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News Release: Crisis for unhoused people more serious than official messages suggest


Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness 200, 12120-106 Avenue Edmonton Alberta T5N 0Z2 www.ecohh.ca 2022 November 15 An organization that has been active in education and advocacy related to housing for over 35 years says the messages being heard by many Edmontonians seriously understate the dangerous reality of homelessness in Edmonton. “There are too many media reports suggesting there is significant progress being made to address the life-threatening situation of thousands of our neighbours, but the hard facts tell a very different story,” charges Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (ECOHH) chair Nadine Chalifoux. ECOHH points to the daily-updated information provided at the Homeward Trust website for a reality check. The “By Name List” (BNL) it maintains is a real-time registry of people experiencing homelessness, based on information provided by human services organizations. For months, it has identified about 2700 people each day being in this situation. Some who work with people struggling with housing suggest this figure is low. A one-day count of people who are homeless was carried out in late September but results of that have not yet been released. (www.homewardtrust.ca) At the same website there is a daily record of the emergency shelters in Edmonton, which have a combined total capacity of 786 people. “Walk down the streets of the urban core or in parkland and you will see where hundreds of the people without shelter are living, in temporary camping situations, dangerously lacking health or security services. Many others are hidden- crashing with anyone who will take them in, sometimes at risk to their safety and with no certainty of having a place the next hour,” observes Chalifoux. “This is not the life we should be allowing for our neighbours.” Recent media coverage has highlighted provincial funding to temporarily address shelter needs during the winter months. This includes Hope Mission opening 260 additional beds at its downtown facility and another 150 in a warehouse to be provided on the south side, as well as 40 additional beds with Mustard Seed. “With a need for about 2000 more places, we are getting 450,” Chalifoux notes. It has not been confirmed that all the additional places for the winter months will be open 24/7 nor is there information about issues such as physical spacing to address health concerns during a time of spreading respiratory and other health issues, including shigella and Covid. No date for the additional spaces becoming available has been announced.

ECOHH points out that Homeward Trust’s posted information offers further cause for concern when it reports in the current month 208 people newly identified as having become homeless, compared with 44 who have been housed in the same period. “It is difficult not to be cynical that elected leaders are more concerned with reassuring messages than with effective action,” Chalifoux says.

Homelessness is the worst outcome for people who lack adequate housing. The City of Edmonton

says nearly 50,000 people are in core housing need-- currently living in housing that is too expensive, unsafe, unhealthy, inappropriate, or lacking in necessary supports such as physical accessibility modifications or personal support services. 6400 households are on wait lists for community housing and 4702 households are on the wait list for the Rental Assistance Benefit. “When adequate housing is not available, homelessness may well be the next experience for a person,” Chalifoux says. As the years of significant homelessness have gone on and grown, over the past 25 years, ECOHH has tracked a growing number of people who die as a result each year. When records began to be gathered in 2005, 32 people were identified. In 2021, that number had grown to 222.

For comment, please contact Nadine Chalifoux at 780-716-5124.

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