Edmonton City Council talks housing and encampments

Edmonton city council discussed strategy on housing and encampments while advocates say they've been down this road before.

As city hall designates a task force on homelessness, advocates tell CityNews the answers to solving the housing crisis are already there.

“I’ve been asking the same question for ten years, why are we not utilizing empty city land space and putting up affordable housing places,” said Nadine Chalifoux, the Chair of the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.

As the City of Edmonton develops a task force on homeless and State of Emergency on houselessness, city administration recommends that $3.5 million of taxpayer money be used to support investments in long-term low-income housing, streamlining approval to get housing built as well as investments in indigenous-led programs. 

Chalifoux says they want action, not just words from the city since the group claims they’ve been down this road before. 

“What we’re looking for is to see any implementation of them, but some of these ideas that are on the table there are ideas that myself and Bissell/Boyle Street have brought to them with actual numbers and breakdowns,” explained Chalifoux.

The City has declared emergencies over COVID-19 and climate change in the past. Edmonton’s Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told media Monday that council’s task force and State of Emergency will focus on long-term solutions to houselessness. 

“Not having enough affordable housing, supportive housing, income support, more sustainable solutions,” said Sohi.

City council also heard an update on encampments Monday. Data from the city shows 635 calls were made to 311 about encampments in January, compared to over a thousand calls the month before — with 191 camps being cleaned up. And 143 people are being processed through the province’s navigation centre where houseless people are taken after an encampment is torn down. 

Chalifoux says she has concerns about the centre’s accessibility and other agencies already providing the same services. 

“There’s so many agencies already doing this work — it’s another duplication — they’re just not utilizing resources they already have. They could be putting it towards properly trained staff at Bissell or Boyle,” said Chalifoux.

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