Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 22, 1999
Homes for the homeless
Justice commission pushes city council to fund social housing
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The archdiocesan Social Justice Commission is stepping up its campaign for more affordable housing in Edmonton.
The commission and about 20 other advocacy groups are slated to address city council Nov. 25 to pressure councillors to restore funding for social housing in next year's budget.
Council has already recommended its administration put $1.3 million back into affordable housing but advocacy groups fear the initiative could get lost in the budget debate.
"The concern is that in the budget debate they could say, 'We have to cut something' and put the $1.3 million back into general revenues," said Linda Winski of the Social Justice Commission.
City council is currently holding hearings on the budget and is expected to hold a final vote Dec. 15.
The Social Justice Commission will present a brief at the hearing urging city council to keep its commitment to the homeless. The commission is also calling on Catholics from across the city to be present in council chambers Nov. 25 to show their concern for the homeless. The commission's presentation is scheduled for 9:45 a.m.
"The budget should reflect the values that put people first and assure that people living in the city will have access to a decent way of life," Winski said Nov 17.
"Money needs to be allocated into housing initiatives that will assure that there will be affordable housing for all. Our goal is to ensure there will be no people living in substandard housing."
In 1998, the province relieved the city of a previous $1.3-million annual payment to a social housing debt, with a recommendation the city spend that saving on new social housing. But council, in its 1999 budget, left the money in general revenues.
Last August, following a recommendation of the Homelessness Task Force, council reversed itself and told Community Services to include $1.3 million for social housing in the 2000 budget.
The question now is whether the majority of council will support having the money included in the budget. At least six councillors are known to favour restoring the funding.
If passed, the $1.3 million will be used to support the Housing Trust Fund. The fund, in turn, will leverage other funds from senior levels of government and the private sector to support social housing initiatives.
Homelessness is a reality in Edmonton, according to the report of the Edmonton Task Force on Homelessness. The task force found 836 people on the street and in shelters during its count in March. Included in this number were 112 children.
"We want to see money for homes that provide sufficient protection for families," said John Lynch, coordinator of the Social Justice Commission. "City council should bring back the $1.3 million and make a commitment toward continued funding to meet the (housing) needs of the impoverished."
The Inner City Housing Society says its waiting list for decent affordable housing is at an all time high - one year for single persons and two years for families.
The task force recommended the development of 500 more housing units annually.