Push continues to find long-term solutions to homelessness in Edmonton

As homeless encampments were being dismantled near Hope Mission in Edmonton Thursday, Raymond Yellowbird said he is not quite sure where he will go. Every time this happens, he said he loses a lot of his possessions, including clothes and his tent.

“There’s a lot of harsh environment. You also worry about safety.”

But Yellowbird is adamant that he does not want to go to a shelter.

He said he doesn’t like them and now also has additional concerns amid a Shigella outbreak.

Read more: Shigella outbreak in Edmonton’s inner city put 115 people in hospital

“I am pretty sure the government could see a different side of this world if they came out onto these streets,” Yellowbird said.

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Edmonton city council is going to decide on Nov. 30 if it will move forward with converting 209 hotel rooms at Jasper Place Wellness Centre into emergency shelter spaces.

If approved, the initiative would cost $7.5 million and would be in operation for six months.

Yellowbird said he would not use those rooms.

“Maybe if they do, like, tiny homes, like how they have for the military,” he said.

During the city’s emergency shelter update, councillors expressed disappointment that the conversation about how to address homelessness during winter months comes up every year, yet there do not seem to ever be long-term plans.

Read more: Edmonton committee discusses additional winter shelter space in emotional meeting

Coun. Andrew Knack was emotional while talking to reporters and stressed it’s not the municipality’s jurisdiction to provide funding to house people.

He wants the province to dip into its $13-billion “rainy day” fund to find a long-term solution.

“Edmontonians continue to pick the pieces as best we can,” Knack said.

“We don’t have the capacity to fix this in the way (the province does).”

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Joshua Evans works in the Affordable Housing Solutions Lab at the University of Alberta. He said where the province isn’t stepping up, municipalities have to. He called the situation a crisis management merry-go-round.

“We need to invest more money and more resources into expanding the amount of supportive housing so we can replace that shelter space with actual housing — with supports people actually need,” Evans said.

“We have to remember that housing is a human right.”

Evans said while the city keeps saying these issues fall under provincial jurisdiction, all levels of government need to work together, and that includes when it comes to funding.

“All levels of government have a duty that everyone has access to an adequate home,” he said.

The Alberta governement said it recognizes the importance of ensuring that safe, warm shelter is accessible for all citizens.

“Just last month we announced a total of $187 million to tackle these concerns, and we are already seeing the benefits of that support,” the provincial government said.

“With 450 additional shelter spaces being opened throughout the city, it is clear that this is a priority for our government.”

Read more: Sohi outlines city’s efforts to make Edmonton safer, reiterates request for help from province

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The provincial government described its actions as historic.

Yellowbird said he is trying to go day by day and make it through the winter months without turning to an emergency shelter to sleep.

“A majority of us out here, we know how to survive.”

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