Mayor Tara Veer welcomed participants to the 7 Cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness who were meeting at Sheraton Red Deer on Tuesday morning. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

UPDATED: Homelessness conference being held in Red Deer

7 Cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness

Communities have entered a new era as they focus on homeless populations dealing with addiction and mental health issues, says Red Deer’s mayor.

“What we’re dealing with now is highly complex and very diverse social needs. Addictions and mental health are certainly predominate challenges that affect the socially vulnerable who are in need of affordable housing stock and the wrap around supports that by necessity we need to provide,” said Tara Veer after welcoming participants to the 7 Cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness at Red Deer Sheraton on Tuesday.

Veer said another issue Red Deer faces is the need for sufficient shelter space that the homeless can access so they can begin to move up the affordable housing continuum.

Other levels of government need to recognize that shelter has not been recognized on the housing continuum, she said.

“Certainly the greatest infrastructure and programming need in Red Deer today, and no doubt in the years to come, will continue to be shelter as well as the support services in support of that shelter.”

It’s the 10th year for the annual 7 Cities Conference that brings together people from across the province and Canada to share best practices on ending homelessness.

Veer said one of the benefits of the seven-city partnership is finding out about housing models elsewhere. Calgary, for example, has done a fantastic job of ensuring asset protection for long term planning of affordable housing stock through the Calgary Housing Corporation.

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