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Alberta government commits funding for up to 200 more Edmonton emergency shelter spaces

The Alberta government on Friday committed up to 200 additional emergency homeless shelter spaces in Edmonton.

Jason Nixon, the minister of seniors, community and social services, said in a media release the province is "taking steps to support the City of Edmonton ... by connecting vulnerable citizens to appropriate supports."

Interested service providers and agencies serving the city's homeless population can apply for the additional spaces, which are tagged to be located outside of the downtown area. The additional beds would bring Edmonton's total number of winter shelter spaces to 1,727.

"Shelter space is available in the city for all people experiencing homelessness and we will continue to work with the city and all municipalities to ensure that space is available for all those who need it," Nixon said in the release.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said in a statement he is "pleased" with the province's announcement, which is part of its homelessness action plan that was first announced in October.

The news of the additional spaces comes a day after the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights filed a lawsuit against the City of Edmonton, claiming that evicting homeless people from encampments violates their rights.

According to Homeward Trust Edmonton's by-name list, the number of people homeless in the city in August reached 3,137, and almost 1,400 sleep outside.

Edmonton NDP MLA Janis Irwin, the official opposition critic for housing, said in a statement the ruling UCP government's announcement of additional shelter space "is frankly inadequate."

"Shelters provide a temporary space for people, but the UCP are failing to address the needs for permanent housing across the province, particularly for the most vulnerable," Irwin said, accusing the government of ignoring "their role in creating the housing crisis in the first place."

“The UCP have made cuts to affordable housing, rental assistance, and have refused to invest in the supportive housing that our communities need so critically," said Irwin, who represents the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood riding. "Today’s announcement shows that the UCP are only interested in band-aid solutions instead of real, concrete action to address the housing crisis."

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