The province of Alberta has announced a plan to “end” homelessness by 2019.With a price tag of 3.3 billion,
The plan calls for the development of 8,000 new housing units in Alberta, which could cost $1.3 billion, while operational costs are projected to hit $2.1 billion over the next decade. A major focus will be to quickly move homeless people out of shelters, and provide social supports once they are housed.
The issue of homelessness has become forefront for social activists in the last few years as Alberta’s oil boom has increased the cost of living so quickly and so astronomically that many who were scraping by before were no longer to house or feed themselves. Often the homeless are now called “the working poor”, a phrase which illustrates the lack of social housing and social support even to those who do contribute financially to our society.
While I am hopeful and commend Minister Fritz for this progressive plan of action, I am still hesitant to give the Alberta Government a high five as the lack of action thus far has been indicative of the governments priority’s (that being said, there has been considerable amounts done to aid current homeless resource centers such as The Calgary Drop-In Center and the Invisible Project).
I echo Liberal MLA Taylor’s sentiments as reported in the Edmonton Journal:
“It’s a great plan in principle, but it all comes down to the level of commitment that is shown when Iris Evans brings down the budget on April 7,” said Dave Taylor, the Liberal party’s housing critic. “If the funding is there, I believe this is a plan that will end or dramatically reduce homelessness across the province over the next 10 years. If the funding isn’t there, it’s just a nice booklet.”
Lethbridge alone has seen an increase of 60% in our homelessness popualtion in the last year and although we are not reporting the numbers seen in Calgary and Edmonton, for a city of 70 000 people it is reasonable to think that the city of Lethbridge would see social housing as a priority and would thus create the spending to remedy this growing problem. With women being turned away from the YWCA due to lack of space and more and more families accessing resources or facing being split up among several short term and long term shelters I wonder where Lethbridge’s city council is on this issue.
Having been an invited participant in the city’s committee Social Housing in Action, I have seen the city’s lack of commitment to act and although there is a great deal of work being done to identify the problem of homelessness in Lethbridge I have been privy to the disappointment on behalf of agencies regarding the allocation of both municipal and provincial funds.
Direct action includes building more spaces for short and long term housing, resource centers for those who need access to education and living resources, greater funding to those agencies who work on the ground in Lethbridge to aid those homeless individuals, funding for emergency care and agencies such as the YWCA and Wood’s Homes which specifically offer help to high risk individuals. As citizens I believe we need to bring our concerns to the forefront and push the city council to act on this problem and demand accountablity of these committee’s and thier participants.