Ottawa ponies up $2 million for Housing First

Housing First initiatives in Red Deer received a $2 million helping hand from the federal government on Friday.

Housing First initiatives in Red Deer received a $2 million helping hand from the federal government on Friday.

Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen announced $2 million in funding over five years, with $ 1.4 million designated for community initiatives and $609,760 for aboriginal projects. He made the announcement at Red Deer City Hall.

Scott Cameron, the city’s social planning manager, said the new five-year commitment will allow the agencies and organizations in the city to continue their good work.

“This adds a level of stability for organizations providing homelessness services in the community,” said Cameron, noting the federal government has been providing stable funds since 2001.

The philosophy is based on getting people into housing to give them some stability and support before dealing with issues, like mental health disorders, that make them vulnerable to homelessness.

He added it was affirming to hear the At Home/Chez Soi report supports the Housing First philosophy. The report commissioned by Mental Health Commission of Canada was released earlier this week.

Cameron said Red Deer has been a leader across the country as it adopted the philosophy in 2007. He credited the forward thinking of the community for exploring the Housing First philosophy.

The former Buffalo Hotel was converted into a Housing First project in 2007. Since then, Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society have used the same philosophy to house homeless elsewhere in the city.

More than 100 individuals in Red Deer have been served in the Housing First program and 80 per cent remain housed after they entered the program in the last year.

“Having a roof over their head is really critical to being able to deal with any other issues or challenges in their lives,” said Cameron.

Dreeshen said Red Deer has done a great job at tackling the issue in the city. He said with the federal government changing the focus to make sure the housing is there so after they can take a look at some of the other issues that land people into those circumstances.

Mayor Tara Veer said one of Red Deer’s priorities is not to just manage homelessness but to end homelessness.

Veer said the city has made great strides in recent years but they still know there is a significant gap between the number of affordable housing units they have and the units that are needed.

The requests for proposals for the funding is likely to be out in the community in early July.

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