Supportive Housing: Things Are Looking Up
I come bearing good news.
The City is beefing up its response to slum housing and investing upwards of $50 million to create supportive housing for our most wounded, vulnerable, homeless citizens.
I don’t have to tell you, but this has been a long journey. The people of Boyle Street and McCauley are some of the most compassionate people I’ve met. Yet the side effects of poverty, mental illness, and addiction have haunted your neighbourhoods for far too long.
Businesses suffer. Families pick up and leave. It’s not fair. These are beautiful neighbourhoods with historic and cultural character.
I became frustrated with the City’s enforcement of bylaws related to derelict or slum housing. You may recall I wrote an article in January’s issue of the paper. The problem properties motion had just been made and city administration was working closely with community representatives.
So now we fast forward a few months and — ta da — the freshly branded Problem Properties Initiative.
City staff opened new channels of communication and engagement so slum (and drug) houses can be reported and responded to quickly.
Communication is key. If the Problem Properties Initiative has success, you’ll know. If all is quiet, you can demand to know why. No hiding.
I’m also excited by city council’s approval of $53 million in funding for five supportive housing projects. Four of the sites were announced already. None of them are in Ward 6, which supports city council’s policy of creating mixed market/non-market housing neighbourhoods across Edmonton.
Boyle Street and McCauley are compassionate neighbourhoods. But there’s been too much concentration of homelessness in your communities.
One of the five supportive housing facilities will be a pilot project for modular construction.
At the same time, the City is establishing a transitional housing facility at the former jockey clubhouse on the Northlands site. It aims to be operating by the end of the year.
Solving homelessness and reducing social disorder in Ward 6 neighbourhoods has been my highest priority. We have people in our midst living the most desperate lives, largely because of trauma and the resulting mental illness and self-medicating addiction. They deserve to live in dignity. They deserve help to return to an engaged life. In helping them, we reduce the stress in neighbourhoods like Boyle Street and McCauley.
It will take some time yet. But things are looking up.
Councillor Scott McKeen represents Ward 6 on city council.