruel and ignorant and it is but that’s what this government does, they serve only themselves.

property owners and property managers are actively contributing to homelessness by their paperwork criteria for qualifying as a potential renter…many, not a few, canadians in edmonton, for example, could never meet the application criteria, so even if they have the income to support monthly rental costs, they have no access to rental housing…for example some apartment managers won’t rent to those on income support, some will only rent if your income is above a certain level, some will not rent unless you have previous rental history, and not if you have never rented before…these are impossible hurdles for some shopping for housing, and so they quit looking not because they want to, because they have exhausted the options…government, landlord and tenant advisory are too slack on those offering rental units

also there needs to be legislation put in place asap requiring the property management to put in writing, dated, signed, the reason a tenant has been refused rental accomodation…tenants go through a lot of paperwork and hurdles in the application process for housing and have the right to know the real reason they have been declined…this IS the only equitable way to do business

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