Enough beds expected in Edmonton’s shelter system this winter after a $ 21.5 million investment from Alberta government, Commonwealth Stadium to open as a 24-7 shelter.

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Edmonton’s homeless shelter system is projected to have enough beds to meet the growing demand this winter with a 21.5 million investment from the provincial government to support vulnerable Albertans.

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During an announcement at the new Herb Jamieson shelter Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Jason Kenney said $ 13 million of the funding will go specifically to increasing beds at 14 emergency homeless shelters across the province, which will increase space in Edmonton’s shelter system to 1,282 beds and one believes. enough to meet the requirement this winter.

The city will receive $ 7.2 million as well as an additional $ 1.5 million for a temporary 24-7 shelter at Commonwealth Stadium with up to 200 beds. The Commonwealth shelter is scheduled to open in early December after an operator is selected.

In Edmonton alone, there are currently more than 2,800 people experiencing homelessness, about twice the population at the end of 2019. The City of Edmonton projects that approximately 1,200 people will require emergency shelter on any given night while others are likely to be temporarily housed across a bridge. housing. On Sunday night, there were 773 shelter beds in the system at 97 percent occupancy when winter weather hit.

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Funding will allow these expanded shelters to last until the end of March 2022, but Kenney said the province will continue to invest in supports for the vulnerable population struggling during the pandemic.

“As we continue to navigate through COVID-19, one of our top priorities is to ensure that all Albertans have a safe place to stay and access to the support they need,” Kenney said. “This additional funding will help organizations on the front lines deliver the services needed by vulnerable Albertans.”

In addition to the Commonwealth space, existing 24-7 shelters at the Northlands Spectrum building and four south-facing locations operated by The Mustard Seed will be extended until the end of March 2022 to increase shelter capacity by more than 500 spaces this winter. .

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Mayor Amarjeet Sohi welcomed the news on Wednesday – after demanding further support since he took office – noting that it is a good first step this winter, but longer-term solutions will be needed, such as investments in permanent, supportive housing and addictions and mental health.

“Based on our current need, this support will be quite appropriate for us to get through the winter, but if conditions change, we will continue to work with the province,” Sohi said. “Shelters play a role in dealing with homelessness, but long-term solutions are in supportive housing, comprehensive mental health services and recovery from addictions and also controlled consumer facilities that allow people to receive appropriate services.”

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Although Sohi said he has received a commitment from the province to address these long-term plans, the city continues to seek funding for supportive housing developments, including annual operating dollars for five sites that are scheduled to open next spring.

Alberta NDP seniors and housing critic Lori Sigurdson said the additional funding announced does not provide long-term solutions that will prevent this problem from reappearing when the money runs out in March.

“The UCP has consistently ignored requests to work with the City of Edmonton to provide operational funding to build permanent, supportive housing,” she said. “This problem was inevitable and the UCP waited too long to respond.”

In addition to the funding, Kenney announced a new 16-person task force to develop a homeless action plan. Co-hosted by Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee, and also including Edmonton city administrator Andre Corbould, the task force will dive into how communities are affected by homelessness and make recommendations on how to deal with the growing problem.

Work by the task force is expected to be completed by the end of June 2022.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3

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