Calgary Homeless Foundation, CUPS and Catholic Family Service launch a new Rapid Care Counselling pilot to connect Calgarians experiencing homelessness with mental health supports

Calgary’s homeless-serving sector is launching another innovative partnership that will pair participants in the Homeless-Serving System of Care with mental health supports when they need it most.  

There are currently 621 individuals, families and youth experiencing homelessness who are awaiting housing on Calgary’s triage list. Of these individuals, 78.4 per cent have identified mental health challenges or concerns. 

To support these individuals, Calgary Homeless Foundation, CUPS, and Catholic Family Service (CFS) are launching Rapid Care Counselling, a collaborative pilot that efficiently connects people in shelters and supportive housing with virtual or in-person mental health supports best suited to their needs. 

“People living without a home are not otherwise okay – invariably, something else is always at play. It can happen to anyone,” said Patricia Jones, President and CEO, Calgary Homeless Foundation. “This pilot means individuals can rapidly connect with someone who will tell them they are being seen and heard, and there are people here to help. It is the first step in connecting the health, housing, and homelessness sectors together and addressing the systemic issues contributing to someone’s experience of homelessness.” 

In May 2020, in response to increasing mental health needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary Homeless Foundation issued an RFP to gauge interest in providing mental health supports for individuals experiencing homelessness.  

After a competitive RFP process, CUPS and CFS were selected to collaboratively pilot the Rapid Care Counselling program. This pilot is designed to support participants within Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care with low-barrier mental health supports. The pilot will serve people who have previously, or are currently experiencing homelessness, including children, youth, adults, and families in emergency shelters and Calgary Homeless Foundation-funded supportive housing programs.  

“This joint project is beyond exciting and such a wonderful resource for the community. It puts first and foremost the right mental health support in front of the right people at the right time,” said Carlene Donnelly, Executive Director, CUPS. “This is such an asset for Calgary and I want to applaud the team at Calgary Homeless Foundation for bringing about such an exciting initiative at a time when it’s needed the most.” 

As an agency and programmatic partnership, this pilot is a collaboration between the CUPS Shared Care Mental Health program and the CFS Rapid Access Counselling program, combining their already proven strengths into a continuum of services that will be offered to individuals experiencing homelessness. 

“Compassionate care is timely care,” said Jessica Cope Williams, Co-CEO, Catholic Family Service. “The service is designed so those facing homelessness can access Rapid Care Counselling within three business days. The program puts the mental health care people need where they need it, when they need it, as a result of strategic collaboration between organizations. This shifts the burden of accessing the right supports from those in crisis to organizations doing the work to create seamless service access.” 

The pilot’s mobile service and assessment is designed to allow participants to connect with a qualified counsellor within three business days and provide them with a care plan to connect to supports that are required beyond the session, including longer-term mental health supports and community referrals. Starting February 15, service providers will be able to book individuals for a virtual counselling session or an in-person session in several designated locations.  

Entry into the program begins with a session with a CFS team member. The first appointment will be a goal-based and solution-focused counselling session followed by integrated care planning to determine what supports are required beyond the session. This may include access to future sessions, other community supports, or referral into counselling sessions with CUPS Shared Care Mental Health counsellors.  

Rapid Care Counselling is an innovative program that represents an important step forward in our collective efforts to support the health and mental wellness of Calgarians who have, or are experiencing homelessness.  

People’s experiences of homelessness affect and are affected by their mental health, and connecting the sectors of health, housing, and homelessness together is critical to supporting them. With this unique programming, service providers have a tool they can use to successfully address the systemic issues that contribute to an individual’s experience of mental health and homelessness.  

Rapid Care Counselling Media Coverage: