Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Solving homelessness requires compassion, creativity and collaboration

Homelessness is a not a crisis unique to Alberta. Cities around the world are grappling with how to help the most vulnerable in their communities.

Any of us can become homeless due to illness, job loss, abuse, or some other unforeseen circumstance. In fact, nearly 1.6 million Canadians have had to spend time in a shelter or on the streets at some point in their life. Therefore, we must come together to support those in need of help.

That’s why Alberta’s government recently announced an additional $21.5 million for Albertans experiencing homelessness and family violence. This funding will ensure access to services like 24-7 emergency shelter and support for victims of domestic violence while keeping clients safe.

Alberta’s government is also providing an additional $1.5 million to activate up to 200 additional shelter beds at Commonwealth Stadium and will support on-site overdose prevention and treatment services.

As we continue to navigate through COVID, one of our top priorities is to make sure all Albertans have a safe place to stay and access to the support they need. Together with the $78 million previously announced, this additional funding will help organizations on the front lines deliver the services vulnerable Albertans need.

However we also know supportive housing is part of the overall response to homelessness. It is also a priority for Alberta’s government.

That’s why Community and Social Services has allocated more than $90 million to community-based organizations who provide a variety of supports, including permanent supportive housing.

I’m happy to report that our community partners have helped move more than 3,400 people into housing since the start of the pandemic.

I’m also proud of my colleague, Josephine Pon Minister of Seniors and Housing, who introduced Bill 78 this session. We are laying the groundwork to improve and expand Alberta’s affordable housing system to address growing demand and improve access for those most in need.

Alberta’s government must partner with more types of housing providers, attract outside investment, encourage innovation, and deliver more value for government spending.

These changes will increase opportunities for partnerships, ensure appropriate oversight for new ventures, and improve governance and capacity in the affordable housing sector.

While we provide shelters and housing to support those vulnerable Albertans living on the streets, we must also invest in long-term solutions that support the recovery and growth of the civil society sector to protect vulnerable Albertans.

That’s why we just opened the second round of applications for our $21 million Civil Society Fund to support the civil society sector. The intent of the CSF is to support change and improve how civil society organizations work together to address pressing social issues.

We need individuals and organizations to work together to help get people off the streets and into a better life. We need compassion, creativity and collaboration to expand civil societies and to create a place where the vulnerable population feel safe and comfortable seeking the help they need.

Jason Luan is the Minister of Community and Social Services.