Feds commit $3.7 million to tackle homelessness in rural Alberta

The federal government is providing $3.7 million in funds to help rural communities in Alberta address homelessness.

The funds, provided through the government’s Reaching Home program, were awarded to 11 rural communities in Alberta.

Each community will use the money to best fit the needs of their citizens, Dee Ann Benard, executive director of the Alberta Rural Development Network, said in a news release.

“The chosen projects demonstrate committed communities and organizations applying home-grown solutions to their unique issues,” she said.

ARDN has long advocated for more funding to address rural homelessness in the province.

With the help of Family and Community Support Service centres in Alberta, the organization was able to determine the scope of rural homelessness in the province.

Through surveys, ARDN determined that nearly 3,000 people in 20 communities, or about one percent of the population, face unstable housing.

The conservative estimates suggested about 15,500 people in rural Alberta have been potentially living in unstable housing conditions, meaning they are experiencing high housing costs, poor home quality and overcrowding, or are homeless.

The problem has often been overlooked, said Jonn Kmech, director of homelessness initiatives at ARDN.

In the news release, he said rural homelessness isn’t as apparent as homelessness in cities. In small communities, those who are homeless often couch-surf, live in overcrowded or unfit homes, or live in vehicles.

Because rural homelessness is more difficult to identify, it’s been hard for organizations to access funding. With the survey, however, they have been able to show it’s a problem that needs addressing.

“While these programs will provide much-needed relief to several new communities and allow some long-time projects to expand their focus, there are many towns and smaller cities across the province that need help but did not receive funding due to a lack of available resources,” he said.

Benard said ARDN had 33 applications asking for more than $12 million, but the organization was able to provide only $3.7 million for 11 communities.

However, she said she’s looking forward to seeing the work that results from the funded projects.

“We are already seeing communities learning from each other and working together to address the needs of people who are homeless or at risk,” she said.

“We look forward to working with these project proponents and seeing the results of their good work.”

Contact jeremy.simes@producer.com

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