Red Deer’s old Buffalo hotel was turned into permanent accommodations for previously homeless people in need of various kinds of support, including with mental health and addictions. (Advocate file photo.)

Red Deer needs more affordable housing options for the chronically homeless to the jobless

City council to consider terms of reference for new plan to end homelessness

With long waits for affordable housing in Red Deer, a spectrum of local low-cost accommodations are “desperately” needed, states a report going to city council on Monday.

“More capital infrastructure is needed to meet the growing needs of the city’s vulnerable population,” states a report prepared by the city’s social planning department — including people who are left homeless because of job loss in this difficult economy.

The report goes on to say that, despite “significant” wait lists for affordable housing, the development of more units “has moved at a relatively slow pace over the past number of years,” and more housing stock is “desperately needed in Red Deer.”

Among the points highlighted is the city’s aging population: “Over the next 10 years, the needs will not lessen.”

Tricia Hercina, social planning manager for the City of Red Deer, stated at the end of 2018 that accommodation was found for about 1,000 people over the past decade.

But the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness — which expired at the end of last year — could not anticipate the dire impacts of the opioid crisis, which has left Red Deer with the highest per capita overdose death rate in the province.

A portion of the city’s vulnerable population is in and out of housing because of addictions-related issues.

City administration will now take a shorter-term view, drafting a new five-year plan to try to better accommodate Red Deer’s homeless population. The terms of reference will be going before city council for approval Monday.

The report council will consider states that things have changed in many ways in central Alberta since the last plan to end homelessness was drafted. Among the external “shifts” are the economy, demographics, an “unprecedented crisis in drug addiction, and growing mental health needs.”

More complex social problems will require a broader spectrum of housing options, states the report.

“It is timely for the community to come together for a refresh… to be responsive to the changing needs of our community.”

Hercina has stated that a widened spectrum of people, not just the chronically homeless, are now in need of help.

These include people driven out of their homes because of job loss, and other drastic circumstances, and those who are couch surfing or sleeping in their cars.

“There will be a focus on poverty reduction and affordable housing choices.”

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