Last month at #SEBALunch, members of the South Edmonton Business Association (SEBA) and the Old Strathcona Business Association (OSBA) had the opportunity to learn how poverty and homelessness affects our community and our businesses. Leading the discussion was Homeward Trust, the Boyle Street Outreach Team, and Councilman Michael Walters.
Homeward Trust started the event with informing us what homelessness looks like. It has decreased 48% since 2008. Those results seen in Edmonton have made the city a provincial, national, and international leader in dealing with homelessness. Even with the past improvements, 100,000 people in Edmonton live in poverty, which includes 30,000 kids.
There are a number of myths in regards to homelessness. Homelessness is not getting worst and people don’t choose to be homeless.
There are currently a number of options being pursued which helps to support the work to stop homelessness. Affordable housing and employment opportunities are the cornerstone to ending poverty and homelessness. These two issues (Poverty and Homelessness) go hand and hand. They need to be dealt with in a coordinated effort.
The Boyle Street Outreach team educated us on how to deal with homeless people.
· Smile and make eye contact – be respectful
· Try to act normal – homeless people do notice when you are acting awkward
· Ask them if there is another way you can help them…other can giving money
Michael Walters spoke to the attendees about the costs of homelessness and poverty to Edmonton and the province. Currently, poverty is costing the government of Alberta $7-9 billion per year. There is a need to engage the indigenous community and extend support that they want.
As many know, Councilman Walters worked with the homeless before entering politics. He was an essential part of starting the magazine “The Voice” which helped homeless people earn an income while living on the streets.
Councilman Walters shared a relationship with Dalphous, a man who lived on the streets of Edmonton. He had several issues which caused his homelessness. He did receive treatment, but at the age of 39, one month into his treatment program, he passed away. An image of Dalphous now sits above the desk of Councilman Walters as a reminder of the work that needs to be done.
Currently in South Edmonton, there isn’t the infrastructure present to facilitate the proper support for the homeless. For example, there isn’t the proper location in South Edmonton which could house a safe injection site. Homelessness does affect South Edmonton. It is not just a downtown or Whyte Avenue problem. Homeless camps are now found throughout the city. There is a burden that Edmonton businesses need to bear. If people are scared to come to your location due to homelessness, it will affect your business.
Homelessness is community issue which exists across the entire city. The community needs to continue pushing our city leaders to solve this issue. This is an opportunity for us to come together as a community and look at the problem from a new angle.
We hope you are able to join us for our next #SEBALunch. The Mayor, Don Iveson, will be speaking about how we build and fund the largest cities in Alberta.
Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.
Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for the South Edmonton Business Association, the Fringe Festival, Goodwill Industries of Alberta and donates blood at the Canadian Blood Services.