July 12th, 2024

City and LHA working to combat homelessness

By Lethbridge Herald on September 22, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber A tent is seen set up near a wall of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery earlier this summer. The City and Lethbridge Housing Association are working to address the homelessness situation in Lethbridge.

Steffanie Costigan

The City of Lethbridge and Lethbridge Housing Authority are taking measures to address homelessness and the housing crisis here.

General manager of Community Social Development for the City Andrew Malcolm says city council has invested money into many initiatives which impact businesses in the community.

“City council did put more municipal taxation dollars into a number of initiatives that were previously brought forward and funded as one-time funding. And so now they’ve become part of the base funding, which is great because those are initiatives that help us attempt to deal with the immediate impact for businesses in the community members,” said Malcolm.

LHA chief administrative officer Robin James expanded on that in a recent interview which included Malcolm. 

“The funding sources that come into the homeless Continuum of Care come from a federal grant called Reaching Home, which has an Indigenous lens component to it, which is received by the CSD department here at the City of Lethbridge administered by Andrews’ department. 

“There’s also provincial funding called the Family Community Support Services or FCSS, which is a preventative type of funding model that also comes into cities specifically into municipalities, not anywhere else. And it’s grant-matched with the municipality,” said James.

 LHA is a community based organization administering funding on behalf of the government of Alberta.

LHA creates and distributes a public service delivery plan (SDP) outlining goals for the year on an annual basis, planning which is already underway for 2024 to 2025, James added by describing that one particular revenue funding goes towards the homeless and Indigenous populations.

“There are two separate funding models. One funding model that Andrew receives is Reaching Home federal dollars with a requirement in that homeless and Indigenous lens. It’s funds as reserved just for that specific.”

The City says the LHA recognizes the importance of coming together to ensure operations are directly connected to priorities and decisions which are currently being practiced with regular collaboration meetings on key projects and exploring new partners along with opportunities. 

Malcolm acknowledged the lack of planning to prevent encampments.

“We saw the response, or lack thereof, in the summer of 2022. And council was pretty direct with administration that things had to change. And we had to take a different approach. We have those resources in place. . . That didn’t necessarily reduce the actual number of individuals who are homeless in our community. And we’ve seen the issue of change and be dynamic and move and take on a different form, which now we’re having to shift and react to.”

He talks about the long-term solution for the expansion of shelters and supports being planned.

“That’s where I think the larger, the bigger, more long-term solutions, like shelter, expansion shelter, expansion, supportive housing projects, those are what we really need. And they’re starting to take shape, which is good.”

LHA designed a new recovery-oriented Supportive Housing Complex, which has received rezoning approval.

 James described Lethbridge Housing Authority’s role is to assist in planning strategies for those experiencing homelessness to live off the streets and the funding going towards their strategies.

“For Lethbridge Housing Authority, we are the housing management body, and we’re also the community-based organization, meaning we’re receiving the provincial funds. 

“The city is getting a federal piece, we’re getting a provincial piece on behalf of that homeless support. Our task is to act as an assistance planner to create systems of care to ensure people who are experiencing homelessness experience it in a brief or non-reoccurring way.”

The City has the Community Social Development (CSD) departments manage and administer funding from FCSS, FH, and municipal sources with the guidance of CWSS support. Malcolm noted the empathy the community, along with the city, have for the homeless and the supports for homeless individuals taking shape.

“We have a great deal of compassion and empathy for those individuals who are in these situations. But it can’t come at an expense of general safety for the community. And we’ve tried to rebalance that. That’s really where we’re at. 

Now we’re starting to see the supports for those individuals in the encampments and living homeless in our community start to again come in and take shape, a lot of them focused on recovery, which is, I think, excellent direction to move into.”

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