By Letter to the Editor on March 2, 2020.
Oki; I took the opportunity to attend the official announcement by the UCP provincial government, regarding the $11-million investment to help the homeless in Lethbridge. It is good to see that the UCP government, MLA Nathan Neudorf, city council and the previous government are working towards addressing the homeless and marginalized citizens in our city. There was also a strong contingency from our First Nations Leaders which demonstrates, their desire to be involved in the process of healing.
The information available at the announcement was scarce; $11 million, 42 permanent, supportive-housing units ($261,900.00 per unit) and construction in 2021. Residents are left with a lots of questions: the location with the obvious (not in my backyard) concerns, which is unfortunate; when they say permanent, is that for life or transitional, until people can get back on their feet so to speak? Are the homes for one, two or a family or multiple usages? Is rent paid? Who manages the facility and who pays for that and continuing cost of maintenance? I am sure there are many more questions that will be forthcoming.
I saw a news article recently regarding providing housing for homeless vets in Calgary at a cost of $100,000 per unit, including a lot of services and amenities right at the development. As John Lennon’s song “Imagine” said, “Can you imagine” what if this project took on a similar approach, so instead of 42 units we would have 110 units?
In the article in the Lethbridge Herald, there were a couple of interesting points; 73 per cent of homeless people in Lethbridge are Indigenous. Also, Indigenous scholar Jesse Thistle-Wilson explained there are multiple social and economic losses to homeless Indigenous people and the need to build culturally appropriate support. So once again, “Can you imagine” if the Blood Tribe, with its $150-million settlement with the federal government/Canadian taxpayer over the 100-year-old cattle fiasco, would also be part of the plan? With an extra $11 million we would get an additional 110 units. I think it is worth the “ask.” Depending on the availability of support services, rehab, medical needs, education/job training and all culturally appropriate, the additional units could be part of the original project or built on the Blood Reserve. That would go a long way to fixing the homeless problem in this city. Can you imagine, what would be more culturally appropriate?