Edmonton about 500 shelter beds short as homeless count doubles in 2 years

EDMONTON –

The City of Edmonton is trying to figure out how to make sure everyone is sheltered from the cold this winter, after the number of people experiencing homelessness doubled in just two years.

A city report released Tuesday found that there are 2,800 people without housing in Edmonton, which is the most since 2014 and twice as many as in 2019.

About 1,600 of those people are considered “preliminarily housed,” meaning they are staying with friends and family or temporarily finding space without a secure lease.

Roughly 1,200 overnight shelter beds are needed in Edmonton – but officials found there were only 713 spaces available on Oct. 1 – and more may be lost because of uncertain funding.

“We need immediate support to house people during this winter,” Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said.

“When you look outside, it’s just terrifying that people could be sleeping on the streets and not have a warm, safe place to go to.”

Funding proposals were pending with the province Tuesday which could bring the gap down to about 350 spaces short.

The city may be able to further cut that gap by 150 by placing sleeping pods in the Commonwealth Rec Centre.

FUNDING DEADLINES APPROACHING

Edmonton had three shelters on the south side of Edmonton Tuesday, which were operated by the Mustard Seed Society.

There was also a 24/7 shelter in the old Northlands Spectrum, operated by Hope Mission.

The Government of Alberta was funding those spaces, but the money is set to run out at the end of November.

Coun. Andrew Knack expressed his “frustration” at Alberta Tuesday.

“Can we invite the province out? I mean, they’ll say no, but I’d love to have the opportunity to ask them what they’re ever going to do…We’re trying to solve a problem that we can’t solve ourselves,” he said.

Sohi announced during the meeting that he had spoken with Premier Jason Kenney about the issue recently, and he said the conversation was “very productive.”

“They haven’t said no yet,” city manager Andre Corbould said of requests for provincial help.

Sohi and Kenney are expected to make an announcement on Wednesday detailing “funding and new steps” to support Albertans experiencing homlessness and domestic violence.

The city also has an emergency weather plan to shelter more people during extreme cold.

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