Council endorses homelessness plan

A plan to tackle homelessness in Red Deer will attempt to add 500 affordable housing units by 2015.

A plan to tackle homelessness in Red Deer will attempt to add 500 affordable housing units by 2015.

On Monday, city council endorsed EveryOne’s Home — a Five Year Community Plan Towards Ending Homelessness from 2010 to 2015. The plan, developed with the help of around 60 people from community agencies, will rev up Red Deer’s efforts to get people off the streets and into appropriate shelter.

“The (Red Deer and District) Community Foundation is taking a leadership role in this and will support those who want to help (end homelessness),” Councillor Cindy Jefferies said.

The plan is expected to cost $48.6 million in operational dollars and $44.7 million in capital expenses for a total of $93.3 million. Funding will come from various levels of government, plus local sources like the United Way of Central Alberta and the community foundation.

“Caring for the homeless and those who need assisted supported living doesn’t come cheap, but it’s cheaper than being on the street,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

The plan has four goals — ensuring sufficient housing options; having access to support services whose primary focus is on housing; increasing community awareness; and having reliable data.

Each goal has a number of targets, including developing 500 housing options between 2010 and 2015. Of those, 40 per cent would be new housing units, while the rest would be conversion of existing units.

The plan also seeks a review of existing outreach services by 2011. The objective is to ensure the homeless population doesn’t grow from 2010 to 2012 and decreases by 15 per cent annually.

In September 2006, a survey found there were 104 homeless people. And 65 per cent of those identified as homeless were men between 25 and 44.

Stacey Carmichael, co-ordinator of community leadership initiatives for the community foundation, said many people are in shelters for extended periods of time.

“We want to get it down to no more than 21 days (in the shelter) by 2015,” Carmichael said.

A social marketing campaign is being developed to reduce discrimination, Carmichael said.

Annual reports to the community will be released, including one on Nov. 23. All funding housing and supports will use an integrated data system by 2011.

Everyone’s Home plan is an extension of what has already been done to end homelessness by 2018.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Ending Homelessness, released in February 2008 after three years of intensive work, addressed areas like emergency assistance and housing options.

The provincial government recently asked Alberta municipalities to provide certain specifics before they could gain access to provincial dollars.

“The province wants to make sure the funding is properly used,” said Flewwelling.

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