Posted on Apr 1, 2020


EDMONTON - The NDP Official Opposition is calling on Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney to release all the data and medical recommendations behind her decision to block Calgary from the housing homeless population in hotels.


Five days ago, Minister Sawhney made the decision to block Calgary’s plan to move homeless people into hotel rooms as a way to decrease crowding at shelters. At the time, the Minister’s Office was unable to explain the reason for the decision. Nearly a week later the Minister changed their position to claim that it was due to time delays needed for retrofits for suicide mitigation at the hotels. 


“Toronto has plans to lease 800 hotel rooms to support their homeless populations. Vancouver is securing hundreds of hotel rooms for homeless people to live in,” said Marie Renaud, NDP Community and Social Services Critic. “At the same time, the Minister is blocking Calgary from doing the same to prevent the spread of COVID and to protect our homeless community. 


“Minister Sawney needs to immediately release the data and medical evidence she used to come to this decision.”


On Tuesday, Alpha House Society in Calgary reported that they were housing 40 people in a hotel, but their Executive Director noted that they did not have to make any of the alterations the Minister is now claiming is the reason they vetoed Calgary plan. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also reported that the Minister did not alert his office to these concerns when they cancelled the city’s plan.     


“The Mayor of Calgary has expressed concerns about disease transmission at the congregated facilities this province is promoting over Calgary’s plan to house them in hotels,” continued Renaud. “At the same time, we see that others have been housing vulnerable people in hotels without the need for these retrofits, and it appears that the Mayor’s office wasn’t even alerted to this concern. This highlights the need to see all the data behind the government’s decision as soon as possible.”