Let’s talk about people. St. Albert has over 68,000 people all with varying experiences and needs. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t been thrown a curve ball that requires some sort of support.
I wanted to learn more, so I did a little investigating to see how we support our good residents. It’s a good news and bad news story but filled with hope. Here’s a snapshot:
- At any given time 1 in 5 people (little ones too) suffer from mental health issues. Think about it next time you are driving around in your car, every 5th car you see represents a driver that is suffering.
- There are also hungry people in our city, more than you know, using our food bank. There are more people unemployed and more people (particularly women) fleeing domestic abuse since the economic downturn. There is an increased number of single parents (especially Moms) that cannot pay the bills let alone daycare costs.
- Seniors are dealing with increased fear of isolation, the need for long term care, supportive living and affordable housing
- St. Albert has no PLC – Did you know that St. Albert is the only city in Alberta of its size that does not have a Parent Link Centre – a support centre to help raise healthy families
- We have an increased number of homeless people – many of whom are looking for a place to sleep each and every night. This number is growing… 32 in 2012, 89 in 2015.
- Rental Assistance program, while generally a good program and with well intentions, it has eligibility issues… remember those single Mom’s I mentioned?
I could go on, but you get the idea… we have some challenges ahead of us for all kinds of reasons – reasons that are complex. Of course we’re not alone – all communities face these challenges but that doesn’t make it any less real. It’s how we respond that will set us apart. Supporting people of all ages, of different cultures, of different sexual orientation, of different physical and mental needs is key. It’s about valuing people and supporting them where they’re at.
That’s where the GOOD NEWS comes in: The city has a Social Master Plan. Spearheaded by Councillor Tim Osborne and others, it is a plan that I am very proud of. Thankfully, we are addressing some of these issues a little bit at a time.
> “The Collective”- A safe haven where young people can be themselves, make some friends, learn how to be an entrepreneur, prepare for a job…..but it’s also a place where you can seek out counseling, make positive decisions and learn about giving back.
> Cultural kitchen – A collaborative initiative between FCSS and the St. Albert Food Bank that brings cultures together to meet and cook together.
> Our volunteerism went from 18,000 in 2011 to 25,745 in 2015
> St. Albert is building capacity with community working groups: for seniors, youth, families, new residents and temporary residential services
> The Red Willow Place is working toward supporting seniors directly. In 2015, over 7500 meals on wheels were delivered, the 50+ bus took 1776 trips and almost 3500 seniors participated in outreach activities.
> Thankfully, St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF) exists to provide free counseling for those suffering and fleeing domestic abuse
What’s next: This plan is important and I support it’s implementation wholeheartedly. Whether it’s advocating for funding at the provincial level or working with our municipal partners to make headway on social programs, it needs to remain a priority, People are our most valuable asset. If elected to council, I will advocate for the continual implementation of the Social Master Plan. www.stalbert.ca