submitted by Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services
Alberta’s government remains laser-focused on reducing homelessness across Alberta. It’s the top priority for my department of community and social services, and our entire government.
October 10th marks World Homelessness Day; it’s a day that we draw attention to the needs of homeless individuals, and draw attention to the critical issue that homelessness is. As part of our Action Plan on Homelessness, our government has allocated $83.5 million to homeless shelters across Alberta, and $101.6 million is being spent to provide safe housing and supports for those experiencing homelessness.
As the winter season quickly approaches, there is a perception that there is a lack of emergency shelter spaces. I want to make it clear upfront that there is emergency shelter space available for people experiencing homelessness. At the beginning of September, I announced an additional 200 shelter spaces in Edmonton. This is in addition to 100 women-only and 100 Indigenous spaces that are opening. That means that this winter we will have over 1,700 shelter spaces this winter to accommodate vulnerable folks who need a safe place to sleep at night. Even when temperatures dropped well below -30 last winter, shelter space was consistently available.
We’re not just investing money in our major cities. Smaller cities and rural communities are also experiencing an increase in the amount of homelessness people. We’re investing $3.6 million for year-round emergency shelter services in Lloydminster, Wetaskiwin and Slave Lake. Last winter, agencies in Slave Lake, Cold Lake, Peace River, Lac La Biche, Edson, Drayton Valley, and Leduc received $2 million to operate over 100 winter emergency shelter spaces. This winter season, we are maintaining that funding.
In Lethbridge, we are operating one of our first indigenous-led shelters with the Blood Tribe Department of Health, and we have seen success since that facility has opened in January; we continue to see this model working and hope to expand to more communities across Alberta.
While these immediate steps are important, we cannot forget our long-term vision to reduce homelessness. Last October we launched our Action Plan on Homelessness and got to work by taking proactive steps to address the critical needs across the province. A priority coming out of the action plan was increasing collaboration between the various groups working in this sector. That is why our government formed the Public Safety and Community Response Task Force to work on increasing addiction treatment capacity and expanding access to shelter spaces. The collaboration between government, law enforcement, city representatives, and our community partners is critical to addressing homelessness in Edmonton, but it provides important insights to tackle homelessness across Alberta, too.
Our Shelter Hub pilot projects are another aspect of our action plan, which also relies heavily on collaboration between different agencies to ensure the best possible outcome for vulnerable Albertans. These hubs increase clients’ access to appropriate housing solutions, recovery-oriented services and other social supports. In fact, we’ve seen an increase in people being housed directly out of shelters and the hubs have created an opportunity for increased collaboration with Employment and Financial Services and other community supports. Homelessness is not just about housing. Investments in mental health and addictions, primary care and supports that target the most vulnerable Albertans are also critical in preventing and addressing homelessness. Our working partnerships between law enforcement, social services and other key sectors are also vital to our success.
Through continued investment and new actions, it is clear that Alberta’s government is standing up for Albertans by doing our part to combat homelessness.