COLD LAKE – On Thursday, $54 million worth of capital funding was announced by Alberta’s Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jeremy Nixon to support 17 projects in nine communities across the province. Stepping Stones Crisis Society, formerly known as the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre, will receive $2 million in capital funding to expand capacity for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
In the northern Alberta zone 1,879 adults and children accessed emergency shelter while another 28 sought second stage housing in 2022, according to Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) 2022 Data Release report.
The funding announced by the province last week is a step in the Alberta government’s 10-year Stronger Foundations strategy to expand affordable housing to support 25,000 additional households.
“When our government was elected back in 2019, we were handed an affordable housing system that hadn't been structurally updated for over 20 years, it was clear that the system was not working for Albertans as we watched the waitlist for housing grow by about 76 per cent,” said Nixon, during a press conference held at a seniors’ lodge in Stony Plain.
Part of the province’s Stronger Foundations strategy is the Affordable Housing Partnership Program launched by the Alberta government in December of 2022.
Stepping Stones is among the first round of recipients to receive funding from the Affordable Housing Partnership Program tasked to increase the number of affordable housing spaces in the province by over 600 units.
Based in Cold Lake, Stepping Stones serves a diverse and wide population in northeast Alberta.
Research by ACWS found that 21.4 per cent of clients seeking shelter in small towns and rural areas resided at a second stage shelter for more than one year. Of those who used emergency shelters in 2022, 20.3 per cent stayed and accessed support services for more than three weeks.
“I know how critical it is that we are getting appropriate, affordable housing in these more rural, remote communities, and again, it's going to help alleviate the pressure on the big cities,” said Nixon.
Stepping Stones currently operates 27 emergency beds assisting women and their children in need of short-term emergency accommodations, as well as a Second Stage Women’s Shelter Program.
Joie’s Phoenix House, which is run by Stepping Stones, offers safe, affordable housing and programming to families choosing to leave an abusive relationship.
Alberta’s Affordable Housing Partnership Program is meant to support and serve seniors, women fleeing violence, those living with disabilities, and individuals recovering from addiction and transitioning out of homelessness through partnerships with local organizations, municipal governments and housing providers.
The Affordable Housing Partnership Program also provided more than $23 million worth of funding to projects in the Edmonton area and over $26 million for the funding of projects in the Calgary area during its first round of funding.
“While we know housing is not built overnight, this funding will ensure that projects can begin so that we can help Albertans open their own doors in the very near future,” said Nixon. “We're also proud to be investing over a billion dollars over the next three years to continue to see investment in projects like these and many more across this province.”
The Affordable Housing Partnership Program also received federal dollars from the National Housing Strategy, which is a 10-year bilateral agreement between the governments of Canada and Alberta.
“Through our bilateral funding agreements with provincial governments and territories, our government is investing in a better and more prosperous Canada,” said Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen, via livestream.
“We can ensure that gender diverse people as well as women and children fleeing domestic violence, have the resources they need to be safe and live prosperously.”
Stepping Stones Crisis Society was unable to provide additional details about the recent capital funding announcement to Lakeland This Week prior to press deadline. More information on how the provincial funding will be used by the non-profit is expected to be released soon.