How’s it going? Good how are you? I’m Trent. Nice to meet you. What’s your name? – Tim.
– Tim? Tim Argaropolis. – Tim Argaropolis?
– Yeah. Are you looking for housing right now? Yeah, I am actually. So when’s the last time you had a place of your own? I don’t know, about 12 years ago — 14 years ago. [Reporter] This is Trent Agecoutay. In a nutshell, it’s his job to help homeless people in Edmonton find places to live. [Trent] We just reach out to people. I’ll often times pass my card along and say, “Look if you need housing call this number.” I’m gonna give you this card, right. So, if you talk to them, they’re going to assess you. You’re gonna have to do like a 15-minute interview with them. Just to see where you’re at. OK, great. All right? Sounds good, I will check it out. Thanks a lot, eh. [Reporter] It’s hard to believe but there are 35,000 Canadians without a place to live. It’s almost to the point where we seem to accept homelessness as a fact of life in cities. But in Alberta, they’re putting up a fight. And here in Edmonton, they’ve made a remarkable promise. To eliminate chronic homelessness in the next few years. Holy f–k Muppets. [Man] Hey Mups, you remember this place? Hey? [Man] You know, I was fortunate enough to come around one day and uh, I just tried the door. And, you know it opened, so. [Reporter] Ezra and his little dog used to live in this abandoned security shack. Ezra hid their footprints so the security guards wouldn’t see them and he bought his own lock so he could keep his things inside during the day. All my stuff is still in there. My cigarettes there sir and there’s a Bounty bar. There’s cushions down in there. There’s a jacket, you know. There’s a thermostat there, there’s a plug. And I was under that desk there. [Reporter] How long did you live in here? Ah I was here for two months. Two months. [Reporter] In the winter — cold blowing by? Cold blowing by — coldest place on the planet. Me and Muppets, yeah. Her dishes are probably still in there. [Reporter] What’s it like to look through the window now knowing you have a place? Well, it’s — yeah, we’ve got a home. We’ve got a home now, you know. And I don’t have to come here anymore. [Reporter] It was when Ezra lived here with no job, no income, struggling with addiction that he got in touch with Edmonton’s Housing First program and got an apartment. [Ezra] Just to be able to shovel your walk you know. [Reporter] What does it do to have a place? [Exra] Oh it’s huge — It’s huge. Like you can lock your door you can keep your belongings. You don’t have to carry them on you. You can, you know, you can cook. That’s the biggest thing. [Reporter] When he was on the street, the one thing Ezra took care of the most was his dog. [Exra] You know, different people have different things. You know, we carry like what you have and well I had Muppet. [Reporter] What does she mean to you? Everything. [Reporter] You think you would have made it through without her? No, I probably would have fell. To be honest with you, I probably would have fell deep into addiction. But, yeah, she kept me going. [Ezra] Hey Mups, hey — hey buddy, hey. [Reporter] So how did Ezra get to this point? How did he get from the streets into this apartment? So tell me why you’d come down here? [Reporter] It starts with this guy. Remember Trent, the outreach worker? [Trent] You see people just looking for help a lot you know. Like they really just need somebody to help them find a place to go you know a place to stay, a home. Housing First is exactly what it says. It’s about housing first. It’s not putting any stipulations on somebody’s housing. We don’t require people to get sober to get housing. We just want to help people get off the
street to get into safe places. [Reporter] That’s surprising. You’re homeless, they give you a place even if you’re struggling with addiction. Why does that make sense? [Trent] We don’t tell them how to live their lives because not everybody is in the same place you know. Not everybody that lives in a house doesn’t drink everyday, you know. Like maybe because they never experience homelessness that doesn’t mean that they don’t drink everyday, they don’t have a drinking problem but they’re able to maintain their housing. We’re worried about helping people maintain housing. We’re not here to judge their lifestyles. [Reporter] In fact, there’s only one demand they make up their clients. If you want to have a seat, we can just have a little chat. [Reporter] That they take the first step and come here to the Homeward Trust offices. Where the Housing First program is run [Trent] What’s your name sir? William Miller. William, I’m Trent. You’re looking for a place to live right now? Yes. And this is a good place for you to start. It shows what vacancies we know about in the downtown area. And all around the city actually. And how much the rent is and stuff. So I mean, that’s a good way for you to start. [Reporter] What’s really surprising is that most homeless clients get to pick their apartment from the open market. [Trent] We’re not taking people and saying, “OK, you’re gonna live here.” They choose where they live. That’s why we take them on multiple viewings. They get to choose the apartment they want to live in. [Reporter] So if William chooses a few places he wants to look at Trent would go with him to meet the landlord. Williams rent would be subsidized for a year and during that time he’d have a caseworker to help him with the transition. [Trent] As long as you keep checking in you will get housed. I appreciate that. Thank you very much. Take care man. [Reporter] I catch up with William by the elevator. William, what would it mean for you to
get a place to live? Well, absolutely life-changing. I’m deteriorating so fast it’s unbelievable It’s a lot of violence. And crazy. And I’m too old for it. I’m just not even the same human being as I was. [Reporter] Thank you, sir. Thank you. [Reporter] Even if you don’t have compassion for William and you wonder why we should help him [William] Thank you, guys. [Reporter] Trent says it’s cost-effective. [Trent] We’re saving lives and we’re saving the government money by doing this program because then they’re not spending the money on hospitals for people that end up there that experience homelessness or the justice system where people get incarcerated on purpose because they don’t want to face -30 in the winter. [Reporter] Since 2009, Edmonton has housed 10,000 homeless people using the Housing First model. And Ezra’s one of them. And for the first time in a long time, he tells me he’s excited about his future. [Ezra] Having an apartment has given me the means to have those dreams, have those hopes have those aspirations. When you’re homeless, you dream about being warm. You know, that’s what you dream about. You dream about eating, you know. Like I had steak for dinner tonight. It’s OK, it’s OK buddy. We’ve got a home now. [Reporter] Housing first may well have saved Ezra’s life. Maybe it’s the way forward. Give a person a place to live, perhaps the rest will follow. Nick Purdon, CBC News, Edmonton