Identifying The Barriers - Alberta Human Services - Government of Alberta

Identifying The Barriers

Community plans to end homelessness have identified a number of economic, social and systemic issues which communities believe are acting as barriers to ending homelessness.

Incomes not keeping up with cost of living – The remarkable growth of Alberta’s economy has fuelled increases in the costs of living. Although Alberta is enjoying healthy levels of employment, for some workers, incomes have not kept pace with rising costs. Many Albertans with marginal incomes struggle to pay their rent or utility bills and are at risk of homelessness. Many have difficulty saving sufficient funds to pay damage deposits or first and last month’s rent, making it hard for them to secure housing if they must find a new place to live.

High rates of in-migration – Alberta’s strong economy has also attracted thousands of inter-provincial and international migrants. In many cases, new Albertans have not arranged housing before they arrive. Some have lower incomes due to language barriers, credential recognition barriers, or other issues, and struggle to maintain housing. Some will fall into homelessness. In-migration also contributes to higher demand for available rental housing, putting upward pressure on rents.

There is a shortage of affordable housing – Home affordability is problematic in many parts of Alberta due to higher construction and land costs, gentrification, condominium conversions and other supply/demand factors. The Alberta government is taking action to expand the supply of affordable housing, however home ownership remains out of reach for many. This results in a higher demand for rental accommodation and a lack of available rental housing, creating a bottleneck for those trying to leave emergency shelters. Limited shelter space, in turn, is resulting in more unsheltered homeless.

Societal attitudes are creating housing challenges – Societal attitudes may create barriers to ending homelessness. Public opposition to the creation of affordable housing may make it difficult for some communities to increase the amount of housing stock. Some communities are concerned that the current market can create the risk of discriminatory rental practices, especially towards disadvantaged groups.

Homeless-serving agencies are under strain – Alberta’s social system relies on not-for-profit agencies to deliver many services and supports to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Many not-for-profit agencies are struggling to meet higher demand for their services as they deal with higher operating costs, labour pressures, and administrative burdens. Immediate needs and pressures are compromising the ability of agencies to provide effective, long-term responses for clients, especially those with complex situations. Their staff needs more training and professional development to more effectively deal with the complex needs of the homeless.

Lack of coordination in mainstream systems – Mainstream systems are not coordinating their efforts to effectively address homelessness. Other provincial systems may be discharging people into homelessness. Homeless-serving agencies may not be sufficiently collaborating. Case management may not be as widely utilized as required. Alberta government programs and services may be difficult to navigate for many Albertans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Overall, the provincial government, municipal governments, and not-for-profit agencies need to deliver services in more seamless, integrated ways.

Groups with special situations are requiring particular attention – Many Albertans facing homelessness are facing other serious challenges as well. Those from specialized groups – such as those with mental illness, those with addictions, victims of violence, seniors, those with disabilities, and homeless youth – are dealing with particularly challenging issues, and require special support to help address their unique situations. Targeted responses are required to effectively re-house homeless people from these specialized groups.

Regulatory complexity and inefficiency – Inefficiencies and regulatory complexities are resulting in slower responses from the public and private sectors in addressing homelessness. Private sector developers of affordable housing options face delays in approval processes. Regulatory barriers make it harder for homeless-serving agencies to share information or deliver services. Delays created by red tape add additional cost and create inefficiencies.

Community plans are working to overcome these barriers. The Plan for Alberta identifies province-wide actions that will also assist in this regard.

PID: 14603