Edmonton can end homelessness by 2022, new report says

An organization that works to end homelessness in Edmonton says an investment of $230 million over six years is needed to house 4,000 people.

Investment of $230 million needed to house 4,000 homeless people, says report from Homeward Trust

A new report says the city can end homelessness by 2022. (CBC)

An organization that works to end homelessness in Edmonton says a capital investment of $230 million over six years is needed to house 4,000 homeless people.

Homeward Trust and the City of Edmonton released an updated plan to prevent and end homelessness Thursday.

It says a renewed commitment to tackling the problem could bring an end to chronic and episodic homelessness in Edmonton by 2022.

In addition to more spending on housing, the report also calls for greater funding for operational funds and homeless interventions — an extra $30 million per year on top of the $35 million per year already being spent.

The city knows what it needs to do to end homelessness, said Homeward Trust CEO Susan McGee. The organization is mandated by the city to find a solution to homelessness.

Delivering on the plan "is a complex process," McGee said.

Nearly half of homeless are Indigenous

The report estimates that about one per cent of Edmontonians — 11,300 people — experienced homelessness in 2016.

Many have mental illness and addictions, said McGee.

A disproportionate number of homeless people in Edmonton are Indigenous. In the 2016 homeless count, 48 per cent of the people surveyed identified as Indigenous.

The updated plan sets several targets, including that by 2020, "no one staying in shelter or sleeping rough will experience chronic homelessness," and that by 2022, everyone who needs help "will be connected to housing and supports within 21 days."

Diverting people away from homelessness in the first place is a major component in the plan, said McGee.

"If we can't divert them and address their housing crisis, the longer they become homeless the more challenging it is for them to get a home on their own and the more help they need," she said.

Plan will save money

McGee said implementing the plan could save the city and the province about $230 million over 10 years in reduced use of police, health care and emergency systems.

The financial case for ending homelessness is strong, said McGee.

"The cost, total, of supporting people appropriately as well as building those units is 75 per cent of what we would be spending otherwise," she said.

"We've demonstrated that individuals who've been homeless a very long time can be very successful in their own housing," she said.

The report will go before city council's executive committee in the fall for feedback.​



Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.