by Colin Smith
Three years after Morinville’s first homelessness survey in 2016, the number of people without a regular place to sleep was up by more than six times.
In 2019, a count found that in the town 13 individuals were absolutely homeless. That is, consistently sleeping in the street or in public places. Two homeless people were identified in 2016.
There was also an increase in the number of people considered to be at risk for homelessness, up from four to 18. These are people whose economic or housing situation is precarious and who may be only “one cheque away” from homelessness.
The steady rise since 2016 suggests that Morinville will experience another increase in the number of homeless and at-risk people this year, according to a report presented by Melanie Lubemsky, FCSS/Community Program Coordinator, to Town Council at its Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.
While the absolute numbers of people involved may not seem large, their needs are complex and demanding.
“While we cannot exactly predict the unique needs of individuals we may encounter in 2020, we can assume an increase in the growing trends of drug and/or alcohol addiction, a reduction of mental health supports and an increase in unemployment,” states the report.
Homeless and at-risk people in Morinville are provided with three types of aid—access to services, harm reduction, and outreach programs and services—by more than more than two dozen government agencies and community groups.
These range from supplying ID, meals and clothing to providing affordable housing, medical referrals and job support.
In the summer and early fall of 2019, enforcement services responded to 150 homelessness-related callouts.
The report outlines several options for developing an improved response to homelessness in the community.
These include hiring an additional professional to support FCSS and Enforcement Services in maintaining service delivery during the high-demand months.
The development of a social community mapping plan is seen as necessary to help in reducing long term issues and guiding future social planning. At a cost of up to $50,000 this would involve hiring a consultant who would provide a report to Council by the end of 2020. Funding provided through the current FCSS Provincial agreement would cover 50% of the cost.
Another requirement is transportation for clients to get to St. Albert to access Alberta Works income support programs currently only available there. Municipal funds in the amount of $1,000 would be needed for taxi expenses.
Council received the report as information.