News: City beats own homeless goal

Published in the April 30th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

City beats own homeless goal

Edmonton Sun

One year after the city launched its 10-year plan to end homelessness, 546 formerly homeless Edmontonians now have a place to call their own.

That’s well above the Edmonton’s Homeless Commission’s original goal of finding homes for 150 Edmontonians in the first year of the plan.

“We have achieved success beyond what anyone was expecting,” said Anne Smith, chair of the homeless commission. “Here we are a year later and I can say to you that it is working.”

Jay Freeman, executive director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission credits the success of the first year to low construction costs as well as the determination of agencies devoted to helping the city’s homeless.

Charles Guick, 43, had been living on the streets for more than 20 years and was involved in a life of drugs before getting help from the Jasper Place Health and Wellness Centre.

Now Guick is engaged, living in a condo in the River Valley, and working at a furniture bank for Homeward Trust, an organization involved in projects that help the homeless.

“I’m amazed at what has been done,” Guick said. “I have a home.”

About $3.3 billion has been invested into the decade-long plan of addressing the homeless problem in the province.

Although more homeless people were housed than the city had initially targeted for its first year, many more are still living on the streets.

“I’m tired of sleeping outside. I’ve been without a home for three years,” said Connie Nepoose-Gladue, who spends most of her time at the Boyle Street Community Centre. “I want (the city) to help me.”

“I wish I was one of those 500 people,” said Crissy, a homeless woman who did not want to reveal her last name. “It’s hard to find a home.”

Martin Daniels, who has been homeless for the last 25 years, doesn’t think the plan to end homelessness is realistic.

“We got nothing. We’re sleeping out on the streets, in alleys, dumpsters,” Daniels said.

Despite the successes of the first year, Mayor Mandel says there is still a lot of work left to be done in order to end homelessness by 2019.

Smith also cites “challenging economic times” as a potential roadblock.

But Paul Bruinsma, a support worker with Boyle Street, is hopeful the goal can be achieved.

“If the momentum with this initiative keeps strong, we definitely have a good shot of ending homelessness, most definitely,” Bruinsma said.

Nearly 1,300 homeless were housed throughout Alberta over the past year, and the main goals for Year 2 of the 10-year plan is to look at treating homelessness and preventing it by building even more affordable housing, said MLA Raj Sherman.

There is an estimated 11,000 homeless people still remaining in Alberta and over 3,000 of those in Edmonton alone.

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