While the number of people sleeping rough has declined dramatically, the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness anticipated shelter use declining as well. That has not proven to be the case: for the third year in a row, shelter use has in fact increased, as shown in the 2014 Homeless Count.
Capital investment in affordable housing, and in particular, permanent supportive housing, continues to fall behind. Appropriate supportive housing and continuing care spaces remain very limited for chronically homeless people with high cognitive and behavioural complexities.
Children and Youth
Since 2012, the growing numbers of youth living on Edmonton’s street or couch surfing has been concerning. The 2014 Homeless Count reinforced the anecdotal evidence that frontline workers are seeing: the numbers of children and youth aged 24 or younger increased from 481 in 2012 to 562 in 2014. The Government of Alberta recognizes that youth homelessness is an urgent priority and has just released a plan to prevent and reduce youth homelessness, which aims to address the unique needs of youth. The focus is on family supports and reunification.
Another disturbing trend corroborated in the 2014 Homeless Count is the growing number of families becoming homeless. Many end up in hotels sponsored by Human Services because emergency housing for families does not exist in our city. Each family’s story is unique: a mom fleeing violence, a dad who couldn’t pay the rent, a couple whose apartment was over-run by black mold and bedbugs. The result however is the same: 150 families in Edmonton living in hotels and motels in inappropriate, overcrowded conditions. Human Services and Homeward Trust have been working with the City of Edmonton, community agencies and landlords to move these families into safe housing with supports, but the need remains an urgent one.
The extent of Aboriginal homelessness continues to be a high priority for Edmonton. Almost half of homeless people identify as Aboriginal.
The 2014 Homeless Count indicated 16% of those enumerated had been in Edmonton for less than a year. This is one indicator of the pressures on the housing and supports system due to immigration.