By Lethbridge Herald on October 6, 2020.
Lethbridge city council unanimously approved nearly $6 million in funding during Monday’s regular meeting to give access to housing and other social supports needed to address the issue of homelessness in the community.
About 96 per cent of the funding comes from programs introduced by the province and the federal government to prop up community supports during COVID-19, and the $6 million allocated on Monday will eventually be topped up by over $2 million in additional funds from the federal and provincial governments expected to come in over the next few months. The City of Lethbridge will be providing about $700,000 of the approximate $8 million total to assist with housing and rental supplements and supports.
The first phase of funding approved by council includes allocations of about $1.2 million to Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Alberta South Region to set up integrated co-ordinated access so anyone seeking services will automatically be enrolled in all the supports they need. The local CMHA will also receive an additional $1.5 million to foster its adaptive case management system so it can tailor supports for individual clients.
The YWCA will receive three grants of $275,000, $943,000 and $550,000 to provide permanent supportive housing for youth, men and women respectively. The Southern Alberta Self-Help Association will also receive a $523,000 grant to provide permanent supportive housing. Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society will receive a $250,000 grant for Blackfoot program supports for all permanent supportive housing clients. Volunteer Lethbridge will receive $220,000 to help act as a civil society accelerator to help link those in need with additional supports in the community, and the Lethbridge Housing Authority will receive about $500,000 to provide additional housing supports and rent supplements to its clients.
City of Lethbridge Community Social Development manager Martin Thomsen said these programs are the fruit of several years hard work and intensive research to determine how to meet Lethbridge’s ongoing problems with homelessness and addiction in the community.
“We did a robust research and stakeholder engagement to say, ‘What are the primary issues in our community? What is the best value in allocating those dollars? And how we incorporate a performance management system in the allocation of those dollars to ensure we are moving the mark in getting a return on investment?’” explained Thomsen.
Many of the dollars being used to support these programs have a deadline of March 31, 2021, to be active in the community. Thomsen thanked council for agreeing to break the $8 million in total funding into two different phases so as to get these complex programs set up well in advance of the deadline, and thus to get those in need housed with the appropriate wrap-around supports in place as soon as possible.
“The sooner we can get the dollars into the community and get the programs going,” he stated, “the sooner we can start to make a difference in helping those in need. It’s October. It’s getting colder, and a lot of these dollars are geared toward addressing homelessness. Again, with COVID, the best place to take care of a client is to self-isolate in your own home. We want to get those dollars out the door as soon as possible to try to get more people housed.”
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