Posted on Apr 2, 2020


EDMONTON - Advocates that serve Alberta’s homeless population are sounding the alarm after the UCP government’s decision to block Calgary’s plan to move homeless people into hotel rooms as a way to decrease crowding at shelters.


Yesterday, the Minister of Community and Social Services said every shelter that is currently operational is in compliance with AHS guidelines, however, there was no evidence to back up claims that hotels and motels would not be suitable shelter overflow compared to convention centres in Edmonton and Calgary.


“Albertans deserve to know what is preventing the UCP Government from creating an ideal solution to protect our homeless population. Cities like Toronto and Vancouver are finding solutions, why can’t we?” said Marie Renaud, NDP Community and Social Services Critic. “The only people standing in the way of Alberta’s most vulnerable populations and an ideal situation to shelter overflow is Minister Rajan Sawhney and the UCP Government.”


Brian Wolfe, who has been homeless for about a year said he tried going to the shelter in Edmonton but he was redirected to the Edmonton Expo Centre because they were full. 


“I won’t go there,” Wolfe said. “The distance between the beds isn’t the only thing, there’s other issues like other illnesses or what if there’s fights or theft. I just don’t feel safe in that space.”


Nick Falvo, who has done front-line work with individuals experiencing homelessness for a decade and was the former Director of Research and Data at the Calgary Homeless Foundation, says we should be making every possible effort to get people out of homeless shelters and into arrangements where they have their own rooms, and their own bathrooms.


“The recent alternative arrangements put in place by the provincial government have people sleeping in common areas and sharing bathrooms. This does not appear to offer appropriate physical distancing,” Falvo said.


Yesterday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told the Calgary Herald, “This is not the solution I would have chosen. I think there are probably ways that would be more effective in slowing the transmission of the virus. But, ultimately, this is a decision of the provincial government.”


In addition to calling on the UCP to work with municipalities, shelters and the hospitality industry to accommodate homeless shelter overflow, Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition is also calling for additional mental Health and addictions resources to be made available for each overflow site. 

“Homelessness and lack of affordable and appropriate housing was already a crisis prior to our global pandemic,” said Meaghon Reid, executive director of Vibrant Communities Calgary. “Solutions then and now must always be examined through the lens of dignity, which calls on us to be inclusive and ensure people don’t have to risk their health and safety to subsist.”