We lead nation on homelessness battle

Re: Poverty needs a plan, May 11. In his editorial on May 11, Greg Neiman asks: “Think we can afford to ignore homelessness, for instance?”

Re: Poverty needs a plan, May 11. In his editorial on May 11, Greg Neiman asks: “Think we can afford to ignore homelessness, for instance?”

As Alberta’s minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, I couldn’t agree more with the need to address homelessness.

As the column notes, if we ignore homelessness, it would come at a significant cost. It’s estimated that providing emergency services to a person who is homeless costs at least three times more than helping a person become permanently housed, not to mention the toll homelessness takes on individuals and families.

My ministry’s contribution to addressing poverty focuses on providing housing and supports to the homeless — on this front, Alberta is a leader in Canada — and helping to develop housing for low-income Albertans.

Our work to end homelessness by 2019 includes providing the outreach support services to address the inherent causes of homelessness, such as addictions, mental illness or domestic violence.

Results indicate we are on the right track with this approach. Several communities have reported a decrease in the number of homeless, as well as less demand for emergency shelter spaces. In Red Deer, there was an approximately 20 per cent decrease in shelter usage in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Province-wide, we have provided housing and support services for 3,995 formerly homeless individuals over the past two years.

Together, we will continue to help more Albertans move from homelessness to a life of independence and opportunity.

Jonathan Denis

Minister, Housing and Urban Affairs