Council greenlights terms of reference for new homelessness plan

An executive summary on the plan is expected by summer

City council supported a report containing terms of reference for a new integrated plan for housing and homelessness during its Monday meeting.

“I think it’s important that we adopt this direction and that we are very intentional in working with our community in terms of developing this plan,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “Certainly over the past decade there have been a number of successes in the community,” she said, adding there of course have been challenges as well.

“I completely agree with the statement that the complexities of local homelessness have changed – we’ve seen that across the province and we’ve seen it in the country,” she said.

“And the other factor that has changed in recent years is that Red Deer has become even more of a regional hub city over the past decade.”

According to council notes, the current community plan for housing and homelessness ended in 2018.

“Community plans for housing and homelessness help identify priority areas for effort, funding and tactics to achieve the community’s goals.”

An ad hoc group will now lead the process, which will enable a proposal call for a consultant to develop a plan.

Red Deer’s current plan wrapped up at the end of last year (Everyone’s Home: Vision and Framework on Ending Homelessness). Council heard that in order to continue to invest federal and provincial homelessness dollars in community programs, a new plan is needed to inform a new operational design for the City’s efforts tackling housing and homelessness issues.

Council heard that over the past 10 years, the City has seen success in supporting nearly 1,000 people experiencing homelessness and at risk of homelessness through funding in response to past homelessness plans.

“There certainly were learnings over the last 10 years,” said Coun. Ken Johnston during discussion.

“When I looked at this I wondered, are we critically evaluating what has not led to success?” he asked. “Are we putting the critical evaluation about what has not worked, and ensuring that we don’t repeat what has not worked?

“I just want to make sure that we take some time to evaluate the past 10 years.”

According to the ‘plan ownership’ section of the terms, there will be broad representation from all sectors of the community, “Including but not limited to CHAB (Community Housing Advisory Board), Red Deer Indigenous community, RDHA (Red Deer Housing Authority), Piper Creek, homeless servicing and faith-based agencies and those with lived experience and citizens at large and the downtown and broader business.”

Director of Community Services Sarah Cockerill said that back in 2000, the federal government announced the National Homelessness Initiative, and Red Deer City council since that time has been working with the community to create housing and homelessness solutions.

In 2008, the mandate came forward that all communities create 10-year plans, she explained.

That same year, Red Deer’s original plan was launched and Cockerill said it adopted the ‘housing first’ philosophy and principles.

“That simply says that everyone has the ‘right to a safe and appropriate, affordable home without judgment’ which continues to be the leading best practice in ending homelessness across the country,” she said.

That vision helped to create ‘wrap-around’ supports as well for people in building life skills, having a sustainable income, employability skills, and it worked to address addictions and physical/mental health supports as well.

“The other major change from 2008 was that principles from the plan leveraged community partnerships,” said Cockerill.

“Certainly, I think we can all agree that our community’s needs have changed over the last 10 years,” she said. “The face of homelessness is much more complex and requires certainly innovative approaches.”

Looking ahead, the federal government is launching the Reaching Home program as of April 1st, and it’s anticipated that communities will need to have a plan in order to land federal dollars aimed at dealing with homelessness.

An executive summary on the local plan is expected by late summer.

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