Revamped federal homelessness funds applauded by Calgary-based advocate

The federal government is giving cities $2.1 billion over 10 years and fewer spending restrictions to reduce homelessness, so long as they meet a goal of cutting their numbers by half.

Real-time data collection will be a big help, Tim Richter says

A revamped homelessness strategy is being applauded by Tim Richter, president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. It will see cities get $2.1 billion over 10 years if they commit to reducing their numbers by half. (David Bell/CBC)

The federal government is giving cities $2.1 billion over 10 years and fewer spending restrictions to reduce homelessness so long as they meet a goal of cutting their numbers by half.

The minister in charge of the file said there will also be new spending on top of that targeting Indigenous people — a group over-represented in shelters compared to their percentage of the general population. But how much will be spent remains unclear.

"Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home because one person on the streets in Canada is one too many," Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters in Toronto on Monday.

"As a country, Canada must do everything it can to reduce homelessness, meet the needs of vulnerable populations and provide every Canadian a safe and affordable place to live."

It's a strategy being applauded by Tim Richter, president of the Calgary-based Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

He says the revamped program also introduces innovative measures, like building coordinated systems and real-time data collection.

"Real-time data is knowing every person experiencing homelessness in a community by name, documenting and understanding their needs, and then using that information to prioritize them for housing and getting them connected to housing and the supports they need. And that's a very, very different way of working with homeless people."

Richter says Alberta's cities are already on the cutting edge of homelessness reduction.

"One, collecting that real-time data on everybody experiencing homelessness. Two, building coordinated access, building coordinated homeless systems. I would expect to see more investment in things like housing first programs that are taking people directly from the street, moving them into housing, and providing them the support."

Richter says Calgary is in the top 10 in the country in terms of the amount of funding it gets.

With files from The Canadian Press