News / Edmonton

Edmonton comes up 'way short' on permanent supportive housing

City pushing for more funds, new plan to end chronic homelessness.

Jordan Reiniger, director of programs and development at Boyle Street Community Services.

Kevin Tuong / Metro Order this photo

Jordan Reiniger, director of programs and development at Boyle Street Community Services.

City council is working on a new permanent housing strategy after Edmonton fell far short of targets laid out in 2007's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

A new report shows that while the city has made progress on short-term housing, it added just 213 of the 1,000 permanent supportive housing units identified as a need in a 2009 report.

“We’re way short of where we need to be, even though we know (supportive housing) is cheaper than jail, that is cheaper than hospitals, that is cheaper than policing. So there is an investment case which we continue to make,” Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday.

Iveson said the shortfall comes down to a lack of funding from senior levels of government, though he noted the new provincial government has increased funding and the federal government has promised a national housing strategy.

The report says it would cost $21 million a year for 10 years to get Edmonton up to snuff on permanent supportive housing.

Coun. Scott McKeen said people are “living like refugees” on Edmonton’s streets while police spend a disproportionate amount of resources on social disorder and hospital emergency rooms fill up with people who are homeless.

Jordan Reiniger, director of programs and development at Boyle Street Community Services, said many people who access Boyle Street have been homeless for decades and need extensive supports to get off the streets.

“Really that’s a result of serious trauma in their life that they’ve experienced, often as kids – often experiencing mental health challenges, physical health challenges and substance dependency challenges all at the same time,” Reiniger said.

“That’s why putting somebody like that in a market housing environment without the ongoing support on site is just not setting them up for success.”

Council voted Tuesday to write to provincial ministers indicating the city’s interest in working on a new plan. The city is also sponsoring a community-led initiative to update numbers and strategies to end homelessness.

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