Edmonton council urged to include homeless people in affordable housing convo

« I think for too long we haven’t really targeted those voices…they’re struggling to get by and survive. »

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The best way to meet the needs of people in precarious housing in Edmonton is to respect them and include them in creating solutions, a committee of council heard Tuesday morning.

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More than a dozen people urged the community and public services committee to hear and reflect their wishes and experiences as the city updates its affordable housing strategy. Difficulty finding housing, problems navigating and getting support from social services and housing systems, and the desire to be treated with dignity were common themes.

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Some said they didn’t think politicians would really listen.

Twilene Moisson said she was forced to leave her home after someone damaged her door while she was hospitalized with COVID-19. She started crying after speaking out about a story of abuse, saying people need to stop painting all homeless people with the same brush.

« After you’ve paid the rent, you’ve paid your bills, you’re lucky if you can barely get groceries, » she said. “They put people up here, then they shot them, and now we’re all living in tents – winter is coming… People are walking around and avoiding these guys? They work harder than any hard working fucking person in a paid job.

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Sydonie Okheema moved to Edmonton from the Northwest Territories thinking it would be an affordable place to live. But she spends nearly half of her income on rent, saying if the city wants to end poverty, it needs to tackle the cost of rent.

“We are human. There are things that happen, or you lose a job. It can happen to anyone at any time. »

Newcomer Challenges

Ali Mahdi, speaking on behalf of Multicultural Health Brokers, an agency helping Edmonton newcomer families navigate government bureaucracies, said the newcomers are going through a housing crisis. He sees their struggles with affordability firsthand and says there needs to be more affordable rental housing with multiple bedrooms to accommodate large families.

“If we don’t address the housing crisis of the newcomer and refugee population, it will lead to a new generation and a new demographic of homelessness. This is why the City should give the housing crisis for our population the same priority as housing projects for the homeless population.

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Graham Nserko told advisers he was caught in a cycle he couldn’t get out of. He came to Canada as an international student, but had to leave school before graduating due to family and financial issues. He couldn’t work because of his immigration issues, started couch surfing, then became homeless during the pandemic.

« It feels like you’re stuck in a system, and that system continues to work. If you ride with it, you’re lucky. If it leaves you behind, you’re left behind, » he said. he declares.

Investing directly in affordable and supportive housing, securing provincial and federal funding, investing in social housing supports, and leveraging city-owned land to improve the providing affordable housing were some of the most common themes heard during the city’s engagement.

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Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, who was grateful to design and social research firm InWithForward for facilitating many of Tuesday’s speakers, said the stories will help the city meet people’s needs, especially for rental housing and of social supports.

« We have a huge need for big subsidies in housing, especially for tenants, and that’s what we need to focus on, » he told reporters on Tuesday. « Looking at what people are saying and coming up with solutions based on their lived experience – I think that’s going to help us make better long-term decisions. »

Com. Keren Tang wants to dig deeper into these stories because they provide insight into where the system is failing people, she said.

« I think for too long we haven’t really listened to those voices…they’re struggling to get by and survive, » she said.

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She wants the city to consider how its regulations could contribute to problems, such as the eviction of people living in vehicles from city-owned parking lots.

Shortage of affordable housing

Edmonton expects a housing shortage affecting 59,000 households in core housing need, including a shortage of 40,000 affordable rental units, by 2026.

A new housing needs assessment by the city for its updated affordable housing strategy found that housing policies and programs need to focus on tenants, and the government needs to make deliberate plans to address this as the market private will not be able to solve. Some groups, including people with disabilities or health or mobility issues, single mothers, older people, Indigenous peoples, and people with mental health and addictions issues, fare worse than others. others.

Ahead of Wednesday’s homeless count in Edmonton, an Edmonton housing and homelessness coalition said homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg where housing becomes unaffordable.

« ECOHH wants people to send a message to the Prime Minister and Premier that it’s time for significant investment in off-market housing to end this long-standing pain, » President Nadine Chalifoux said in a statement. communicated.



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