Homelessness in our City

What is Homelessness

Homeless does not define who a person is; rather, it is something a person experiences. Experiencing homelessness has a profound impact on every aspect of a person’s life. Homelessness does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or family background. For a person experiencing homelessness, the basic things that most of us take for granted – a safe place to keep our belongings, a shower before work, a pantry stocked with food – are simply not part of daily life.

People who are experiencing homelessness do not have an adequate or permanent home. They might be sleeping rough in the river valley or on park benches, or accessing the city’s shelter services, or they might be couch surfing – staying with relatives or friends until they have to move on.

Homelessness in Edmonton

People who experience homelessness in Edmonton are as diverse as Edmonton itself. Although there has been great progress since the launch of Edmonton’s Plan to End Homelessness, there is still work to be done.

Bringing The Numbers Down

The 2016 Homeless Count, conducted by Homeward Trust volunteers, confirmed the continuing downward trend in the numbers of people experiencing homelessness: a downward trend that only began in 2009 after the launch of the Plan to End Homelessness. Before that, the numbers of those who identified as experiencing homelessness had been rising exponentially since 1999.

Significant Decreases

The 2016 Homeless Count saw a 51% decrease in the number of families experiencing homelessness since the previous count. It was dramatic change from 2014, which saw that number on the rise. Initiatives to help families and youth experiencing homelessness were put into play to help. The Urgent Families Initiative was a success, housing over 250 families, and the launch of 2016’s Youth Housing First program has started positively: within the first 6 month, 97 referrals were made and 46 of those youth were housed.

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People counted as experiencing homelessness during the 2016 Homeless Count

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%

Of these are chronically homeless

  • 74% Male
  • 24% Female
  • 1% Transgender
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%

Although only 5% of Edmonton’s population identify as Indigenous, 48% of people experiencing homelessness identify as Indigenous.

Myths and Misunderstandings

People Choose To Be Homeless

The reality is that homelessness can happen to anyone, and there are many underlying issues – including poverty, lack of employment, addictions, mental health, abuse or domestic violence, and a lack of affordable housing.

Myths and Misunderstandings

Poverty and Lack of Affordable Housing

Although vacancy rates have increased significantly in the past two years, there is still a need for increased availability of affordable housing. The last Federal Census found more than 24,000 renter households in Edmonton paying more than half of their income on rent.  With average rents close to $1,000 per month for one-bedroom apartments in our city, households need to earn incomes of at least $40,000 to meet the traditional 30% of income rule of thumb for housing affordability.

Recent changes in our city’s economy have impacted job growth and unemployment. In addition, there is a disproportionate number of people in Edmonton who are low income earners. Addressing poverty in our city is a key component in ending homelessness.

Myths and Misunderstandings

Trauma/Intergenerational Trauma

The negative impact and intergenerational trauma that Indigenous communities face is undeniable. It is important to recognize and address the many factors brought forth with the institution of colonialism. Displacement from traditional homelands, systemic racism, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the ongoing overrepresentation in child welfare and correctional systems are responsibilities we all share.

Myths and Misunderstandings

“Why don’t they just get a job?”

This seems like a logical solution. However, not having a permanent address adds complications to finding employment. A person experiencing homelessness has no address to put on the application form and might not have a means of being contacted. Having appropriate interview and work attire can be a challenge. And accessing training or skills development programs can be a very complicated process.

Myths and Misunderstandings

  • People Choose To Be Homeless

    The reality is that homelessness can happen to anyone, and there are many underlying issues – including poverty, lack of employment, addictions, mental health, abuse or domestic violence, and a lack of affordable housing.
  • Poverty and Lack of Affordable Housing

    Although vacancy rates have increased significantly in the past two years, there is still a need for increased availability of affordable housing. The last Federal Census found more than 24,000 renter households in Edmonton paying more than half of their income on rent. With average rents close to $1,000 per month for one-bedroom apartments in our city, households need to earn incomes of at least $40,000 to meet the traditional 30% of income rule of thumb for housing affordability.

    Recent changes in our city’s economy have impacted job growth and unemployment. In addition, there is a disproportionate number of people in Edmonton who are low income earners. Addressing poverty in our city is a key component in ending homelessness.

  • Trauma/Intergenerational Trauma

    The negative impact and intergenerational trauma that Indigenous communities face is undeniable. It is important to recognize and address the many factors brought forth with the institution of colonialism. Displacement from traditional homelands, systemic racism, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the ongoing overrepresentation in child welfare and correctional systems are responsibilities we all share.
  • “Why don’t they just get a job?”

    This seems like a logical solution. However, not having a permanent address adds complications to finding employment. A person experiencing homelessness has no address to put on the application form and might not have a means of being contacted. Having appropriate interview and work attire can be a challenge. And accessing training or skills development programs can be a very complicated process.

Ending homelessness is achievable. How you can get involved: