Councillor wants more temporary housing options for city's homeless

With the number of homeless people camping in the River Valley on the rise, and the development of more supportive housing units still years away, a city councillor wants to examine more temporary, alternative options.

Scott McKeen wants interim options while city tries to build more permanent housing

City crews will work throughout the winter to clean up homeless camps like this one in the river valley. (Supplied/Travis Kennedy)

With a rising number of homeless people camping in the River Valley and development of more supportive housing units still years away, a city councillor wants to examine temporary, alternative options.

Coun. Scott McKeen has asked city staff for a report on why more people aren't using existing shelters, and to consider ways to create "temporary, quickly implementable" options for additional shelter. 

"[People] are leading desperate lives out there, and we continue to pay a high price for chasing our tail on this, whether it's policing, bylaw, the folks who clean up these camps, (or) the business zones," McKeen said Tuesday during a city council meeting.

"We have established permanent supportive housing as a high priority but that's ... going to take a while. So to get a report back on some options we might be able to use in the interim to reduce conflicts and to get more of these people in from the cold and into services, I hope everyone can support this."
The City of Edmonton says it received about 1,400 complaints about people camping on parkland from January to October this year. (Supplied/City of Edmonton)

As of October, the city had received 1,400 complaints this year about people camping on parkland; if the numbers continue at the same pace, there will be roughly 1,800 complaints by year's end.

The city has a shortage of permanent supportive housing, which offers more intense, on-site support for tenants. Such housing is considered a key component in any plan to end homelessness, but is both expensive to build and difficult to plan.

City staff are expected to come back with four recommended sites for such housing by early next year. 

The report McKeen requested is due back in March.

Homeward Trust, a non-profit organization that contracts and co-ordinates housing programs in Edmonton, is scheduled to release an annual report on its housing efforts on Wednesday afternoon.