Why He’s Top 40: He’s working to end homelessness in our city.
What Do You Like Most About Edmonton?: “I love the outdoor amenities – being able to run and ski in the river valley just a few steps from my door. Edmonton is just a really good place to live.”
When he was nine years old, Alex Abboud took a family trip to Washington, D.C. and saw something that would stick in his mind forever: A man sleeping on the sidewalk. At first, he thought the man was dead, but his father explained the man just didn’t have a home.
This harsh reality shook Abboud. Though it was difficult for a kid from southwest Edmonton to process, he remembers feeling that it didn’t make sense. That it wasn’t right.
“It was one of those incidents where you remember learning things weren’t exactly as you thought they were,” he says.
Now 31, Abboud is working to end homelessness in Edmonton through Homeward Trust, a not-for-profit organization that’s main focus is on organizing housing needs.
When he started there in 2010 as communications manager, he expanded the organization’s presence on social media as well as its media-relations efforts, particularly with aboriginal media and smaller outlets.
Now as policy adviser, he’s working to change things for the homeless from the inside as he builds relationships with governments, funders and key community partners.
Since 2008, homelessness in Edmonton has dropped 30 per cent under the city and province’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, though Abboud’s unfailingly modest about his contribution.
When Abboud sees homeless people, he treats them like he would anyone else – with quiet respect. He says he’s “not just a bleeding heart” and points out there’s an economic case for making sure people have homes.
“It’s cheaper to support someone in housing rather than deal with the cost of emergency shelters and services,” he says. “It’s better for everyone to have people in housing rather than on the street.”
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He believes an end to homelessness – that is, making it a short-term situation that only happens to someone once – is within our grasp.
Abboud is on the national board of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, where he works on his other passion – preserving the environment and natural spaces. He also blogs about city issues, such as the downtown arena, and was the Edmonton Journal’s first blogger-in-residence.
“It’s important to give back to your community,” he says. “I recognize not everyone’s been as fortunate as I have.”