A committee tasked with solving Alberta's affordable housing crunch is making its first stop in Grande Prairie, a small northern city where the pressure is on for a new, larger homeless shelter.
Sky high rents in Fort McMurray and the rising homeless numbers in Edmonton and Calgary get a lot of attention, but Kelly Krauss believes Grande Prairie's problems should not be overlooked.
Krauss is trying to raise money to build a new 142-bed homeless shelter called Rotary House,more than double the size of the current one.
She plans to bring her concerns to provincial government's new Affordable Housing Task Force, which is holding a public meeting in Grande Prairie on Friday.
The city's population is expected to reach about 56,000 by the end of this year, double the 1991 figure.
"People are living in trailers, people are couch surfing. We can't even begin to measure the number of people in Grande Prairie that are in inappropriate housing,"Krauss said.
Krauss, the project co-ordinator for Rotary House,said a new shelter should"alleviate the stresses" on the existingWapiti Community Dorm.
She'll be pushing for a comprehensive approach that not only increases emergency housing, but focuses on moving people through the system until they can live independently.
Smaller communities also facing growing pains
EdmontonCoun. Karen Leibovici, a member of the task force, said other smaller communities may be feeling the same pressure.
"Grande Prairie is a high growth area and it's not surprising at all to me that they're in the same situation [as] Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer, and other municipalities."
Leibovici said she is optimistic that the provincial government will adopt the task force'srecommendations when their work is done. The affordable housing crisis is too widespread to be ignored, she said.
Real estate values and rents have soared across the province in recent years, leading to worries Alberta will be less attractive to workers desperately needed to fill labour shortages.
The task force, chaired by Len Webber, MLA for Calgary-Foothills, will travel to nine Alberta communities this month to talk about the issue— Calgary, Edmonton, Elk Point, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Hinton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer.
The 16 members, including the chair, are MLAs, councillors and representatives of industry and the non-profit sector.