LETTER: Housing first strategy needs bottom rung

In recent letters to the editor, several writers have expressed their strong opposition to the proposed housing project on Corfield Street. I don’t know if these individuals have had first-hand experience with such projects. However, I take exception to what appear to be stereotypical reactions and scare mongering comments one often sees in reaction to such projects.

I would like to share my observations as an architect in Edmonton for nine projects accommodating 180 units of special purpose housing designed for a range of individuals, including homeless women, people with mental health issues and addictions, a variety of hard to house individuals. These projects included group home facilities with 24-hour staff, to one-bedroom, self-contained apartments, to townhouses.

Many housed were homeless street people — the type of individual one avoids when met on the street. What was most striking was the change in these individuals when they enjoyed safe and secure housing. Many became involved in the operation of the facilities, some became involved in their local communities. Many, not all, became very responsible tenants and exhibited pride in their home and their communities.

These projects required strong support from the organization operating the facility, not just landlords but also providers of social supports. One of the letter writers suggested the proposed project be located far away from the city centre. I would suggest that nothing would be more inappropriate. These residents, because they will frequently lack transportation, will need convenient access to a range of social, community and health resources. It is imperative that the facilities be centrally located near existing services.

I would encourage us all to provide a hands up and make these individuals welcome in our community. Not every instance will be a success story but let’s give them an opportunity to try.

Larrie Taylor


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