Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 3, 2008
Give the homeless homes
Food and clothes are just bandaids
By RAMON GONZALEZ
Recently when a parishioner became homeless, parish secretary Maria Lupul was forced to deal with her situation.
“I feel empathy but I don’t have the qualifications to deal with social issues that people bring to my face,” she said at the conference.
Both Lupul and Dufresne gave the homeless parishioner their lunch and then arranged to move her possessions into a garage. They called the woman’s social worker and are still waiting for a call back. Eventually they found a place for the woman in a crowded women’s shelter in downtown Edmonton.
Dufresne estimates St. Theresa Parish spends nearly $100,000 a year in charity work, including some $37,000 in food hampers for the needy. The food for the hampers is donated, so the cost is an estimate.
“I think we are doing the work the government should be doing,” Dufresne said. “As a Christian organization we need to hand out food hampers.
“But isn’t it the government’s role to look after the members of society who are most vulnerable?
“I really think that the government of Alberta is getting a free ride. Imagine if the Bissell Centre and the Marian Centre weren’t there.
”Are they (the homeless) going to go down to the legislature and get a free meal? Maybe they should.”
Dufresne’s solution is to force the government to act on the homelessness issue.
“I really think all of these groups that are doing charitable work should get together and say to the government, ‘In three months we are going to stop what we are doing unless you start to fund us properly,’” he said. “Squeaky wheels get the grease.”
One concrete response to the homelessness issue has come from the Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA), which since its founding assembly in 2005 has helped create 438 units of affordable housing in Edmonton. In most of these units, tenants will pay rent equivalent to 30 per cent of their income.
Habitat for Humanity, in conjunction with the GEA, will play a major role in the new Strathearn Heights development, having agreed to take up to 150 units to sell to low-to-modest income working families.
Another 200 to 300 affordable units will receive rental subsidies from various levels of government.
In addition to the Strathearn project, Habitat for Humanity is currently completing an 18-unit site in the city and is planning to build 40 additional units next year, announced Angela Robichaud, volunteer manager for Habitat Edmonton.
“We are hoping to reach 100 units a year (in a not-to-distant future).”
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