Homeless programs doing ‘tremendous’ good

Red Deer continues to do its part for people who do not have a place to call home.

Red Deer continues to do its part for people who do not have a place to call home.

On Tuesday, the Red Deer and District Community Foundation and the City of Red Deer released the latest numbers from its third annual Report to the Community: Homelessness and Affordable Housing Initiatives. According to the report, 363 individuals, of whom 133 were new clients, were housed or supported in housing through provincial and federal grants. Four homes were found for four youth and 154 youth were sheltered or received services.

“I think the programs have done a tremendous amount of good,” said Roxana Nielsen Stewart, housing program co-ordinator for the city.

She was unable to provide comparable numbers for the previous year but she said they did house more new clients in the latest period.

“It’s been a learning curve to appropriately house people in the right housing units and they have been very successful with that. So we feel very good about the progress we have made to date.”

The report covers the period between April 1, 2011, and March 31, 2012, and gives an overview of the programs, services and community activities in the city, with the intent of ending homelessness.

In 2008, the city released EveryOne’s Home –– Red Deer’s Vision and Framework on Ending Homelessness by 2018. The next year, the province released A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in 10 Years, leading to new provincial investments in housing. In 2011, the framework was revised and developed into EveryOne’s Home Leadership Model, a guiding strategy for ending homelessness.

On Oct. 16, the city will conduct a point-in-time homelessness count to paint a baseline of the people living on Red Deer streets. The baseline will help guide future programming.

Dennis Armstrong used to be homeless: he lived in a tent in the bushes around Red Deer. About two years ago, the 52-year-old moved to a one-bedroom apartment with help from the Red Deer Housing Team.

Armstrong gave an emotional speech on Tuesday to those gathered at the Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre.

“If I didn’t have (the housing team), I don’t think I would be alive,” said Armstrong. “I used to live in a tent. Now I have a better tent.”

Stephen Manley, of Calgary, executive director of the Homeless Supports Program Delivery Branch for the province, was on hand to applaud the city for its efforts.

Manley said Red Deer was one of the first communities to start working on ending homelessness, long before the province had its official plan. He noted the Buffalo Hotel, a permanent supported housing project, was one of the first in the province.

“Because of the great programs going on here such as Buffalo House, Red Deer has become a model for other jurisdictions for various types of housing,” said Manley. “Because of these efforts, more people have reclaimed their lives of dignity and independence. More people are envisioning their future with hope, with optimism.”

The province is now in its fourth year of its 10-year strategy to end homelessness. Manley said as of March 2012, the province has housed 6,000 people and 80 per cent of them have remained housed.

“Our target is 85 per cent but we haven’t gotten quite to where we’d like to be,” said Manley. “But at 80 per cent, that’s a success story but there is more work to do in the area of homelessness.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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