Proposed Edmonton encampment response plan aims to speed up housing process
The City of Edmonton is aiming to tackle homelessness with a new response plan that aims to speed up the process to get unhoused people into homes.
Over the next two years, the Enhanced Encampment and Unsheltered Homelessness Response Plan is meant to get as many people into housing as soon and as fast as possible and cut down on the number of people living in encampments.
The plan is outlined in a report to be discussed at a committee meeting next month.
"The goal is to get people experiencing homelessness clear and rapid connections to housing and support," said Anne Stevenson, city councillor for Ward O-day'min.
The number of people identifying as homeless doubled from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
The city's current priority is simply preventing large-scale encampments, the council report suggests. The new plan outlines five short-term goals including increasing the number of people housed from encampments and reducing the time it takes for unsheltered people to be housed
The report notes that for a person to go from an encampment to housing took an average of 68 days last year, not including people with addiction, mental health issues, or trauma recovery which takes longer.
"That doesn't help the folks living in encampments. It doesn't help surrounding communities. It doesn't have surrounding businesses," Stevenson said.
According to Homeward Trust's By Name List, as of March of the 2,843 people experiencing homelessness, more than 750 people are unsheltered, meaning they frequently sleep outside.
The report also notes 2SLGBTQ+ Canadians, and other at-risk groups, including youth, seniors, Indigenous People, newcomers, and people with mental health or addiction issues have accounted for a large percentage of Canadians who are homeless, at risk of being homeless.
Jim Gurnett with the Edmonton Coalition on housing and homelessness (ECOHH) says he does not think the plan adequately outlines changes and resources to change the current matter in which encampments are dealt with.
"All this report can do is to propose more of the same old, which is to create uncertainty and stress in the lives of people who are homeless by continually taking apart the places where they're sheltering and moving them around," Gurnett said.
During the 2023-2026 budget deliberations city administration recommended the Encampment and Unsheltered Homelessness Response integrated service package be fully funded for a total of $4.89 million, from Community and Safety Well-being funds.
But, Gurnett believes there needs to be more provincial and federal support in order to tackle homelessness in the city.
Christel Kjenner, the city's director of affordable housing and homelessness, said the federal and provincial governments have been key players in making rapid housing accessible.
The city is also submitting an application for 350 units of affordable housing to the federal government which would aid in preventing people in encampments from being displaced.
"We have been talking to the province and have received expressions of support including some commitments of funds to these projects," Kjenner said.
The encampment plan will be presented to council's Community and Public Services Committee on April 11.