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DebraW
13-06-2007, 03:42 AM
Renters' aid fund underutilized

Wed, June 13, 2007
By RENATO GANDIA, SUN MEDIA

Despite Alberta's booming population of more than three million and skyrocketing rents in Edmonton and Calgary, only 1,200 income- and rent-challenged citizens have accessed a fund set aside for them, says a government spokesman.

The number seems low because the program is new and information about it is just beginning to trickle down to those who need it, said Lorelei Fiset-Cassidy.

The province allocated $7 million in April for a homelessness and eviction prevention fund to assist people who might lose their homes due to rent increases. Those who just moved to Alberta and are in need of accommodations can also apply for assistance.

More than $1 million was spent as of June 7 to help residents - mostly from Edmonton - facing eviction, said Fiset-Cassidy of Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry, one of the departments administering the fund.

Last week, the province said rent-challenged residents were not applying for proper benefits.

It promised to rectify the problem by including a mailout to go with other government support cheques clearly explaining how they can access the money.

Karen Gingras, executive director of Vibrant Communities Edmonton, said her organization is helping to spread the word.

The non-profit group contacted its focus group members and asked them to forward the information to as many people as possible.

A number of NorQuest College students facing eviction have also accessed the fund, said spokesman Martin Schuldhaus.

To find out if you qualify for assistance, call (780) 644-5135.

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