Homelessness running rampant in Edmonton

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An ambitious 10-year plan announced in 2009 to end homelessness in Edmonton has failed miserably. That plan, cobbled together by a blue-ribbon panel called the Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness, concluded that “shelters and drop-in centres and other emergency supports, do not solve the problem of homelessness, they simply manage the crisis.”

In 2009, it concluded that, to be successful, the city had to focus on ‘Housing First.’ Fast forward past that 10-year plan to the current year 2022 and it’s evident that the City of Edmonton has failed dismally in its approach to homelessness.

Indeed, a recently released report by the city’s auditor roasted the city for failing to properly address homelessness. The auditor’s report found that the city’s effort isn’t accountable. It isn’t properly coordinated. And the city doesn’t even know how much it spends on its failed attempts to solve the problem.

The report was damning: “Homelessness in Edmonton has increased. A clear plan, accountability, and evaluation can help clarify the City of Edmonton’s role in the broader community-led effort to end homelessness and improve decision-making, reduce operating conflicts and quantify the value of the work performed.”

To Edmonton visitors, the site of legions of homeless people — especially in and around the inner city — is alarming. Several people Rebel News spoke to likened our downtown inner city to Vancouver’s notorious East Hastings neighbourhood.

Despite the ambitious 2009 plans to “end homelessness” in 10 years, it appears Edmonton City Council has thrown up its hands, deciding instead to simply “manage” those who are homeless by allowing or encouraging encampments.

At a recent meeting, the council voted 11-2 to approve a motion directing the administration to bring back a report on how the city could “manage” sanctioned encampments (mini tent cities). Councillor Anne Stevenson made the motion saying she’d prefer the encampments to be for five to 10 tents. Council called for that report despite the fact that in April, the city administration recommended against sanctioned encampments.

The administration found that allowing the mini tent cities doesn’t stop people from setting up the sites elsewhere, and they don’t provide services to the homeless population. The administration also noted in April that cities opting for authorized encampments discovered that they created additional problems with nearby neighbours including sanitation issues.

The 2009, 10-Year-Plan-to-End Homelessness called for up to $ 1 billion in operating and capital costs to be spent on the issue over those 10 years. The Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness was chaired by former Edmonton Journal publisher Linda Hughes and included then-Alberta education minister Dave Hancock, former Liberal deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, then-city councillor Karen Leibovici, then-Catholic archbishop of Edmonton Richard Smith, and several people from labour, business and social service agencies.

It appears though, that few people have a good handle on the actual number of homeless folks in Edmonton. The 10-year-plan reported in 2009 that 3,079 people in Edmonton were homeless. The city put the number as of May at 2,800 people. Other reports say the number of homeless people has spiked much higher in the wake of COVID but don’t quote a precise number.

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