Edmonton

City on track to see 'homeless crisis,' Iveson says

With the number of people living on the city's streets possibly on the rise, mayor Don Iveson said Thursday the lack of affordable housing is the biggest issue facing Edmonton in the coming years.

Homeless population appears to be on the rise, according to Homeward Trust

Local homeless shelters are seeing lots of new faces and more people needing help, according to Homeward Trust. (CBC)

With the number of people living on the city's streets possibly on the rise, mayor Don Iveson said Thursday the lack of affordable housing is the biggest issue facing Edmonton in the coming years.

“If we don’t get something figured out here, either with a living wage so people can afford … rents or a massive subsidized housing scheme, then we’re going to have a crisis of homelessness and continued poverty,” Iveson said in an interview with the CBC’s Alberta@Noon.

“If you’re living below the poverty line, or you’re in working poverty, or you’re on AISH … it is almost impossible to find a place to live,” Iveson said.

“And if you can it’s going to soak up most of your income, leaving very little in the way of resources. That makes you at risk of being homeless.”

Hear Mayor Iveson on Alberta@Noon

On mobile? Hear the interview here

Homeward Trust, which conducts a count of the city's homeless population, said Edmonton appears to be losing ground in the fight against homelessness.

"What we do know is that there's a lot of pressure on the shelters and the drop-ins and that their numbers have gone up,” said Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust.

“They're seeing a lot of new faces."

Hundreds of volunteers fanned across the city on Thursday to make the count. In two previous counts over the past four years, the number of homeless people went down by 30 per cent.

Although the results of this count won’t be available for several months, organizers say they’re not optimistic the trend will continue this year.

Volunteer Daryl Kreuzer said that’s why the Homeless Count is so important.

"Unless we do these kinds of probes in terms of counting people and asking them questions about their lives we will just overlook that and there's a lot of suffering that goes on that we're just not aware of," Kreuzer said.

One of the new things volunteers are working to find out this year is how many former members of the Canadian Forces are among Edmonton’s homeless.

"Anybody who served their country should not be in this circumstance and should be navigated to the right resources," McGee said.

She said stories out of the U.S. indicate a high number of veterans among their homeless population.

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