More than 540 homeless people in Edmonton have found homes of their own, thanks to the first year of the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Some 546 people are now living in homes after more than 424 affordable housing units were found between January 2009 and April 2010, the city announced Thursday.

The program, called A Place to Call Home, was launced last January by the Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness, which helps homeless people find affordable accommodations, acts a credit reference and assists with rent.

The goal of the $969-million initiative is to end homelessness in the city by 2019.

 "The work being done by our city's agencies and front-line workers is remarkable," Mayor Stephen Mandel said in a statement.

"And equally impressive is the determination I see from people who are being housed — determination to turn their lives around."

The plan focuses on intervention, supportive housing and prevention programs to get homeless people into permanent homes.

It also aims at decreasing the level of homeless people living in shelters by 2012 to what it was in 2006, as well as reducing the average length of stay at a homeless shelter to less than seven days along with reducing the need for emergency shelter spaces by 50 per cent by 2014.

Also achieved this year:

  • A Rapid Exit Program at one shelter where support workers help people find secure housing.
  • A Housing First Action Centre to coordinate with private landlords to find adequate housing.
  •  Edmonton's first furniture bank has been established.

Plan looks at loneliness

Front-line workers implementing the program said one of the challenges they deal with is the homeless people experiencing loneliness when they move into their new homes.

Work is now underway to find ways to integrate the new people into their new communities and to have neighbourhoods welcome those moving in, the city said.

"We must keep the momentum going," Mandel said.

"We Edmontonians pride ourselves on our caring compassionate community. We all have a role to play in supporting this plan, and to end homelessness in our city."

A one-day survey in 2007 counted 3,079 homeless people in Edmonton. At the current growth rate, that number will hit 6,500 in 2018 if nothing is done, the city said.