Homelessness in Edmonton could become a thing of the past over the next 10 years only if a new billion-dollar plan from a committee — handpicked by Mayor Stephen Mandel to look into the growing problem — is followed through, the committee said.
The Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness says the plan will ensure all citizens will have access to safe, affordable and permanent housing by building new housing facilities and creating new partnerships with landlords to get people in homes as soon as possible.
“The 10-year plan is really just a road map, but we have just started on the journey today,” said committee chair Linda Hughes after unveiling the plan to the public at city hall Thursday.
The plan also sets out aggressive targets and strategies around five goals, including reducing the number of homeless people staying in shelters down to levels seen in 2006 by 2012.
It will also require cash from all three levels of government in order for the plan to become a reality, said Hughes, who adds it will save taxpayers in the long run as an average homeless person spends up to 65 man-hours in emergency rooms.
“It costs a lot less and makes more sense in helping someone find a home,” said Hughes.
“It is an important thing that the citizens of Edmonton want to see,” said a visibly emotional Mandel, who came close to wiping away tears from his face during the unveiling.
“(Citizens) don’t want to see people living in those conditions and they expect politicians to do something about it. This committee has done a great job.”
Alberta Housing Minister Yvonne Fritz called the plan bold and ambitious, but she won’t be signing any government cheques for funding just yet.
“(This) is a very important area that we are addressing right now … but it hasn’t finalized,” said Fritz. “And you can understand, with the economy the way it is today.”
Fritz says any announcement in funding will happen after the province unveils its budget.