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A growing need

Homelessness task force working on solutions to present to council next spring

Everyone should have a place they can call home.

In 2007, a committee report estimated there were 74 St. Albertans in danger of losing their homes or actually living on the streets. Today, the number of people actually experiencing homelessness in the city is more than twice that – and thousands more are struggling to make ends meet.

Homelessness may not be something the average St. Albertan sees, and some may find it hard to believe the issue exists in this city. But just because you don’t always see the city’s most vulnerable people doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

After its first year of work, the mayor’s task force to end homelessness now has a grasp on how big the issue is here in St. Albert. Aside from the 168 people without homes, many more experience housing insecurity. Suzan Krecsy, the executive director of the St. Albert Community Village and Food Bank, says 61 per cent of the people who access her organization’s services each month are putting at least half of their income toward rent, leaving them in the precarious position of being one paycheque away from disaster.

The causes of homelessness are varied and complex: family breakdown, substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence, job loss, eviction and – most commonly – a lack of housing affordable to those in financial stress.

Krecsy is confronted by the issue of homelessness on a daily basis as her organization works to meet the ever-growing need for its services. In 2018, the food bank gave out 3,414 food hampers – more than double the amount it gave out in 2013.

“When you’re sitting across from a person who doesn’t have a place to be, it’s hard,” she told the Gazette.

Given how daunting and unrelenting the challenges are in facing down the issue of homelessness, it’s heartening to see the determination of people like Krecsy and other members of the mayor’s task force to solve a problem that affects all too many St. Albertans. Now that the task force has a handle on the scope of the issue, members are working on solutions to present to council next spring.

Government, unfortunately, moves slowly. In principle, homelessness can never be addressed quickly enough because the lives, livelihoods and well-being of human beings are on the line. For 168 St. Albertans, every day they spend homeless is a day they, their families and loved ones spend grappling with the worry, anguish and desperation that goes hand-in-hand with their situation. But implementing the right solutions takes time and resources – and leadership from the top.

Krecsy told the Gazette: “As far as I’m concerned, one homeless person is one too many.” The urgency remains to address this problem quickly, but there is hope on the horizon that the group, comprised of the right people for the job, will be up to the task.