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More federal dollars for tackling homelessness

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







Recent funding announced by the federal government will continue to help meet the needs of homeless people on Alberta streets.

“Most of the funds were already allocated, but we did receive some new capital,” said Alex Abboud, spokesman with Homeward Trust Edmonton.

Abboud’s organization received $12.9 million through Homelessness Partnering Strategy, a federal program under Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Of that, $1.8 million is allocated for Aboriginal Communities funding.

“We have designated funding from this stream for Hope Mission’s 52-unit Housing First complex, and the remainder is yet to be allocated,” said Abboud.

The federal dollars are from a program which began in 2007 and then was extended in 2008.

Last month, Rob Moore, federal minister of Small Business and Tourism was in Edmonton at Homeward Trust to announce that the federal government would continue to fund the program until 2011.

The Aboriginal Communities portion of the HPS funding is to meet the specific needs of the homeless Aboriginal population. While the program doesn’t require matching contribution for dollars used, Abboud said Homeward Trust gets more mileage out of the dollars by asking for organizational commitment.

“We do our best to leverage our funds. Homeward Trust will make a donation, but we also expect a proponent to raise some of the funds itself and to seek to find other funding sources as well,” said Abboud.

Six or seven capital projects have already received funding, he said.

Homeward Trust and its predecessor have been recipients of government funding for 10 years.
“We manage and distribute the funds,” said Abboud.

The funding is also used by Homeward Trust for its Housing First teams, allowing 60 workers to go out into the field and work directly with clients as well as to provide training for the Housing First workers. Funding is also used to support and promote Homeless Connect, which is held twice annually and provides a variety of free services downtown to the homeless.

“We are making progress towards ending homelessness, and this partnership is an essential part of the effort,” said Susan McGee, Homeward Trust executive director.

The funding commitment gives the federal government the flexibility to work with the provinces and territories and municipalities, and with charitable organizations, to develop ways to improve the effectiveness of federal spending in the area of housing and homelessness.

The Homelessness Partnering Strategy emphasizes longer-term supportive and transitional housing by focusing on a housing-first approach to help people make the transition out of the cycle of homelessness. The program provides funding to 61 communities across Canada, including Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Wood Buffalo, and Medicine Hat.