10-year plan to end homelessness in Alberta falls short

A government report that's been shelved for 18 months shows that no money has gone towards building new social housing for the homeless since 2011.

No social housing funding since 2011 despite public pledge

A 10-year plan to end homelessness in Alberta was launched in 2009. A shelved provincial government report shows no money has been spent on social housing since 2009, leading people who work with the homeless to conclude that the goal won't be met. (CBC)

Six years into an ambitious plan to end homelessness in Alberta, it now appears the goal will have to be moved back.

A government report that's been shelved for 18 months shows that no money has gone towards building new social housing for the homeless since 2011.

Jordan Reiniger, director of programs and development with Boyle Street Community Services, said there are no surprises in the report, which was finally released by the NDP government on Thursday.

"We knew the funding for social housing had effectively stopped," Reiniger said. "We have a housing crisis in Edmonton, and that's not being adequately addressed right now."

In January 2009, Edmonton launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness in the city.

At the time, then-mayor Stephen Mandel said the plan was to build 8,000 housing units in the city by 2019, with an upfront investment of $401.6 million in capital costs and $567.5 million in operating costs.

Too many plans?

Helen Herbert sleeps at the Spady Centre in Edmonton each night. She is scheduled to move into a new place on Sept. 21. (CBC)

Two months later, the government of then-premier Ed Stelmach unveiled its own plan, and promised to spend $3.3-billion to eradicate homelessness across Alberta, also by 2019.

The idea was to move homeless people into permanent housing and give them support programs so they would have a better chance to keep that accommodation.

"I can tell you that emergency shelters will no longer be a housing option where people go into an emergency shelter and stay for a long period of time," housing and urban affairs minister Yvonne Fritz said at the time.

According to the report released Thursday, no new social housing units have been built in Edmonton for the past four years.

Reiniger said that makes it clear that it's no longer possible to meet the original goal.

Not plausible by 2019

"I don't think it's plausible to say we're going to end homelessness by 2019," he said.

"I think if we start putting the money in that we originally planned to invest, and make some real significant investments in social housing, that we can make lots of progress in the next few years. But we definitely need to make those investments, and the sooner the better."

Those waiting for housing include Grant Moses and Helen Herbert.

She sleeps each night at the Spady Centre.

He stands in line every evening to get into the Hope Mission, where he sleeps on a mat. He has to leave each morning by 6 a.m., and spends his days on the streets.

Moses and Herbert have been told they'll get a place to live by Sept. 22.

"It'll be nice to call some place home instead of going to the Spady (Centre) every night," she said.

The NDP government said Thursday it is now looking for ways to get the original plan back on track.


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