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$7.5M approved for new west Edmonton shelter; Sohi asks for more housing from the province


By a unanimous vote, Edmonton councillors decided Wednesday to dip into city savings to open a new emergency shelter in a west end hotel.

The motion that passed 13-0, also included the grim news that at least five unhoused people have recently died in encampments or on city streets, according to firefighters and police.

"This is a very short term intervention to get us through this cold winter, and my hope is that we will meet with the province immediately to fill the gaps, but also talk about long term strategy," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters.

It will take about a month to transform the Bedfort Hotel and Suites on Stony Plain Road and 155 Street into a 24-hour, 200 bed, respite from the cold.

The $7.5 million price tag includes set-up costs, around-the-clock security, food, overdose response, a health centre and outreach services.

It will be operated by the Jasper Place Wellness Centre and includes a partnership with the Tallcree First Nation.

Housing and homelessness is provincial jurisdiction. Sohi met with ministers Jeremy Nixon and Rebecca Schulz last week to discuss a long-term plan.

The province announced last month a total of $187 million for addiction and homelessness programs, including 450 more shelter spaces planned for Edmonton.

In a statement provided Wednesday night, Nixon said he was also working to open "as many as 150 more spaces in the near future."

“These proactive steps show that addressing this issue is a priority for our government, and we will do whatever it takes to keep people safe and warm," he wrote.

"I am confident that if we continue in a partnership with the City of Edmonton, not only will we be able to address concerns for this winter, but also come up with long-term solutions in helping people overcome homelessness.”

The city says there are currently more than 2,750 unhoused Edmontonians and more than 1,250 of those people are sleeping in shelters or outside.

The mayor wants Alberta to fund 1250 permanent shelter spaces and build 500 supportive housing units as well as roughly 100 transitional homes.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said last week that more funding for homelessness in Edmonton might be coming in February's provincial budget.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

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