Budget leaves some Alberta homeless in cold
Funding increase does not address rising numbers and cuts to employment training, advocates say
Some agencies that help Alberta's homeless say the budget brought down this week does not do enough to address the rising number of people facing life on the streets.
For people like Aleisha Devries, the situation is as surprising as it is difficult.
Devries, 24, was among a crowd of people sitting in the entrance room at Inn from the Cold, a shelter for families in Calgary, on Friday. Eight-months pregnant, the recent arrival from Dartmouth, N.S., said she had no idea the biggest problem she would face would be finding a place to live.
"No one knows that it's difficult to find a place out here," she said. "Work is easy to find — housing is a lot harder."
The Alberta government is providing an extra $1.2 million to house 1,800 homeless Albertans and create 3,200 spaces for emergency and transitional shelters, but some organizations say that funding will be offset by reductions to employment training in the province.
The province thinks caseloads for Alberta Works will decline with a growing economy, so it cut employment training from $981 million to $883 million. The program provides applicants with grants for education upgrading, English as a second language classes, occupational training and other services.
Linda McLean, who heads Inn from the Cold, says the budget adjustments will have huge ramifications.
She says she sees many like Devries who arrive in Calgary with big hopes for a new start only to find themselves seeking a place to stay until they can get settled.
What's especially frustrating, McLean adds, is her shelter is capable of doing so much more. An entire floor of the shelter with several family rooms remains unoccupied.
"These rooms are sitting empty because the dollars to make this possible to staff it, to open it, aren't here," McLean said.
When Inn From the Cold can't take anymore people they rely on churches, followed by motels, and McLean says the situation is becoming worrisome.
"What happens if this crisis continues to build throughout the year?" McLean said. "Where are the resources going to come from to make it possible to open this floor?"
For people like Devries, the situation is disheartening.
"Its sad, it's difficult, it's very congested," Devries said. "You see people getting turned away from beds and stuff, and it's sad."
With files from CBC's Mary-Catherine McIntosh