Three years after ending chronic homelessness, Medicine Hat is now anticipating housing challenges from rapid growth that other cities like Red Deer have already experienced.
A squeeze on available housing and increasing rental rates are expected soon, said a Medicine Hat housing official.
“We’re expecting it to take a drastic turn here in the next 12 to 18 months,” said Jaime Rogers, manager of homeless and housing at Medicine Hat Community Housing Society.
“Big business is coming to Medicine Hat creating a lot of jobs so we are facing some different challenges around housing.”
Rogers, who was a panel member Wednesday morning at the 7 Cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness at Sheraton Red Deer, said being a smaller city initially helped Medicine Hat eliminate chronic homelessness.
“We don’t have the migration that we see in other communities. We’re not Red Deer where you have a lot of flow through and a lot of people.”
But growth will bring on challenges that other communities faced early on while working on their plans and processes to end homelessness, she said.
Rogers said Medicine Hat identified and accelerated some initiatives during its five-year plan to end homelessness which helped it achieve its goal.
“Medicine Hat had one of the first centralized intake processes where we actually prioritize individuals for services. You see other communities refining their models now. We did that very early on.”
She said ending chronic homelessness does not mean no one is homelessness in Medicine Hat.
“What it means is there a robust and comprehensive system that is responsive to the unique needs of the individual and the community so they don’t have to stay in that state,” Rogers said.
Earlier this week the federal government announced fewer spending restrictions on homelessness funding.
Mayor Tara Veer said a couple of years ago Red Deer identified moving towards a co-ordinated and system-based approach to create a more single point of entry for housing the homeless. The government’s new emphasis on co-ordinated access and allowing communities to determine their priorities holds potential for Red Deer.
“They have specifically stipulated that they will be delivering funding directly to municipalities and service providers which allows us to allocate funds in terms of local priorities,” Veer said.