Current overview of the situation in your community including:
- Population demographics
Lethbridge continues to grow with the official 2017 census showing a population of 98,198, an increase of 1,370 from the previous year. However, growth has slowed at a rate of 1.4% as compared to 2.13% in 2016. In 2017, the greatest growth was seen in West Lethbridge with a 3.05% increase, whereas growth in South Lethbridge decreased by 0.19%. Lethbridge holds a larger than average population of 20-24 year olds which is likely due to the two main post-secondary institutions, Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge. Across all other age groups there appears to be an even distribution with the exception of individuals over the age of 75 where a decline in numbers is apparent. The average age of the city’s population is 38.1 years and the population distribution between men and women is nearing an even balance with 49.1% men, and 50.9% women.
Based on Income Development Lethbridge data, the average household income in Lethbridge is $94,367, which is just above the national average of $92,764 and below the provincial average of $125,522.
According to Statistics Canada, the median household income for Lethbridge in 2015 was $74,084 which is above the national median of $70,336 but below the provincial median of $93,835. However, when considering the entire Lethbridge County, the median is well above the national median and moves closer to the provincial median at $86,801.
Lethbridge is bordered to the west by the Blood Tribe Reserve, home to the Blood (Kainai) Nation. The Blood Reserve is the largest reserve in Canada extending over 549.7 miles and is the second most populous with 4,570 people (Vital Signs, 2017). The indigenous population in Lethbridge continues to grow and remains strong at 5.8% (compared to 4.3% in 2011).
Lethbridge continues to be a culturally diverse city. As of 2016, there were 12,330 immigrants living in Lethbridge an increase of 12% since 2006. Since 2011, Lethbridge has also welcomed refugees fleeing turmoil around the world, including Canada’s largest population of Bhutanese refugees (over 575) and hundreds of refugees from Syria. The population of refugees is expected to continue its growth with the Community and Social Development Group’s ongoing collaboration with Lethbridge Family Services-Immigrant Services (LFS-I) to assist and support Syrian refugees as they arrive in Canada. Lethbridge currently has 5,750 refugee claimants living in the municipality and is one of 10 preferred settlement cities in Canada (www.chooselethbridge.ca, Economic Development Lethbridge). Lethbridge Family Services and Immigrant Services Society, stated that this year local settlement agencies assisted 1200 clients; 840 of those clients were government assisted refugees and the remaining 360 were other classes (namely economic, business and family classes). International students who live in Lethbridge to complete their program of studies also help to further the diversity within the city. Lethbridge is one of the top 3 cities in Alberta for housing for students from around the globe (www.quora.com). Currently, there are 1,670 international students staying in Lethbridge for the duration of their studies.
- Current economic factors
Traditionally, Lethbridge held a largely agricultural economic base however in recent years, Lethbridge’s economy has become more diversified with ½ of the city’s industry in health, education, retail and hospitality sectors, and a firm establishment as a retail and hospitality centre in Southern Alberta. The industrial diversity fosters healthy business environments and creates potential for future enhancement and developmental opportunities. With the diverse economy and the ongoing success of the agriculture and manufacturing industries, Lethbridge has not experienced the widespread impact of the provincial economic downturn that has greatly impact other communities. Additionally, there has been healthy growth in the information and cultural industries over the past 5 years, linked partially to the presence of two post-secondary institutions and the emergence of Lethbridge as a significant high tech presence in Alberta (www.chooselethbridge.ca, Economic Development Lethbridge).
The impact small businesses have on the economic growth of the city should not be excluded from economic consideration in Lethbridge. According to the Small Business Institute (SBI) in the Faculty of Management at the University of Lethbridge, small businesses are the economic powerlifters of the economy, making up 97% of all businesses across the province and contributing 30% of gross domestic product (Kenney, 2012). Lethbridge has a gross domestic product of just over $5.00 billion with small businesses contribute $1.5 billion.
- Vacancy rates in the private rental market
According to the CMHC 2017 Rental Market Report, the average monthly rent for the City of Lethbridge remained the same in 2017 ($898) as in 2016 ($896). This is $192 lower than the average rental cost across the province of Alberta. The report also indicated that there is a 5.1% vacancy rate in Lethbridge, a decrease of 3.4% from 2016 reports. Comparatively, the provincial rate is 7.5%. These local statistics are not, however, at all reflective of the availability and access to non-market or affordable market housing.
- Availability of Affordable Housing
The decrease reflected in the 2017 vacancy rate, while indicative of challenges in accessing housing in the private rental market, does not accurately reflect the significant deficit in and challenges surrounding access to non-market or affordable housing. HomeBASE, Youth HUB, and Housing first teams continue to report barriers and challenges in accessing appropriate, safe, and affordable housing for residents of Lethbridge. Similarly, stakeholders perspectives from the Community and Social Development Group community engagement Sessions held in October 2017 (Irvine, 2017) and results of the January 2017 Environmental Scan (Haight, 2017) also reported numerous challenges and barriers across the housing spectrum in Lethbridge.
The rent supplement programs provided through the Province of Alberta and the City of Lethbridge continue to have a positive impact in the community and support the Housing First Initiatives by viewing housing as a basic human right and a necessity to effective community living. Housing supports, outreach services, and harm reduction approaches are effective in providing supplementary support and reducing some of the challenges related to housing and homelessness. However, housing supports through these initiatives are saturated with significant waitlists and eligibility criteria for supports can be, at times, restrictive. Although the numbers of participants on waitlists tend to fluctuate depending on the numbers coming to central intake, Lethbridge is now experiencing up to 100 people on a waiting list to be connected to housing supports and services. In addition, limited access to funding or reliance on funding sources often prevents access to affordable housing or appropriate housing supports.
- Immigration of New Canadians: The arrival of up to 400 Syrian Refuges between 2015 and 2017 occurred through Government and private sponsorship. This is in addition to already substantial numbers of new immigrants and refugees who have identified Lethbridge as home.
- Migration: Lethbridge is adjacent to the two largest reserves in Canada. People continue to choose to move off reserve to seek employment, attend post-secondary education, and realize an improved quality of life for themselves and their families. The migration to Lethbridge is significant and the transition from reserve to urban life requires support and appropriate housing. In addition, HomeBASE and Youth HUB report that a substantial number of individuals are relocating to Lethbridge from other parts of Canada due to the economic downturn and the quality and accessibility of services within the community.
- Poverty: Compared to other Alberta cities, Lethbridge has the second highest poverty rate. It remains among the highest in Alberta while other cities, namely Calgary and Edmonton, have moved down in ranking (2015). There are more children (< 18 years) than adults (>18 years), living with low-incomes (Statistics Canada, 2013e). 14.6% of the child population (<18 years) of Lethbridge experiences the impacts of poverty while the adult rate is 12.4%. Of particular significance, 1 in 5 children under the age of 6 years old experiences poverty. (Understanding the Impacts of and Finding Community Solutions to Poverty in Lethbridge, Vibrant Lethbridge, February 2015)
- P12 Project Results and Lack of Permanent Supportive Housing: Lethbridge proudly supported the P12 Test Centre to improve people’s access to appropriate programs and services. This was a collaborative approach to design, test, and implement an integrated service delivery approach for social-based programs and services for Albertans who are homeless. Thirty two of the test centre participants out of qualified for AISH support and were eligible for PDD services. Unfortunately, adequate supportive housing options have not been attainable for most of these participants, as well as numerous other individuals who have since been identified as needing long term supports, including those facing challenges related to addiction, mental health diagnoses, and disability. These subgroup needs demonstrate a community need for accessible supportive housing in Lethbridge. It is noted that there has been an increase in violent behaviours and a current crisis level of opioid use, which continues to put further strain on housing services and indicates a greater need for increased supports.
- Youth Homelessness: Youth HUB opened its doors in April 2014. It was anticipated that less than 100 youth would access the service during the first year of the program. The demand for services was far greater than expected, with staff recording 217 unique intakes during the first year, of which almost 40 percent of their 83 clients were Housing First eligible (Bringing Lethbridge Home Progress Report 2014-2015). Furthermore, 2015-2016 resulted in a significant increase from the first year of operations. Prevention of youth homelessness is a priority in Lethbridge and is a focus in the consideration for funding in 2017-2018 as 14.5% of Social Housing in Action (SHIA) Participants are under the age of 18. Service Providers also report an increase in youth pregnancy and the decisions to parent. Youth programming currently needs to support children and families as a significant part of their Housing First services.
- Senior Homelessness and Housing Challenges: As the post-war baby-boomer population ages, the number of older adults requiring ‘subsidized’ or ‘assisted’ housing will significantly increase. Senior's Self-contained Accommodation in Southern Alberta is currently operating below capacity (Lethbridge Housing Authority, 2011). Moreover, in 2017 Social Housing in Action (SHIA) formed a partnership with the Lethbridge Elder Abuse Response Network (LEARN) to address current issues in supporting seniors in fleeing situations in which they were experiencing elder abuse thus emphasizing the need for further senior housing supports. As a proactive measure to housing crises, prevention of senior homelessness and increased supports for this age group needs to be a priority for funding and consideration.
- Employment and Daily Meaningful Activities: Social integration and people’s abilities to fully participate in community life are enhanced with meaningful activities and a sense of purpose in community. This includes opportunities for employment, volunteerism, positive leisure activities, and exposure to new possibilities. Unemployment rates for Lethbridge-Medicine Hat region remain one of the lowest in the province at 4.5%. However, participants across all stakeholder groups in the community engagement sessions, held in October 2017 and hosted by the City of Lethbridge Community and Social Development Group (Irvine, 2017), reported unemployment as being an ongoing challenge to housing success. Furthermore, in 2016-2017, 50% of Social Housing in Action (SHIA) clients indicated that they were currently unemployable and unable to secure and maintain stable employment.
- Discrimination: Though improvements have occurred in recent years, discrimination and misconceptions of housing and homelessness remain. The stigma prevalent in the community further limits access to housing supports and results in greater risk to those facing housing challenges. Community engagement focused on the increase in awareness of the 5 Year Plan, on the impact of homelessness and the socio-economic benefits of prevention strategies, and on Housing First continuing to be a priority in reducing the stigma and discrimination that many Housing First clients face.
- Living Skills: Housing First clients often require ongoing supports and follow up to ensure maintenance of housing and prevention of episodic or chronic homelessness. In some cases, clients require support in learning effective living skills and productive guest management when housed under Housing First supports. Additional community supports and longer term housing supports can help people remain in their homes and participate fully and productively in society.
Priorities for the 2018-2019 fiscal year
- Support Project Operations:
- Implement revised Housing First Standards Manual
- Implement SHIA Research & Evaluation Framework
- Support Service Provider capacity through training and program monitoring
- Develop a municipal housing strategy and business case that:
- Aligns with the National Housing Strategy
- Aligns with the Alberta Affordable Housing Strategy
- Provides a platform for the City of Lethbridge to advocate for community priorities and resource needs
- Initiate an Aboriginal Housing strategy:
- Strengthens collaboration and partnership with Aboriginal stakeholders
- Supports resource development and community led programs
- Aligns with Truth and Reconciliation policy
- Initiate a Homeless Youth strategy:
- Collaborates with sector stakeholders
- Helps to implement education programs for youth
- Helps to implement Meaningful Daily Activities (MDA) for youth
- Initiate a Meaningful Daily Activity Strategy for Housing First clients:
- Supports Individual Service planning and case management
- Supports access to employment and meaningful daily activity
- Supports cultural connectedness
- Support the development of Permanent and Supportive Housing Resources:
- Collaborates with stakeholders from Government and community
- Collaborates with municipal stakeholders
- Develops Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) that meets community and neighbourhood needs
Priorities for the 2019-2020 fiscal year:
The following initiatives launched in 2017-2018 are expected to inform the CBO’s strategic priorities for the next 5 years as part of the CSD 5 Year strategic plan:
- In 2017-18, the City of Lethbridge Community Social Development (CSD) Business Unit launched an asset-mapping project that will comprehensively map and cluster the services provided by community and social groups and organizations within Lethbridge by topic and client need, and will provide information critical to developing a long-term CSD strategic plan.
- In March 2018, the City of Lethbridge Community Social Development (CSD) Business Unit launched a Strategic Planning Initiative that will provide the comprehensive research-based social assessment required to identify Lethbridge’s priority social issues, bring this information to community, and inform the revisions of the City’s Social Policy Framework and CSD’s 5 Year strategic plan. Project completion is targeted for Fall 2018, and will support the development of the City of Lethbridge 2019-20 CBO Service Delivery Plan.
- Also on track for completion in 2018 is the Planning for Permanent Supportive Housing project, funded by Alberta Seniors and Housing, that will provide a business case for Permanent Supportive Housing, for a target population of persons experiencing homelessness and addictions, with suspected or diagnosed FASD.
In addition, it is expected that the below community level priorities will form part of the CBO’s priorities for 2019-2020:
- Opioid Crisis
- Supervised Safe Consumption site
- Safe Sobering Centre
- Municipal Housing Strategy
- Aboriginal Housing Strategy
- Permanent Supportive Housing
Priorities for the 2020-21 fiscal year
To be determined based on the results of the City of Lethbridge Community Social Services (CSD) 5 Year Strategic planning results.