The federal government is delivering $4 million for communities and organizations in rural Alberta working to reduce or prevent homelessness.

The funding comes from rural and remote funding streams as part of Reaching Home, Canada’s national homelessness strategy, and will be distributed over the next two years in Alberta by the Rural Development Network.

“Investing in these local solutions supports community-led projects that help those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We will continue working with the Rural Development Network to support those most in need in rural, remote and Indigenous communities across Alberta,“ Sean Fraser, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, said in a statement.

“As homelessness and housing insecurity continues to be on the rise in rural, remote and Indigenous communities in Alberta, it is increasingly important to support innovative and locally driven community responses to homelessness,” said Sydney Stenekes, RDN’s director of homelessness initiatives.

The additional $4 million will go to Alberta’s rural, remote, First Nation, and Métis Settlement communities outside of the province’s seven major cities. The majority of provincial funding for homeless shelters and programs is received by those seven cities, with the bulk of funding for rural homelessness supports already coming from Reaching Home.

Stenekes expects dozens of communities will benefit with the added $2 million per year over the next two years.

“With similar amounts of funding, we’ve supported 40 + projects/communities annually in developing responses to homelessness. Under the guidance of our Regional Advisory Board and recognizing that there is limited funding to support responses to rural homelessness, we aim to distribute the funding as widely as possible in order for it to reach as many communities in rural AB,” Stenekes said in an email.

RDN is currently accepting project proposals, and anticipates some projects could be off the ground as early as April.

To reduce barriers faced by Indigenous communities in applying and accessing Reaching Home funding, RDN has also introduced an alternative application process for project proposals from First Nation and Métis Settlement communities. Changes to the application process were made following feedback received from the organizations Indigenous partners, Stenekes said.

“Indigenous peoples are disproportionately represented in homelessness statistics across the country. In our recent 2023 Rural AB Housing and Service Needs Estimation, 91 per cent of Indigenous respondents were determined to be experiencing housing insecurity,” she said.

“Indigenous service providers wear many different hats in their communities and have many roles and responsibilities. In turn, completing extensive and detailed written funding applications is administratively burdensome and some communities will not be able to explore applying for funding in the short timelines given due to these reasons.

“It was important for our team to recognize the diverse histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples and offer a more culturally appropriate approach to apply for funding and report on funding impacts. A written application is a western method and way of reporting and we wanted to respect the oral tradition of Indigenous peoples and offer an oral application process, following the submission of a brief letter of intent.”

The deadline for applications is Feb. 9, 2024.

By Brett McKay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 22, 2024 at 09:07

This item reprinted with permission from   St. Albert Gazette   St. Albert, Alberta

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