There is no question in my mind that Edmontonians firmly believe in and support security, safety and wellbeing for everyone. We want our vulnerable neighbours to receive the support they need and the shelter they lack. Ultimately we want everyone to be safe in our city. 

We also know that the lack or absence of support services leads to a level of social disorder that diminishes our feeling and perception of safety and security in our public spaces. We cannot resolve those perceptions of an unsafe city without resolving the needs of those most vulnerable - but we cannot wait for everyone’s trauma to be resolved before the city begins to feel safe again.  

We need to start making progress, and start diminishing the need.

On March 1, there were 2,868 persons on the Homeward Trust “By Names” homeless list. Of those, 737 are unsheltered. These numbers demonstrate the need - the need that is partially met by a number of social service agencies.

At Committee on April 8, Administration reports that 17 distinct agencies provide a large number of services in the downtown communities of Boyle Street, McCauley and Central McDougall. 10 of those agencies share about $13.5M per year of City funding (on top of provincial funding).

The City of Edmonton bestows a tremendous responsibility on those social service agencies, and we are thankful for their efforts. At the same time, however, it is not clear how effective these agencies are. How do we measure success? How do we know we are making a difference?

How many second and third and even fourth generation clients are being served? Do we know? Are we achieving systemic change, or are we just treading water- from one generation to the next?

Again, there is no doubt we need to support their agencies in their work. But we expect that through city funding, there is actual progress made on reducing need and creating successful outcomes. And to know that we are, we need to collect data - the right data - that ensures we are actually making progress toward helping people become healthy.

That requires some sort of common data standard that tracks a person’s progress through this ecosystem. That means agency leaders getting over their anxiety that seems to accompany a request for data and accountability. It means finding a way to allow those we serve to take their data with them from agency to agency, which seems to meet with resistance from some.

It isn’t just about the dollars. But when we cannot demonstrate progress (and right now I don’t think we can), then dollars spent becomes the metric. And given the state of City finances right now, it is imperative that we demonstrate the benefits of our investments.

It is my goal to stay on this. I will be reaching out to these agencies, our stakeholders, to learn more, understand more, and ensure we all share more. I want to find a way to bring some rigour and accountability that confirms our investment, while ensuring this important work continues in a caring and compassionate way.

Timothy Cartmell


Honoured to be the City Councillor in Edmonton's Ward pihêsiwin. #yegcc #Wardpihêsiwin