During the pandemic, area residents observed an increase in issues that come from having many unhoused and temporarily housed people concentrated in one area.
Emmy Stuebin, resident of Montrose and close to the Coliseum Inn, says, “I have definitely noticed much more foot traffic and mischief on our usually quiet street.”
Various levels of temporary housing have been provided at the Coliseum Inn, Sands Inn & Suites, the Stadium, and the former Jockey Quarters.
Supportive housing is different from temporary or transitional housing. Jasmine Salazar with Homeward Trust says, “Supportive housing provides permanent homes and 24/7 on-site supports for people exiting homelessness. Residents sign a lease and pay subsidized rent.”
Two new supportive housing facilities are planned for the Rat Creek Press neighbourhoods. The Sands Inn & Suites is in the process of being converted to supportive housing for up to 90 residents and will be operated by NiGiNan Housing Ventures. The Coliseum Inn will become supportive housing for 98 residents.
Sam Perrier, resident of Alberta Avenue, says, “I’d love to see some supportive housing in our area. Short-term shelter beds are useful, but it’s just a Band-Aid.”
McCauley Community League initially had concerns about Ambrose Place, also run by NiGiNan Housing Ventures. Alice Kos, league president, says, “Ambrose Place’s holistic service model is recognized province-wide as a much-improved, positive approach to addressing complex issues around supportive housing. Supportive housing that offers 24/7 staffed support is deeply necessary.”
Given that 51 per cent of unhoused people in Edmonton identify as Indigenous, the Sands Inn & Suitesl will provide resources that are sorely needed. Operated by NiGiNan Housing Ventures, the facility and services “[are] immersed in an Indigenous way of being and knowing.” Robyn Ferguson, communications advisor for NiGiNan Housing Ventures, says, “The Indigenous worldview and cultural resources are built into the physical, social, and healing environment of all our developments.”
The Sands Inn & Suites falls within the boundaries of the Elmwood Park community and the Coliseum Inn is across the street from Elmwood Park and within the bounds of Montrose.
Morgan Wolf, president of Elmwood Park Community League, says she worries that integrating this new housing into the community will be an uphill battle because of the stigma around low-income housing.
Wolf says, “Everyone deserves a place to stay,” but has concerns with the concentration of low-income housing. She says there is low-income housing across from the Elmwood Park playground; low-income housing surrounding 82 Street, and now there will be more at both the Sands Inn & Suites and the Coliseum Inn. She states, “For a 16 block neighbourhood, that is a significant concentration of low-income housing.” This concentration likely exceeds the City of Edmonton’s goal of 16 per cent affordable housing in every neighbourhood.
Despite her concerns, Wolf says that communication with NiGiNan Housing Ventures has been “wonderful.” The organization has a Good Neighbour Plan in place and initially approached the league. The plan has clear processes for resolution of disputes and states that “program staff are committed to a protocol of community and park patrols and monthly or bi-weekly check-in meetings with the community league.”
Wolf says, “They are working hard to be a positive part of the community, even volunteering to be part of the Snow Angels Program.”
Wolf says communication with Homeward Trust and the Coliseum Inn feels different. This may be in part because an operator has not yet been chosen to provide the services. Wolf says it feels like the community consultation is only “part of the process and something to cross off of their list.” She says she expects that the community engagement process will hear concerns from the communities, but she feels that the conversion to supportive housing is a done deal, regardless of how the community feels.
One of the biggest concerns Wolf faces is providing community services for the neighbourhood and would like more support from the City. The league has been without a building since the 1990s. While there are matching grants from the City to build a new building for the league, it will be virtually impossible to fundraise to build a league with neighbourhood resources alone.
With an increase of new residents but no corresponding increase in money, Wolf calls this a “tough situation,” and worries for the future of the community.
More information on how these sites currently operate can be found at homewardtrust.ca/bridge-housing/, niginan.ca/sands, and homewardtrust.ca/supportive-housing.