Alberta to provide more funding to addictions, homelessness to Calgary, Edmonton

The provincial government announced Saturday that it will be extending its funding for homelessness and addictions supports in Edmonton and Calgary as these social epidemics continue to deeply impact the communities.

The province will be funding an additional $63 million in supports for homelessness, and an additional $124 million for addictions between the two cities over the next two years.

Alberta’s two major cities will now be receiving equal funding for these social supports, as Edmonton has received less funding than Calgary in past years.

The homelessness initiatives come at the request of a community task force — organized by Community and Social Services Minister Jason Luan in November 2021 — that presented its response to homelessness in June.

“We need to change the paradigm so people can access services they need to bridge the gap to recovery,” said Premier Jason Kenney during a press conference announcing the new funding in Edmonton on Saturday.

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All provincially-funded shelters will now be open 24/7, offering vulnerable people a place to stay at all times. Previously, shelters closed during the day, leaving people without a safe space to stay and driving them back into the community and back into the cycle, Kenney said.

Additional winter shelter spaces in Edmonton, Wetaskiwin, Lethbridge and other rural areas where there is “urgent and unmet need” will also be made available.

As for the addictions supports, the new funding will continue to support the UCP’s recovery-based model.

“It’s the only way, ultimately, to treat the illness — the illness of addiction,” said Kenney, stating that July had the lowest rate of recorded opioid-related deaths since before the pandemic.

“While every life lost to addiction is one too many, the steady decline in opioid deaths in Alberta is a positive sign and we are optimistic it will continue,” said Mental Health and Addictions Associate Minister Mike Ellis in a press release issued Saturday. “Now is the time to re-double our efforts to make it as easy as possible for Albertans to pursue recovery from addiction. By increasing and expanding addiction services in Edmonton and Calgary, we will be providing more life-saving services while building safer and healthier communities.”

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The new funding will provide new recovery communities, hybrid health and police hubs to offer a full range of social supports, therapeutic living units in provincial prisons to provide more well-rounded support to inmates, as well as medical detox and harm reductions and recovery outreach teams, the province said in a press release sent Saturday.

Four new recovery communities are under development in Red Deer, Lethbridge, Gunn and on Blood Tribe First Nation. These facilities will offer long-term treatment, even up to a year if needed, so that people can access medical detox, opioid agonist medications and therapeutic services, as well as programs that offer skills development, relationship building and employment, financial and housing supports,” according to the press release.

“By strengthening harm reduction and recovery outreach teams in Edmonton and Calgary, we can better connect people with overdose prevention supports and other essential health services.”

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