Alberta commits $3.3 billion to end homelessness | National Union of Public and General Employees

Alberta commits $3.3 billion to end homelessness

Providing housing and support services will cut the costs of dealing with the problem by more than half, provincial secretariat estimates.

Calgary (18 March 2009) - Alberta has announced a $3.3-billion plan to end homelessness in the province by 2019.

The goal is to move people into permanent housing with support to help them remain there rather than invest in more temporary spaces in shelters.

"Emergency shelters will no longer be a housing option where people go into an emergency shelter and stay for a long period of time," said Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Yvonne Fritz.

A key part of the overall strategy is to co-ordinate programs such as income support, employment assistance and treatment for addiction and mental health issues.

The plan was outlined in a report by the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness (ASAH) which said underlying factors causing homelessness must be addressed.

"Too often, an Albertan who is in need of assistance faces a maze of qualifying thresholds and requirements which can be incompatible, result in claw-backs, or create gaps into which the person falls," it noted.

Four other priorities were highlighted in the document, entitled A Plan for Alberta:

  • Gathering better information.
  • Providing aggressive assistance.
  • Building more housing options.
  • Instituting more effective policies.

The approach is based on plans adopted by a number of American cities.

Although it will cost $3.3 billion to move an estimated 11,000 families out of homelessness in Alberta, the report says the cost of simply managing these people would add up to more than twice that amount — $6.65 billion — over 10 years.

It now costs $114,850 a year to manage various levels of assistance for a chronically homeless person in Alberta. By comparison, the cost of providing housing and services would be $34,000 a year, the report adds.

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