News / Edmonton

Alberta minister joins councillors' call for change on motel rooms as housing

Project Watch uncovered families on social assistance were placed in derelict motel rooms paid at tremendous taxpayer expense.

Human Services minister Irfan Sabir

Ryan Tumilty / Metro

Human Services minister Irfan Sabir

Alberta’s Human Services minister Irfan Sabir said city council’s call for the province to stop housing people in hotels and motels is one he supports, but it won’t be easy.

City councillors made the call after receiving an update on Project Watch, a police initiative launched last year that uncovered families on social assistance placed in derelict motel rooms paid for at tremendous taxpayer expense.

Minister Irfan Sabir said he share’s city council’s outlook and the province does not want to be housing families in motel rooms.

“So far, we’ve housed 89 families and we’re still working with 73 families, but these are the families where there are multiple issues,” he said.

He said he wants a permanent solution that won’t see families living in motels, but he also said sometimes there are few options.

“We can’t leave them out on the streets so when nothing else works for them we have to put them there,” he said. “Hotels and motels are only used as a last resort.”

The province has blacklisted five motels from government business and is continuing to work on others.

Sabir said the long-term solution is going to require more than just the province.

“No one entity can deal with this issue. We need to collaborate.”

According to the province’s own statistics, 87 per cent of the $4.5 million in funding the province has spent on motels in the last year has been spent in Edmonton.

Mayor Don Iveson said the city needs permanent social housing if it is going to be a catch-all for the social problems in all of northern Alberta.

“Right now we are being treated like a dumping ground,” he said.

He said it’s unfair to the city, but it also sends a terrible message to families that just need help.

“This is their welcome to the City of Edmonton, a fleabag motel.”

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