UCP govt to cut homeless support funding

I was recently browsing the UCP’s recently released 2022–2023 provincial budget when something stuck out to me.

According to the budget, the Alberta government spent $200 million last year on what they call “homeless and outreach support services”. This year, they plan to spend $193 million, a drop of $7 million, or 3.5%.

To be fair, though, they had originally planned to spend only $193 million last year, too, so the $200 million was a bit of an upgrade.

Support independent journalism

Now, that being said, they also spent $200 million in 2020–2021. And if they spent $200 million two years ago, and they ended up spending $200 million last year—despite planning for $193 million—it makes me wonder whether they learned their lesson the last two years and we’ll end up spending the same amount this year regardless.

Even so, the UCP government hadn’t planned on spending $200 million on homeless and outreach support services in 2020–2021. In fact, they had originally planned on spending $196 million.

That means that not only is the $193 million budgeted for this year a cut from last year’s spending, it’s a cut from the budgeted amount from 2 years ago.

But that’s not all.

When they released their first budget in October 2019, the UCP estimated that they would spend $197 million on homeless and outreach support services that year and would freeze spending at that amount for the following 3 years.

Here’s what the original plan was.

2019–2020 estimate$197 million
2020–2021 target$197 million
2021–2022 target$197 million
2022–2023 target$197 million

By their second budget, they already started making adjustments.

2019–2020 forecast$197 million
2020–2021 target$196 million
2021–2022 target$194 million
2022–2023 target$194 million

And even more adjustments the following year:

2019–2020 actual$197 million
2020–2021 forecast$196 million
2021–2022 estimate$193 million
2022–2023 target$193 million
2023–2024 target$193 million

But then the pandemic threw a wrench into their plans to cut homeless and outreach spending by $7 million over 3 years, forcing them to cough up an extra $11 million over the last 2 years, as seen below.

2019–2020 actual$197 million
2020–2021 actual$200 million
2021–2022 forecast$200 million
2022–2023 estimate$193 million
2023–2024 target$193 million
2024–2025 target$193 million

Either way you look at it, the UCP desperately wants to cut spending for homeless and outreach support services.

And that made me wonder how spending under the NDP went in this area. Here it is. Keep in mind that the first line was under the PC government and is meant as a reference point.

2014–2015$162 million
2015–2016$176 million
2016–2017$184 million
2017–2018$187 million
2018–2019$196 million

These were the actual amounts spent each year.

As you can see, under the NDP, spending for homeless and outreach support services increased every year. Over their 4-year term, they increased spending by $34 million, a 21% increase.

Not only is the UCP not interested in keeping up that level of increase, they’re cutting spending to below the level it was at during the NDP’s last year in power.

Luckily, the provincial government breaks down that spending a bit more in their annual reports. Here’s how it breaks down for the NDP’s last year and for 2020–2021, the most recent data available.

Program planning and delivery$4.453$4.031-$0.422
Homeless shelters$46.809$48.700$1.891
Women’s shelters$51.319$51.319$0.000
Homeless support outreach services$92.850$91.801-$1.049
in millions $

The above data is what each government had estimated they’d spend in each area and doesn’t include COVID-19 specific grant funding.

What we see is that while the UCP had increased funding to homeless shelters by $1.89 million over 2 years, they froze funding for women’s shelters, and cut funding to programme planning and delivery, as well as to homeless support outreach services.

They ended up spending only $420,000 over 2 years, or an average of $210,000 a year. That’s an increase of only 0.21%.

That’s not even enough to cover inflationary pressures.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

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

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: