April 23rd, 2024

Minister Nixon discusses challenges of addictions and homelessness


By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on September 22, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Minister Jason Nixon speaks at the opening of the Recovery Community facility.

Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon was in Lethbridge Thursday for the grand opening of the Lethbridge Recovery Community facility.

He shared his excitement to be in Lethbridge and noted the challenges Lethbridge has faced with homelessness along with addiction after he spoke at the facility’s grand opening.

“I’m really excited to be here in Lethbridge, I always am. I’m always so blown away by how much work is taking place in this community, which has really seen some of the most significant challenges when it comes to homelessness and poverty and addiction issues anywhere in the province,” said Nixon at the Lethbridge Recovery Community opening.

Nixon noted at the Lethbridge Recovery Community opening the change of policy that this is for the government.

“I’m very proud to be part of a government who has prioritized this type of facility that is going to be now built all across this province… If you had told me many years ago when I used to work with people with addictions that, I would ever be standing here and seeing the government build facilities like this. I would think you realize this is a significant change in government policy.”

Nixon complimented Lethbridge for understanding and “leading the way” on issues of addiction, homeless issues, and housing. He shared the Lethbridge Recovery Community will be an example of the facility being used all around Alberta. “This is the model that we are going to be utilizing all across the province.”

Nixon acknowledged Robin James, chief administrative officer of Lethbridge Housing Authority (LHA), within the crowd at the Lethbridge Recovery Community opening. He voiced the value she has been for Lethbridge housing and his wishes to have more authorities like James.

“I wish I could copy her to every housing authority across the province. We are really using them as a great example of ways that we can have an impact on what is turning out to be one of the greatest crises of our time. And that is the housing site,” said Nixon.

Nixon talked about the example Lethbridge is with partnerships in municipalities, the significant accomplishment it is to be opening another recovery site, and the impact it will have all across the province.

He noted Lethbridge Recovery Community will also determine the future across Alberta, this facility being the example.

“It’s very important not to put pressure on it. But we got to get it right because everybody’s watching us. And what happens here will determine the future of a lot of other important projects across the province.”

Nixon gave the Lethbridge Herald the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one, where he voiced one of his roles being to assess the homelessness crisis across the province. He stated the long-term path to addressing homelessness is to assess mental health and addictions.

“We know that the only way going forward to be able to address homelessness a long term is to address both mental health and addictions. And without treatment facilities like this, we’re going to continue to see our homeless shelters continue to fill up because there’s nowhere for people to go get help.”

Nixon shared the new change to shelter systems to connect with the recovery programs being implemented into the province. He said how fortunate Lethbridge is to have this model built.

“You guys and Lethbridge are very lucky. I think the model that the government has built here with a Blood Tribe too and their shelter here inside the city of Lethbridge is absolutely critical.”

He added the Lethbridge Recovery Community is the example the government is hoping to implement in Edmonton along with Calgary and other areas across Alberta.

“I think what I’m excited to see here in Lethbridge is we’re starting to see some of the critical components come together. We’ve got First Nations as part of the process, we’ve got addiction recovery facilities now being built, we’ve got the municipalities actively involved in helping us get shelter space, and to cater to those facing poverty in our communities,” voiced Nixon.

Nixon said he recently announced 100 new Indigenous spaces in Edmonton; he emphasized why it is so crucial for Lethbridge to be the model and the impact it will have.

“I put some pressure on everybody here because it’s important for the community of Lethbridge, it was important for the province. Because if we prove this model here, we’re gonna end up helping tens of thousands of people across the province.”

Nixon says national the housing crisis was created by federal policies creating an “inflationary mess.” He said the government is preparing to spend to create more affordable housing.

“We’re travelling everywhere. And everywhere we’re hearing is housing. . . We’re getting ready to spend $9 billion between now and 2031 to create upwards of about 25,000 more affordable housing spaces.”

He expressed the importance of the municipalities taking initiatives by partnering up and looking for spaces along with opportunities to build. Nixon emphasized the importance of building and not just announcing.

“My strong message to them is that they need to make sure that they’re helping us build building safe, but we need to get them built. It’s not enough just to announce them.”

Nixon talked about the importance of young families being able to have housing in which to raise their families.

“We’re the envy of the nation right now. But we’ve got to make sure that young families have a place to raise their families.

“Affordable housing is one side of it,” said the minister noting the difficulties the homeless and seniors on fixed income and others having financial difficulties are facing right now.

“We need to do more.”

He noted the focus now is on attainable housing for the next generations of families to purchase and the way to ensure housing is an increase in stock.

“I think this is the most significant effort that we’re ever going to have to do, probably in the history of the country to be able to create housing. I believe our province is up to the task. But again, my message is the municipalities, the provincial government needs their support and this objective.”

Nixon shared his past experience with assisting individuals overcome addiction and the hope he sees in the efforts being made.

“I used to work before politics with people with addictions. All I see is hope when I come down here. I think people are looking for creative ways to help people who are really hurting. And at the end of the day, the government and Albertan’s objective is to get people the treatment that they need and help, and that’s hope.”

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