Last week the findings of the Town of Strathmore's first ever social needs assessment were presented to town council. The assessment was done by HelpSeeker Technologies, and CEO Alina Turner presented a condensed version of what she said were "hundreds of pages" of information. While there were many findings of a wide variety, two key findings stood out to council, being the ratio of working to dependent population and addressing the housing crisis.

"You have a growing population dependency compared to other communities of similar size. What that means is that the working population that is carrying the non-working population — be they seniors or be they children — that ratio is higher for your community than others, which means that your working population is lower," Turner said. 

Turner said having a lower working population directly impacts the services the Town can provide, and also find a way to balance community needs. Turner referenced the potential building of a new seniors' lodge as an example of this; with limited funds but also the need to support the community's seniors, the Town must find a way to balance this support while also keeping in mind the rest of the population.

For Councillor Denise Peterson, one solution to this problem is obvious and must become a priority.

"If ever there was a message for this council, and our CAO has been crystal clear about this, and that is the need to embrace immigrant community here to help us," Peterson said.

New immigration could bring increased community diversity, which Turner said impacts the social needs and social infrastructure required in town. Strathmore's diversity is currently going up, with the assessment finding our Indigenous, visible minority, and immigrant population is rising more compared to communities of a similar size.

If Strathmore's working population were to grow through immigration — which is entirely possible due to the huge investments and projected growth surrounding our community — they would obviously need somewhere to live, which leads directly to the second main concern of Strathmore's housing concerns.

Turner explained core housing needs popped up as a huge concern, which refers to households that are paying more than what's considered the ideal payment of 33% of your income into shelter. Turner said to address this council needs to look at the extreme cases, being low-income individuals/ families that are paying 50% or more of their income into shelter.

"There's an extreme risk for homelessness, and it's becoming visible in your community." 

Turner pointed to Strathmore shelter statistics showing an 800% increase in newly homeless in one year, which she called concerning. Mayor Pat Fule said affordable housing was already a key focus of Town Council, but this study highlighted the need even more.

While projects like the aforementioned new seniors' lodge could help address this, Fule also referenced an unspecified project which he will be hearing about more in June or July which may bring more housing to our community.

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