Province marks second year of 10-year plan to end homelessness

There are about 3,000 less homeless people in Alberta thanks to the province’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, officials say.

The program marked its second year recently.

“With the $9 million boost this year, we will help another 500 people move off the streets into housing and continue to support more than 3,000 formerly homeless Albertans on their path to independence,” said Premier Ed Stelmach.

He said Alberta was the first province in Canada to implement a 10-year plan to end homelessness. ‘Housing First’ provides homeless people with permanent housing in tandem with wrap-around supports, which may include intensive medical, psychiatric, and case management services, such as life skills training, landlord liaison assistance or addictions counseling.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling applauds the funding.

“It’s encouraging to see the province announcing this funding,” he said. “It’s great to see that this issue remains in the forefront for the province.”

Besides more in core funding, Stelmach said $4 million will also go to support rent supplements to 1,000 formerly homeless people who only need help with their rent and no longer need Housing First wrap-around supports.

“Housing First is the right thing to do for vulnerable Albertans because it provides the supports they need to get into housing and stay housed,” said Jonathan Denis, minister of Housing and Urban Affairs. “Partnering with communities and service agencies is also the right approach because it reduces costs to taxpayers.”

Denis pointed out that while shelters are a vital service to the community, they don’t ultimately solve the problem of homelessness.

In its recent budget, the Tories also announced $90 million for the development of close to 500 new housing units.

In 2011/12 another $100 million in capital will further support housing for homeless and low-to-moderate income Albertans in need.

Locally, Flewwelling added the City has taken great strides in battling the issue.

“We’ve been able to do wonderful things as a community,” he said. “We led the nation as a small City in developing the Mayor’s Taskforce to End Homelessness.

“However, we are nowhere finished. Homelessness is like a river – there are people constantly falling in upstream and we continue to fish them out downstream.

“We seek to get these people housed and then continue to support them and that’s the key.”