You are now standing on the northeast corner of the intersection of 107th St and 85th Ave, facing north. You are surrounded by various types of housing. Ahead and to your right you will see a walkup building. To your left is a detached, single house. Turning to look down the alley to your right, you will see a new construction condominium. Sometimes homelessness is visible, but sometimes it’s hidden – staying with others, couch surfing, and using pay-as-they-go locations, never quite able to get ahead.
It’s quiz time! Do you know how many people are experiencing homelessness in Edmonton today? The answer is 2,000 people. Crazy, right? According to the stats for poverty and homelessness, 1 in 8 individuals is currently living in poverty in Edmonton, and 2,000 people are experiencing homelessness in the city every day.
If you look at the living wage for a family of four, that is $16.51, which means you have to make $16.51 per hour, with full time hours, to support a family of four, yet the minimum wage in Alberta is $15.00. Due to this gap, about 60,000 Edmonton households are in housing need, which means their accommodations aren’t suitable or they’re paying more than 30% of their gross income on rent. Some are even paying 75 to 100% of their incomes on a place to stay.
I’m going to tell you a story about my friend, D, who recently moved to one of the supportive housing facilities in the city called Ambrose Place. When I met D, he was sitting at a table in the cafeteria. He was gluing bright pink feathers to the back of plastic darts. Three months ago, he was homeless, sleeping in shelters, just as he’s done for the better part of 30 years. Now he has a one-bedroom suite. He keeps his socks in a cupboard in the kitchen, and his pants folded up in a cupboard beside the fridge.
A lifetime of drug addiction and living rough caught up with D last year. He was diagnosed with HIV, cirrhosis of the liver, and high levels of ammonia which depletes his energy levels and plays tricks on his short-term memory. He got into Ambrose Place, an Indigenous-run supportive housing facility. Life is a lot different now.
He said, “I have a place; this means I can start making plans for the future. I’m going to take some money and go to the beach.” D has faced his share of low confidence due to persistent racism he’s experienced as an Indigenous man in the inner city. He describes himself as an advocate – helping people live better lives. “Believe it or not, he said, I got Malcolm [a neighbour who uses wheelchair] playing hockey. I do this because I know that empowers people. Gives them a boost of confidence. I’m persistent in trying to make people cheer up”. Last night he slept at Ambrose Place.
At our next stop, we’re going to learn a little bit more about those in our city sleeping rough, but many times, not in the way you think. Let’s head east on 85 Ave and make a left turn at 104 St, toward our beautiful river valley. When there is no traffic, cross to the walking path on the north side of Saskatchewan Drive, you’ll hear from us there!