Edmonton needs a shelter for homeless families, outreach worker says

An outreach worker who supports Edmontonians experiencing homelessness says some of the provincial government’s new funding for shelters this winter should go toward establishing one for homeless families.

Judith Gale, who founded the Edmonton/Beaver Hills House Bear Clan Patrol chapter, said family homelessness is a disheartening reality that has become more common.

“Landlords are not being very patient with our brothers and sisters, and we’ve seen whole families — three generations in one tent — in tents because they don’t want to be separated,” she said.

Gale said she raised the city’s lack of family shelters with Premier Jason Kenney at the funding announcement outside the Hope Mission’s Herb Jamieson Centre last week. 

She said the premier thanked her for putting the issue on his radar.

Gale is calling for an apartment-style shelter where families could stay temporarily and access a range of services.

Edmonton families contact Calgary shelters

Calgary has two family shelters — and both field calls from Edmonton families seeking emergency housing.

Brenda’s House, a family shelter in southwest Calgary run by the Children’s Cottage Society, receives occasional calls from Edmonton, a communications coordinator confirmed. 

Heather Morley, executive director of Inn from the Cold, says families travel from Edmonton — and even from neighbouring provinces — to visit its family shelter in downtown Calgary.

She said demand for shelter and services has spiked during the pandemic.

Hidden homelessness

Inn from the Cold tries to prevent families from becoming homeless and keep children out of shelters, but Morley said family shelters play an important role in helping some Albertans secure a stable environment for their children.

“About 15 per cent of the families we see are single dads,” she said. “A women’s shelter isn’t going to be an appropriate place for a single dad to go with his children.”

She said the lack of family shelters is a national problem.

Family homelessness can be difficult to understand and measure because it often involves “hidden homelessness,” she said. People experiencing hidden homelessness are not reflected in municipal statistics because instead of showing up at a shelter, they find temporary places to stay, like a friend’s house.

Gale said the families she meets choose to stay in tents or crash with friends because they do not want to split up and attend multiple gender-segregated shelters or put children in chaotic environments.

Gale, who is a Sixties Scoop survivor, pointed out that Canada splitting up Indigenous families by forcing children to attend residential schools is an underlying cause of homelessness.

“That’s what got us here in the first place,” she said.

Pilot failed to start

Twenty years ago, agencies and advocates tried to open a family shelter in the city.

The Kings Community Society set a goal of raising $3.5 million to turn a rundown downtown commercial building into a transitional family shelter pilot, but it never came to fruition. 

Laurie LaFleur, an Edmonton pastor who was involved in the initiative, told CBC News the group applied for funding from several sources, but failed to raise enough money.

Getting families housed is priority: province

Justin Marshall, press secretary to Community and Social Services Minister Jason Luan, said there are no plans to fund a family shelter in Edmonton.

“That’s because getting families directly into housing has always been the focus by our local providers,” he said.

Marshall said the province helps families through the income support program. An emergency needs allowance covers the cost of temporary accommodation, food, child care, damage deposits and other costs.

He said Homeward Trust receives provincial funding to help Edmonton agencies find families housing and run eviction-prevention programs.

Marshall said families needing emergency accommodation should contact Alberta Supports at 1-877-644-9992.

View original article here Source