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City expects Edmonton homeless population to have 'sufficient shelter' spaces for upcoming winter

An update on shelter spaces for homeless people in Edmonton has left city councillors feeling hopeful that the coming winter will see spots open for each vulnerable person.

A report from the city clerk's office delivered during Wednesday's city council meeting said that, according to non-profit housing organization Homeward Trust's by-name list, 3,119 people in Edmonton experience homelessness as of Sept. 23, with 1,741 provisionally housed and about 1,240 primarily sleeping in emergency shelters or outside.

The report also said the number of people using provincially funded shelters saw a 30-per-cent increase this summer.

Asked by Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack if there will "be enough beds to cover every person who could potentially be sleeping outside this winter," deputy city manager of community services Jennifer Flaman said there should be enough space for them.

"If all of the beds find a place this winter, we do feel that there is going to be sufficient shelter this winter for our population that is sleeping rough," Flaman told city council. "At the same time, we also expect that some individuals will continue to choose to shelter in unsuitable locations, and we'll continue to do the appropriate outreach and trying to connect them to the services."

The Government of Alberta in recent months has committed to funding more than 1,700 permanent and emergency shelter spaces for the coming winter.

"I'm glad that we're seeing movement recognition from the province that Edmonton has lacked shelter capacity," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters on Wednesday, referring to funding commitments via the provincial ministry of seniors, community and social services. "It's a significant increase from what we had … and I hope that will help us deal with some of the issues around LRT stations, buses and other public places where people have to congregate because they have no other place to go."

The provincially funded spaces are spread across the city and include 770 that were already open. Most of the winter shelter spaces are expected to be open by Nov. 1, council heard.

"I'm still going in concerned for the winter months, but it's a different conversation that we've had since I've been elected to council," Ward Anirniq Coun. Erin Rutherford said during Wednesday's meeting. "And that's encouraging to me."

Sohi said the locations of the beds will be made public by the various shelter providers and by the province.

Other issues related to shelter spaces — including decentralization of them and moves to make temporary ones permanent — continue to be discussed and worked on, council heard.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb Top Stories

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