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City touts efforts to end homelessness; mayor vows to help homeless children
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Tuesday, January 22, 2013 11:36AM MST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 22, 2013 6:44PM MST
As the latest statistics on the number of homeless people in Edmonton last year was released, the mayor and the city is pledging to double their efforts to end homelessness in the city in the next few years.
Homeward Trust Edmonton released their annual report Tuesday morning – and said in 2012, 2,174 homeless people were counted in the Edmonton area.
Of those, a total of 223 homeless children were counted, 116 of those were not in a shelter, in addition to another 56 ‘independent youth’ who were under 18, and did not have a caregiver with them on count day.
“We need to be especially concerned about children and youth who are homeless,” Gurnett said. “One third of all those counted are under 30 years of age, and 13 percent are children.”
Officials said the number of children living on the streets has remained ‘stubbornly’ consistent since 2006.
Currently, there are two youth shelters in the city – such as Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS).
That shelter is often at capacity, and without enough beds, officials have two options – transferring youth to Hope Mission downtown, or back on the street. The lack of space at the facility is also hampered by recent layoffs and program cuts after a funding shortfall.
“We do the best that we can,” Emily Keating with YESS said. “Due to a few years of funding shortfalls, we’ve had to lay off staff.”
YESS said more than 2,000 children and youth passed through the shelter in 2012.
They’re numbers the mayor vowed to fix, over the next twelve months.
“Those 223 children will be a priority, and by next year we will have not one child on the street that is homeless,” Mayor Stephen Mandel said.
“That’s really unacceptable in a society like this; there is no reason why we can’t find adequate housing for children.”
While the number shows the general homeless population has dropped nearly 250, down from 2,421 the previous year, officials said they believe there has been very little change in the number of people living on city streets over the last several years.
“The number of homeless people counted in 2012 is virtually unchanged from the number counted in 2004,” Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (ECOHH) spokesperson Jim Gurnett said in a press release. “Since the Homeless Commission said almost 1800 homeless people have been housed under the 10 year plan to end homelessness in the past three years, it is clear much work remains to be done.”
Officials said changes were made to the way officials counted, in an effort to ensure results were reliable – that probably accounted for some of the lower numbers in the report, meaning slightly lower numbers than the year before might not reflect a significant drop in the homeless population.
ECOHH officials also said a potentially significant portion of the homeless population was not involved in the count either – officials did not go to immigrant-serving community agencies, so it’s believed the number could actually be much higher than released in the report.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said rents are increasing, while the number of available units is shrinking, all as Edmonton continues to see a high rate of in-migration.
Officials said there’s a growing risk new Edmontonians could be without adequate housing of their own, or being homeless and depending on emergency shelters or unsafe, or inappropriate, temporary measures.
The mayor said municipal and provincial governments need to work together to create more funding for special programs to concentrate on lowering the city’s homeless population.
“We’re committed to the program of ending homelessness in 10 years,” Minister of Human Services Dave Hancock said.
With files from Ashley Molnar