June 13th, 2024

Housing supports key to reducing negative downtown impacts

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 13, 2023.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Lethbridge Housing Authority's Robin James speaks during Thursday's SACPA session.

Most parties in Lethbridge are agreed that solutions to the city’s homelessness problem need to be found sooner rather than later.

The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs hosted Robin James, CAO with the Lethbridge Housing Authority, during its weekly meeting this Thursday.

James spoke about the housing issue surrounding homelessness and the process of creating a housing continuum in Lethbridge.

James was invited to speak following a presentation she delivered to City Council back in Dec. 2022 on supportive housing.

“I was looking to repurpose a couple of buildings, do some land zoning changes, and a do a new definition called ‘Supportive Housing Unrestricted for our City’. We did receive a great amount of flak and feedback, that wasn’t particularly positive. I think it is wonderful opportunity for me to be able to stand here before you and get out the right information and make sure that we are all presenting things in a way that informs people and makes us understand the housing continuum.”

The Housing Continuum, as described by James, is a pathway of housing options available in our communities. Traversing through homelessness, emergency shelter, transitional housing, supportive housing, community housing, affordable housing, and market housing.

“We have a large gap in our city that needs to be addressed,” said James. “It is a matter of making sure we are getting the message out there and talking about the supportive housing piece and trying to uncouple people’s perception that crime and supportive housing are together. They are not. They are very separate issues. Once we can safely and securely get people housed, and settle them in something that is the right housing with the right supports for their needs, then we are going to start to see some of that impact in our city.”

Tackling hard stigmas, the Housing Authority is hoping to pass along an understanding of progress and steps to a better future, rather than taking people from one continuum to the next without any skills to survive.

“When we are taking people from homelessness and housing them, people are feeling that will create, or they perceive that it will, crime in that area. But when people are supported adequately, we are not just throwing them into a house anywhere and then trying to support them. We are talking about designing housing that has supports in it to ensure the success of the client.”

Sharing examples with audiences, James connects our treatment of others and how we treat homelessness.

“We recognize that as people age, maybe we are not taking care of ourselves as much as we need to be,” said James. “We recognize that we need to keep you safe, we are going to put you somewhere where we can keep you safe, we are going to feed you three meals a day, we want to make sure you do not freeze to death when you lose your way. We don’t do that to our homeless people, and we don’t do that to our people in need.”

Noting issues faced in the city besides perception, James related the number facing homelessness (450 in the latest PiT count) and the space for housing.

“If you want to address your tent cities, you have to address this housing continuum, and then properly addressing housing with appropriate support,” said James. “There is a lot of complexities that need to be dealt with before those facing these issues can be in that market.”

With homelessness a fear for everyone in today’s uncertain economic climate, James’ discussion helped create more understanding of how we view housing issues in our city. “If you want to look at issues that face the downtown, when you start, appropriately, putting supports around people, and house them in supportive housing or transitional housing, then you are not going to see the same amount of that negative impact in your downtown,” said James.

Share this story:

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dennis Bremner

“Supportive Housing Unrestricted for our City”
So ultimately if given this designation for buildings that the “nonprofit” called Lethbridge Housing Authority either owns or has joint ownership with Canadian Mental Health, you will be able to place any person of any description wherever you wish, correct? Because you see yourself as a professional in all facets of housing at all levels of addiction, recovery is this correct?
Which means, we as residents and taxpayers of this city, should put complete trust in LHA (a nonprofit) that they will always do the right thing and protect residents, and not be concerned with the concept of keeping buildings full so you can earn as much money as possible from gov subsidies”?.
So in all cases you will leave a unit, where ever it is, empty, rather than put a person that you have personally ordered tossed from some of your other units because of anti social behavior’s? So profitability has absolutely nothing to do with this, and your only concern is housing, do I understand you correctly Ms James?
You do realize, we, the residents know that once you gain this power you will be the defacto powerhouse within Lethbridge. So what you say and do will be the law. Even though you and your nonprofit, are not elected by residents and Lethbridge City Hall and Staff will be subordinated to your new found power, right? So what you are really asking is total control of Lethbridge to spread any type of person anywhere within the city limits with no recourse by residents, is that accurate?
You will in fact have the power to kill a street or area by putting whomever you feel should be there. King’s Apartments comes to mind, (3rd ave north on 13th, old Smokehouse bldg)do you see any anti-social behavior there? So theoretically you could set up Kings Apartment clones all around the city if you so wished, with no recourse by citizens, right ? If its not right, why has King’s not been cleaned up? Is this the award winning example you wish us to use as the standard to judge your responsibility to residents? if allowed to rezone Castle Apartments and Halmrest Seniors Residence will you suggest anti-social behavior by the residents is just a “Police thing” and not your concern??
So lets assume you are as honest as the day is long and your sole purpose is totally honorable. Lets also assume 2 years from now you quit and a new person replaces you that is not so honorable? What then?
As outlined in my presentation to City Council, residents can’t do a damned thing to ensure their society or safety. If one attempts to impact either positively, either God, the nonprofits, or social acceptability, or political correctness or the “woke” get in the way of any sound reasoning and logic. If you attempt anything in this city that interferes with any nonprofit from getting their piece of the government pie, you are either a racist, or have no heart.
Most will just roll over and die and let this progress as if no big deal. But, if they had a clue, one can see the total implications if one just looks! Complacent Lethbridge does not look but in the end if we become the place to go for Supportive Housing, I can name about 6 mayors that will help you keep all your buildings full. So full you will need to buy up more and more buildings to turn them into more and more King’s apartments.
Many people do not bother looking at stupid things like foot traffic and the implications of spreading out small problems. This is how all the other cities that failed got sucked in. Want to see what is happening to downtown? https://lethccc.com/now.html

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner

Welcome to Vancouver DTES – version Lethbridge!
All the same mistakes are being made as in BC! The more housing you provide, the more people will come and expect to be housed, for free!
‘The addicts and homeless you see wreaking havoc downtown throughout the night will not respect any from of housing and will destroy the property within several weeks. We have seen this happen multiple times, often the same people, they are given a place and disrespect the tenants around them, cause property damages, commit crimes and are evicted.’
There are some truly homeless that respect and appreciate what is given them, but they are not the ones you see on our streets at night and throughout the day! They only thing that will change them is jail or long term treatment plans . . . they are not the cities most vulnerable!
A few karger Canadian cities and several states in the US have realized the only way this will end is to say no more loitering, no more encampments, no more open drug use, no more enabling addicts! . . . Work for a living and/or get treatment or leave!
Taxpayers have had enough!
I thought housing was supposed to be a provincial jurisdiction? Or is that just when this leadership decides? How much is the Blackfoot Confederacy putting into our housing project, besides the token amount they put into the women’s housing they are building?

pursuit diver

“Noting issues faced in the city besides perception, James related the number facing homelessness (450 in the latest PiT count) and the space for housing.”
I find it offensive and it should be illegal, even criminal for non-profits to inflate counts in surveys to benefit their mantra!
Just like the SCS staff inflated figures which gave Lethbridge it’s bad reputation internationally by stating there were 850 to 900 users who used the site daily, until AHS took over the oversight and their counts became real, only about 143 users using the site multiple times per day.
Here, for whatever desparate attempt to inflate figures, the organization who performed the survey included: those incarcerated, those in treatment facilities, those in transition housing and those in hospital. This is expressed if you read the full survery details that the City of Lethbridge had on their website. The actual numbers are around 150-175 people!
It is time spreading this type of disinformation or smoke in mirrors to gain supports is investigated and an end put to it!
These are taxpayer dollars used and if stats are inflated to increase assistance, it should be fraud!
If I went to the insurance company with a claim I had inflated or to the bank with embellished properties/possessions for a line of credit or loan, it would be fraud!


**Housing supports key to reducing negative downtown impacts**
I have read up on the issues in Vancouver East Hastings area, or the Downtown Eastside and they thought it would resolve the issues in this same exact method!
The Greater Vancouver Downtown Eastside is around 20,000 while the Downtown Eastside itself is around 9,000. Below is a shocking example of how monies have been pumped into this area for many years, without success.
Several overlapping sets of data exist on costs related to the DTES:
·    -DTES-specific costs: Of the estimated $360 million per year to
operate 260 social services and housing sites in the greater DTES area, three
quarters of the spending is funded by governments, and the rest by private
·    -Wider-area costs related to issues that are concentrated in the DTES: In the closest hospital to the
DTES, Saint Paul’s, injection drug use leads to approximately 15% of
admissions. The annual cost of ambulances responding to overdoses in
Vancouver is $500,000, and the cost of police response to calls involving
mental health problems is estimated to be $9 million per year.
·    -Costs per individual: For each untreated drug addict, the costs to
society, including crime, judicial costs, and health care, are estimated to be
at least $45,000 per year. BUT:
  -The government-paid lifetime healthcare cost per
HIV-infected injection drug user is estimated at $150,000. 
-A 2008 study estimated that each homeless person in B.C. costs $55,000
per year in government-paid costs related to healthcare, corrections, and
social services, whereas providing housing and support would cost $37,000 per

Costs per individual vary widely:- A 2016 study found that 107 chronic offenders in the DTES incur public service costs of $247,000 per person per year

Prepare to see your property taxes increasing, less services and increased of parks taken over by addicts, central Lethbridge being further taken over by addicts, homeless and criminals in the core and as it spreads into the community, your family being impacted with addiction issues, which is already happening, but will be magnified!
This is a bad idea!

Last edited 1 year ago by R.U.Serious