Reason #66 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

10 Year Plan to End Homelessness

By Emil Tiedemann

For most Edmontonians, downtown is a place for weekend drinks and dancing, for dinner at high-end restaurants, coffee at trendy cafes, gleaming office and condo towers, or markets with fresh produce and locally-made crafts. 

For others, downtown is despair and discouragement. It means sleeping on park benches and in alleyways, dragging their things around in abandoned shopping carts, belittled by passersby and threatened by others who are also so far below the poverty line that we couldn’t possibly imagine putting ourselves in their worn-out shoes. 
Joanne. Photo by Jerry Cordeiro (Humans of Edmonton Experience).

Many of the people who we see on the streets in these conditions have or have had problems with drugs, alcohol, gambling, or all three, though not everyone who is considered “homeless” in Edmonton has substance abuse issues. 

Some are folks who have recently moved to the city and couldn’t find or hold onto a job; some are youth who were not welcome at home anymore because they came out of the closet; and some are even whole families who just can’t make ends meet. Whomever it is, whatever their situation, it needs to end! 

In January 2009, the Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness unveiled their lofty strategy, A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, in which their goal is “ensuring that all citizens have access to a safe, secure, and permanent home.” Isn’t that one of the necessities of life, after all! 

When then Mayor Stephen Mandel asked this Committee to put together an action plan in 2008, there were 3,079 people who were counted as homeless in Edmonton, a number that would grow to more than 6,500 by 2018 if things were left as is. As the population of our town grew, so did the rate of homelessness, and it certainly is not a problem that is just going to solve itself and go away on its own. 

Photo by Jerry Cordeiro.

Like hundreds of other towns and cities across North America who are coming up with ways to reduce and quite possibly end homelessness altogether, Edmonton has set forth on a necessary path to tackle this problem head on, notably with its focus on the “Housing First” approach. This means finding permanent homes for these people in need first, and giving them the support they need in order to make a successful transition. 

Recognizing and dealing with each individual’s addiction and/or mental health (if any) would come next, rather than the other way around, such as in the form of prevention programs. 

The Committee is working alongside other Edmonton groups and organizations to reach their goal, including Hope Mission, Homeward Trust, and the Jasper Place Health and Wellness Centre, together launching the Rapid Exit Shelter Program that hopes to see about 80 people moved from temporary shelters into permanent homes each year, and allows clients to take the lead in their own recovery. 

Although taxpayers shell out anywhere between an estimated $4.5-$6 billion annually on costs pertaining to homelessness, this 10-year plan was not implemented simply to save cash. It was what we needed to do, as a community, to ensure that we all have a warm and safe place to call home. #endyeghomelessness


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