The Edmonton we aspire to is an uplifting and inclusive city where every Edmontonian has the opportunity to succeed, no matter what your identity, socioeconomic status or your place of origin happens to be. An uplifting city must have safe, affordable housing as its cornerstone.
In October 2016, 1,752 people were counted as homeless in Edmonton during the Edmonton Homeless Count — a 43% decrease from the 2008 count. While that is encouraging news, 70% of the individuals counted in 2016 were chronically homeless and nearly half self-identified as Indigenous.
We’ve made good progress but have a lot of work to do to close this gap. In order to reach the finish line, we need a more aggressive and focused service delivery model: permanent supportive housing, which is housing equipped with 24-hour, on-site, wrap-around support services that include health care, addiction counseling and treatments, and other critical supports. Think of it more like extended care for people with complex health factors.
Today I had the chance to visit Ambrose Place. Ambrose addresses housing needs in two equally important ways: it provides housing and support services to individuals who require supports beyond just a roof over their heads, and who would not be successfully housed without Ambrose supports. It also provides safe, affordable housing within a culturally sensitive environment that allows for a community to grow and prosper. Not only does a supportive housing approach like Ambrose help avoid millions in healthcare costs, it leads to tangible quality of life improvements that are truly inspiring to witness. Facilities like this allow for a transformation to take place, a ‘giving back’ of humanity to those whose untreated illness has often robbed them of opportunities to succeed.
Through this tour today, and in my conversations with residents, it is clear that we need to build more facilities like this. Many more, in fact.
Across the country, housing is less affordable at every income level and this is having serious impacts on our nation’s prosperity, our productivity and our identity as a place of equal opportunity and inclusion.
For years, cities have shown local leadership when it comes to housing. Many have invested heavily, taken on the role of social housing providers and developed incentives to create more affordable rentals beyond our traditional jurisdiction. And while you can expect more work to be done locally, this issue urgently requires provincial and federal leadership.
We know that investing in housing reduces costs in our health care and justice systems, avoidable costs that are increasingly expensive for our provincial partners to manage. Aligning efforts with federal, provincial and local governments will mean better policy outcomes, healthier citizens, less social disorder, stronger communities and more stable financial planning. With the upcoming provincial and federal budgets, we need to see an investment in housing that reflects the incredible potential it can provide to our city and our province.