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'Big stepping stone' not enough for housing - Metro US

‘Big stepping stone’ not enough for housing

More than 50 homeless Edmontonians will sleep with a permanent roof over their heads come spring, a plan critics call a mismanaged, marginal drop in the bucket.

“What they’re doing just isn’t enough,” homeless activist and retired politico Jim Gurnett said.
Plans to build a 52-unit housing complex for the city’s biggest shelter, Hope Mission, were announced Thursday.

“This is a really big stepping stone,” Hope Mission spokesman Peter Gerber said.

The building, destined for a patch of land on 106 Avenue and 107 Street, will be built using modular construction techniques, and will be filled with residents via the shelter’s Rapid Exit program.

A total of $100 million was committed in the 2009 budget for the province’s 10-year plan to abolish homelessness, though government-funded reports suggested $3.3 billion was required over the decade to meet the goal.

“It’s not even one-third what we need,” Gurnett said. “I’m happy to see the new units, but it’s no real commitment to people struggling with housing in this city.”

Construction costs for the project total $7.3 million, money Gurnett said could likely be used to purchase more than 52 pre-existing units. “Not only are they putting in too little money, the lack of a plan means they’re using the money badly, in a time when we need to make every dollar count.”

Despite public criticism of the province’s overall plan, Gerber said the latest step will have massive impact at street level.

“It means fewer people will leave our program prematurely because there is no housing available. It’s an important link in the chain of the recovery process.”

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