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Budget 2016: Support for vulnerable Albertans

Posted April 19th, 2016

budget 2016 imageThe Alberta Government’s Budget 2016: Alberta Jobs Plan represents a significant step forward in combatting Alberta’s affordable housing shortages. With $892 million allocated to build more affordable housing and renew existing housing in Alberta and $148 million over five years earmarked for Calgary, we will continue to move forward in reaching the goals of Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness: People First in Housing First. (Calgary’s Plan calls for community action to house 3,200 individuals experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness and to stabilize 35% of the 9,400 households at risk of or experiencing transitional homelessness.)

Through the evidence and experience garnered over the past 8 years of administering Calgary’s Plan, we know that ending homelessness is possible – with sufficient resources, sufficient housing and the right research and data. The provincial government’s commitment to supporting Calgary’s efforts with capital funding of $13 million over 5 years (for permanent supportive housing for homeless and specialized populations) will make a difference.

We are pleased to see the continued recognition of the Indigenous persons of Alberta in this budget.  Thirty percent of Calgary’s homeless population report being Indigenous. The Government’s allocation of $120 million for off reserve housing is significant. We look forward to working with Indigenous leadership to coordinate our efforts to support and improve the lives of urban and reserve Indigenous populations as there is a direct link between both.

We are encouraged by the announcement of a three percent increase in the Health Services budget and  are hopeful it will result in more funding being directed toward the recommendations proposed in the recent Mental Health and Addictions review.  Alberta’s vulnerable populations need better integrated health care, primary care, mental health and addictions supports to complement their housing and housing supports.

In 2008, Calgary became the first city in Canada to launch a plan to end homelessness. Since 2008, on a per capita basis, homelessness (as measured by Point-in-Time counts) has decreased in Calgary by 17%. A remarkable result given Calgary’s unprecedented population growth and rising cost of living over the past decade. As a community, we have housed and provided supports to over 7,000 people and achieved an 85% retention ratio for those housed.

One of the tenets of Calgary’s Plan is the emphasis on Housing First and the need for more affordable housing in Calgary. Calgary’s Plan calls for a capital investment over five years of $136 million with matching program dollars to support those being housed of $153.6 million. Since Calgary’s Plan was launched in 2008, market forces have resulted in a loss of rental stock in Calgary from 35 rental units per 1,000 people in 2008 to 27 rental housing units in 2014.  Within the homeless-serving sector, approximately 1500 additional units of housing have been built since 2008.  The provincial government’s commitment to capital funding for new affordable housing will help close the gap. Our evidence clearly shows that housing with supports is critical. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our government partners to ensure critical program funding is in place to provide for housing retention for individuals and families.

Since 2008, CHF has built a portfolio of 360 housing units with an additional 125 units coming on stream this year. Funding is also in place for approximately 115 additional units by 2018 through the RESOLVE Campaign–a multi-agency, first of its kind in Canada, capital campaign to raise funds for affordable housing.

Another area that has a direct impact on homelessness is employment and income support programs. Budget 2016 allocates additional funding for employment and income support programs which will help eligible Albertans cover their basic costs of living and find or maintain jobs. The increase of $480 million in 2016-17 for income supports with a further $206 million budgeted for related adult and child health benefit programs will help ease the burden on low income individuals and families, further enhancing our ability to meet the goals of Calgary’s Plan.

Calgary is considered a leader in ending homelessness, programming, research and planning. Along with our success in housing and delivery of program supports, we have built a coordinated System of Care that is responsive to client needs and places the right person in the right housing with the right resources.  We have built an extensive database (Homeless Management Information System – HMIS) that provides for real time data analysis of the homeless serving System of Care–it tells us who’s in it, when they entered, their levels of need and their barriers to success. HMIS allows for evidence-based decisions that maximize resources and leverage our collective efforts to end homelessness for the betterment of all Calgarians.

We have accomplished a great deal since 2008 and continue to move forward in achieving the goals of Calgary’s Plan.  With the Government’s focus on affordable housing and commitment to supporting vulnerable Albertans, together, we will end homelessness in Calgary.

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