In early November, City councillors, City of Edmonton staff, police commissioners and representatives from various housing developments hopped on a bus for a tour of affordable and supportive housing developments in Edmonton, organized by the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.

Together, they toured different affordable and supportive housing developments across the city. Their first stop took them to Canora Place, an attractive building owned and operated by the Jasper Place Wellness Centre, which houses clients supported through Housing First and Pathways to Housing programs. The programming is based on the principle that every person has a right to a safe, secure home.

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As they continued on their way, the tour group was warmly invited into the home of a tenant who shared her experience of what home means to her and her family.

Zhanna, who came to Canada from Russia with her husband nine years ago, is a mother of five children and is thankful for affordable housing programs like the one offered by Right at Home Housing Society. She describes how affordable housing has made a positive difference in their lives:

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“The price of rent allows us to provide adequately for our children. We are close to a very good school, and I can afford programs that help my children to be successful. We can live comfortably and breathe a little easier. With a large family, it’s important for us to have a vehicle, and that’s something that would be difficult to have if we did not have lower rent. We also feel safe in this neighbourhood.”

When asked if she had any advice for those who oppose affordable housing developments in their neighbourhood, she thought that they may need to re-think their understanding of affordable housing:

“There are good people who use these services – families like mine who do not cause any disturbance to their neighbours and just need a little help with the expenses a large family takes on. Anyone can find themselves in this or different  situations where they just need a little help and compassion.”

They said their goodbyes. The tour group headed to a cooperative housing community nestled in the river valley. Sundance Housing Cooperative provides a percentage of subsidized units within a self-managed, intentional community – where members share the responsibilities of maintaining a safe, attractive, healthy and inclusive environment. Sandy Kendrick, Sundance resident, reflects on what home means to her.

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“Sundance means stability and security. I’ve been here since 1978, through lean times and prosperous ones. My children grew up here; my friends are here. I’m able to contribute to my community in various ways. As my health declined, I was able to move to my current apartment. I don’t worry about having to move because I can’t afford rent. This will be my home for as long as I can physically live independently.”

Next up on the tour was housing for individuals needing a range of support from those who are unable to live fully independently to Indigenous populations experiencing chronic homelessness. Without supported, affordable housing, these individuals with low to no incomes, who may have multiple health challenges, would be living on the streets.

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Dexter, who currently lives at Ambrose Place says,“Living on the streets takes everything away from you; you have no hope and no self-worth. For those who have never experienced that kind of hardship, it can be a very difficult thing to understand.  Living at Ambrose Place has been such a positive experience for me.

These kinds of facilities are essential in providing opportunities to those who need a helping hand.”

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As November and recognizing Housing Month draws to a close, the need for safe, suitable, accessible and affordable housing continues. Placing people with multiple needs in a community does not happen without active intervention of the housing development proponents and support services in the community to help set individuals and families up for success.

“We have a responsibility to talk about affordable housing in our city,” says Jeannette Wright, Community Building Social Worker, with the City of Edmonton. This means well-managed developments by responsible, non-profit housing developers that are operated with concern for the people, the building and the community.”

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As citizens, we can expand our thinking on how we might want to say Yes In My BackYard.

YES to attractive, safe, well-run housing;

YES to recognizing we all play an integral role in creating diverse, caring and inclusive communities, and

YES to making a significant difference in the lives of others.

We can do this, Edmonton!

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