Alberta announced $23M for homelessness but no actual homes

Nearly all the funding will be for temporary measures.

Yesterday, the Alberta government announced $23 million toward initiatives to help organizations working with unhoused people.

The catch, however, is that none of it will go toward actually addressing the root cause of homelessness: not having a home.

This funding will cover 4 main areas.

A majority of the funding—$13 million—will be focused on helping 14 homeless shelters in 11 communities throughout the province expand their facilities to meet physical distancing requirements. Shelters may be able to also use funding to provide meals, showers, laundry and connection to other services (such as addiction and mental health), but there were no detail on how groups could access funding for those services.

The communities where these shelters are located are:

  • Calgary
  • Drayton Valley
  • Edmonton
  • Grande Prairie
  • Leduc
  • Lethbridge
  • Lloydminster
  • Medicine Hat
  • Red Deer
  • Slave Lake
  • Wetaskiwin

Another $6 million will help set up 10 isolation sites throughout the province, where shelter clients who contract COVID-19 can isolate away from the general shelter population. There will be an average of 28.5 isolations spaces in the following communities:

  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Fort McMurray
  • Grande Prairie
  • Lac La Biche
  • Lethbridge
  • Medicine Hat
  • Peace River
  • Red Deer
  • Wetaskiwin

Of the remaining $3.5 million, $2 million of it will be directed towards emergency women’s shelters, to help operators provide more community outreach and deliver more virtual services. It will also help them provide hotel isolation services and adjust in-shelter services to align with public restrictions.

Lastly, the final $1.5 million will create 200 emergency shelter beds at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, as well as “on-site overdose prevention and treatment services”.

In a media conference last week, newly-elected Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi had called on the province to fund a 24-7 shelter at the stadium.

According to a report presented to the executive committee of the Edmonton City Council earlier this week, there are 53% more people experiencing homelessness in the city that there were a year ago. Compared to two years ago, numbers are up 102%.

Last winter, Edmonton had a capacity of 950 24/7 and overnight shelter beds. The abovementioned report claims that there are only 601 beds currently planned for this winter. That number could increase to 853 if all existing funding requests are approved. It would still leave the city nearly 100 beds short, compared to last year.

And that’s just capacity. The city expects that there’ll be 1,206 people requiring shelter. That’s double the number of beds they currently have planned. Even if all funding requests are approved, there will still be hundreds of people without beds in Edmonton.

The province—in its announcement—claims that with the Commonwealth Stadium shelter, there should be 1,280 total emergency shelter beds. It’s not clear how they got to that number, since 601 plus 200 is only 805.

But even if that number is accurate, one thing is for certain: until we start addressing homelessness by providing homes, these numbers won’t get much better.

Especially if the UCP keeps cutting per capita spending on homeless and outreach support services every year.

Oh, one final thing: the government’s announcement reported that the above supports are good for only 4 months, expiring next March.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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