Edmonton mayoral hopefuls share plans to address homelessness, on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Edmonton’s homelessness issue will be a top priority for the next city council, with 1,000 more people sleeping rough since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Approximately 2,750 people are currently homeless in the city, despite 731 people having been housed in the last six months. During a forum hosted by the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and the Homeless on Tuesday morning, five mayoral candidates presented their plans to help the growing number of homeless people over their heads.

Michael Oshry was the only candidate who offered specific funding that he would like to see directed toward housing programming, but any city dollars would have to be offset in some way in the budget, either through a reduction in another area or an impact. in tax collection. . He said he would ask the council to commit to 200 additional housing units annually for four years, as well as invest $ 50 million in land and building conversions and $ 70 million for homeEd, the nonprofit housing corporation of the town.

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“Unfortunately, there will always be people who will be left homeless and what we have to do as a society is make sure that it is not chronic, that it does not happen again and that its time is short,” he said.

Candidate Amarjeet Sohi’s plan involves the renovation of vacant residential, mixed-use and office buildings in supportive housing developments.

“Modernizing these buildings could be an efficient way to create new living spaces. We must prioritize empty spaces along transit corridors with pedestrian access to services and businesses, ”he said. “I also believe that we can create a better framework for housing development in Edmonton, so I will bring leaders from community organizations and housing providers to the same table to identify opportunities.”

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But all the proposals will require the support of the highest levels of government. The current city council and Mayor Don Iveson have long requested operational funds from the provincial government to finance integrated social services in supportive housing, but that request has yet to be granted.

Relationship with the province

Cheryll Watson’s approach is to create a better partnership, as the city’s current relationship with the province is “fractured.”

“Now is the time for a leader with the skills, experience and a positive relationship with our provincial government to work directly with them and the community to bring about positive change,” Watson said.

Mike Nickel said he is “tired of seeing broken people wandering our streets” and would call for the implementation of a pilot voucher system to provide housing for 200 people. The program would initially start as free housing and then residents would be required to start paying six months later.

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“Housing is part of the solution, it is not the complete solution,” he said, noting that there must be support for mental health and addictions.

If elected, Diana Steele said she would advocate for private businesses to join in supporting the city with housing projects to provide homes for the most vulnerable.

“I would rely heavily on the private sector and their social conscience to do their part to help get our city back on track,” he said.

The city’s current goal is to create 900 supportive housing units by 2024 and developments are already in progress. Five approved projects are already underway and are expected to be completed by the end of the year to offer 210 supportive housing units.

Kim Krushell did not attend the forum on Tuesday, but held a separate media event that focused on the two monitored consumer sites in the city center. If elected, she said she would conduct an audit of the current locations and present a plan to move a site to another community where needed.

Election day is October 18. After eight days of early voting, more than 46,000 voters have already cast their ballots. Advance polls are open until Wednesday.

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Reference-edmontonjournal.com

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