Rapid Care Counselling quickly connects people to mental health support


COVID-19 has been hard on all of us, but imagine what it’s like when you don’t have a home and are experiencing mental health challenges, all at the same time.

People living without a home or in emergency shelters have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 measures. At the start of February 2021, there were 621 individuals experiencing homelessness, including singles, families, and youth, waiting for housing on Calgary’s triage list. Of these, 78.4 per cent identified mental health challenges or concerns.

“People living without a home are not otherwise okay—invariably, something else is always at play,” says Patricia Jones, President & CEO of Calgary Homeless Foundation.

A new partnership between Calgary Homeless Foundation, Catholic Family Services (CFS), and CUPS (Calgary Urban Project Society) is here to help. Rapid Care Counselling provides rapid access to tailored mental health supports for children, youth, adults, and families in our system of care.

It begins with a CFS team member meeting a participant in a single session to create a care plan that determines the supports they need next. These could include further sessions, connections to a range of community services, or referral into 6- or 12-session counselling with CUPS Shared Care Mental Health counsellors.

This collaboration matches each unique participant’s circumstance and the level of support they need, to get the right help at the right time. Designed to allow participants to connect with a qualified counsellor within just three business days, it provides easy access points that eliminate barriers and connects the client to the program as seamlessly as possible.

The impetus for Rapid Care Counselling arose when our colleagues on the front lines noticed an increase in mental health needs in the homelessness sector early on in the pandemic. We put out an RFP to gauge interest in providing mental health supports, and selected CUPS and CFS to combine forces. The Rapid Care Counselling fills gaps in access to this vital service.

“This pilot means that these individuals can rapidly connect with someone who will tell them they are seen, heard, and that there are people here to help,” says Jones. “This pilot is the first step in connecting the health, housing and homelessness sectors together and start to address the systemic issues contributing to someone’s experience of homelessness.”


“Doris” was a participant in a program that Calgary Homeless Foundation supports. She used substances to help her deal with multiple compounded traumas, and she was also on kidney dialysis. She wanted to overcome her addictions, become eligible for a kidney transplant, and be there to support her children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, her need for multiple hospital visits every week for dialysis made her ineligible for addiction treatment programs. Program staff worked hard to schedule mental health appointments as long as they did not conflict with her dialysis appointments, but they were inconsistent, and Doris was unable to overcome her addictions.

A program like Rapid Care Counselling could have helped Doris by providing consistent supports that fit with her dialysis schedule. It could have helped her to process her grief and loss in a different way and potentially reduce her need for substances to help escape her trauma. It may or may not have saved her life—but it would have made the end of her life easier.

Trail Blazer Breakfast 2021: Tickets available now!

Keynote Speaker: Lieutenant-General (ret) The Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire

Trail Blazer Breakfast is Calgary Homeless Foundation’s annual marquee fundraiser event. Join us VIRTUALLY on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021, as we connect business and community leaders, philanthropists, thought leaders and members of the homeless system of care – individuals who aren’t afraid to blaze new trails and leverage joint resources and expertise to collectively address the complex social issues of poverty and homelessness in our city.

Click HERE to purchase your tickets today!


Trail Blazer Breakfast 2021 Keynote Speaker: Lieutenant-General (ret) The Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire

As a military commander, humanitarian, senator and author, Roméo Dallaire has elevated our national consciousness. Whether shining a light on the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide, the struggle that he and many other military veterans face with post-traumatic stress disorder, or the recruitment and use of child soldiers, he has felt compelled to set aside his natural reserve to bring national and international attention to situations too often ignored.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience a true force of transformative action as he shares impactful leadership lessons and thoughts on the need for trailblazing in Canada – specifically in the areas of mental health and homelessness.


2021 Trail Blazer Legacy Award Recipient: Tim J. Hearn

Calgary Homeless Foundation is pleased to announce Tim J. Hearn as the 2021 Legacy Award Recipient for his dedication to the vision of ending homelessness and his unwavering efforts to use his strengths, influence, and passion to make it a reality. Mr. Hearn is a well-known corporate leader in Calgary. Having served as the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Imperial Oil Limited, he is the current Chairman of the consulting/investment management and philanthropic organization, Hearn & Associates. Mr. Hearn is an inspiring trail blazer and continues to work as a community leader in Calgary on many fronts. We are honoured to recognize him for his commitment to ending homelessness in our city.


2021 Trail Blazer Breakfast Event Emcee: Dave Kelly

Dave Kelly is the owner and Chief Creative Officer at Kelly Brothers Productions and a seasoned host. Dave’s ability to spark lively conversation with warmth and humour will be sure to make the 2021 Trail Blazer Breakfast the most memorable to date.

Dave Kelly is an award-winning host, writer, and interviewer who creates intelligent and deeply human moments for events and keynote conversations around the world. He is the host of Dave Kelly Live – Canada’s own talk-variety show. Ellen Degeneres selected Dave as the moderator and interviewer for her multi-city tour across Canada. He recently hosted a conversation with President Barack Obama in Calgary and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Montreal. Dave is the co-founder of Kelly Brothers Productions, an award-winning video and entertainment company.

2021 Trail Blazer Breakfast: Sponsorships, Tickets & (Virtual) Tables

For information about sponsorships, tickets, and tables, visit: http://trailblazeryyc.com/trailblazer-breakfast/

Thank you to the current 2021 Trail Blazer Sponsors:

  • Presenting Sponsor: NOVA Chemicals
  • Speaker Sponsor: Jim Stanford
  • Literary Champion: ATB Financial

The following sponsor levels are still available:

  • Virtual Sponsor
  • Gratitude Package Sponsor
  • Host Sponsor
  • Trail Blazer Sponsor
  • Humanitarian Sponsor

All virtual guests will receive a Trail Blazer Breakfast Gratitude Package delivered a day or two before the event.

Items will include:  

  • Delicious continental breakfast with morning pastries, yogurt, berry and granola parfait, and lemon meringue blueberry energy bites.
  • A book written by our keynote speaker, General Dallaire.
  • Plus, other surprise items!

Trail Blazer Breakfast

WHEN: May 12, 2021

WHERE: Virtual Event

TIME: Breakfast Prelude 7:30 AM – 8 AM | Virtual Program 8 AM – 9:30 AM

For more information about the Virtual 2021 Trail Blazer Breakfast, visit: https://www.trailblazeryyc.com/

For questions related to the Trail Blazer Breakfast, please contact Teresa Hiser, Development Manager at 403-718-8534 or trailblazeryyc@calgaryhomeless.com.


We look forward to connecting with you at the event!

Musical duo donates t-shirt sales



Misgana and Ans own a local clothing company, and have direct a portion of their sales to Calgary Homeless Foundation.

At Calgary Homeless Foundation, we’re inspired by you – our community donors – and we’re always eager to know why you connect to our work and how you learned about us. That’s why when we received a large donation from a new donor at the beginning of February, we just had to find out more about their story.

Misgana – who goes by Mizzy – and Ans own a clothing brand, originally founded to sell merchandise to accompany their music. Like their music, their clothing is an expression of their creativity. To eliminate profit as a motivator when creating a new design, they decided to direct all proceeds from the sale of a t-shirt to Calgary Homeless Foundation.

“We just wanted to do something really creative and make something unique,” says Mizzy. “Making a fundraiser just allowed us to forget about profit and focus on the creativity.”

Mizzy screen-printed nearly 100 shirts in his bedroom before launching the design on the duo’s website. They approached several local businesses, who featured the design in their storefronts. Within a few days, the design had sold out.

“I’m not originally from Calgary, but every time I came here, everyone told me how cold it was,” explains Ans. “When you’re driving around, and you see people on the streets, you’re always wondering how they get by. We wished we could all do something, so we chose to direct the proceeds towards homelessness.”

“We’re at a place where we can pay our bills, but it wasn’t always like that,” adds Mizzy. “I think when you get to a place like that, you shouldn’t forget people who don’t have as much as you. It’s better for your heart, and when you go out of your way to help someone else, it lifts everyone up. The whole place gets better.”

Ans and Mizzy appreciated the opportunity to use their passion to benefit the community. The campaign also expanded their skillset. They learned how to manage the high product volume, and as the t-shirts began to sell, they were encouraged by the local support. They found their customer base got excited about the t-shirt design and felt good about contributing to a local cause.

“Everyone wishes they could get to a place in their life where they can help people. The truth is, that’s not how it works” says Ans.

“You don’t have to be making a specific amount or be in a certain spot to take care of people. If you are helping one person, you never know how that will impact others.”

Kootenay Lodge - 40 Calgarians will be moved out of homelessness and into long-term housing
Kootenay Lodge

Approximately 40 Calgarians will be moved out of homelessness and into long-term housing by March 31, 2021, thanks to a new bridge housing program in a Martindale apartment building. The program will see individuals receive temporary housing at Kootenay Lodge with on-site support services so they can quickly and successfully move from the emergency shelter system into independent living. As part of the Diversion Bridge Housing Program, this 10-unit building’s bridge housing program is made possible as part of a collaboration between Calgary Homeless Foundation, HomeSpace Society and The Mustard Seed, and is especially important given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Sept. 17, 2020, The Mustard Seed began receiving referrals to the building with staggered move-ins to follow. Individuals who have experienced homelessness for less than one year will move from an emergency shelter to Kootenay Lodge before relocating to a home. The program is targeted at individuals who face financial barriers, or low to moderate physical or mental health challenges. During their stay, a diversion advocate will provide on-site support with system navigation, help individuals secure financial supports, look for appropriate accommodation, and connect them with landlords to support their journey into independent housing. 

Diverting people out of their experience of homelessness into a home is the best solution for the health of the individual and the community as a whole during the health crisis presented by COVID-19.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that, now more than ever, housing is essential for health. As an immediate response, we have strengthened our partnerships in community to create collective solutions through coordination and collaboration to prevent and end homelessness for Calgarians as quickly and efficiently as possible— including this partnership with The Mustard Seed and HomeSpace,” says Matt Nomura, Vice President of Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care, Calgary Homeless Foundation. “No two stories or pathways into homelessness are the same. An individual’s journey towards recovery requires a spectrum of services to support their successful exit out of homelessness. These services include a range of supports, from abstinence to harm reduction, and housing with intense supports to independent living,” Nomura continued.  

The Mustard Seed will support the individuals during their time at the Kootenay Lodge, and throughout their transition as they move to their new home. 

“The Mustard Seed is proud to offer multifaceted wraparound services to quickly facilitate moving individuals out of homelessness. We have a Resident Engagement worker on site to facilitate move-ins and move-outs, as well as ensure adherence to COVID precautions in place to protect residents. We also have a Diversion Advocate on site, who will assist in the housing journey, providing resources and system navigation for clients to smoothly transition into permanent housing,” said Samantha Lowe, Health and Wellness Manager, The Mustard Seed. 

The Diversion Bridge Housing Program estimates that individuals will stay  at Kootenay Lodge before moving into stable long-term housing.  

“HomeSpace is committed to creating more affordable housing so vulnerable people can rebuild their lives from a place of dignity and safety,“ says Bernadette Majdell, CEO, HomeSpace Society. “This new bridge housing program at HomeSpace’s Kootenay Lodge is a perfect example of innovative collaboration to help address the urgent needs of our city.”

By: Joel Sinclair

Significant advances in the battle against homelessness are being won. Since 2008, and the implementation of Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness, the average number of nightly stays by single adults in Calgary emergency shelters has fallen by 40%.

A Noted Downward Trend

Shelter Stays Graph

Analysis published today by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy clearly illustrates an encouraging downward trend in the use of emergency shelters by single adults. In fact, as much as there is variation in the chart within any given year, the year-over-year number of shelter stays observed has been continually shrinking. This is good news.

Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was launched in 2008 by a multi-stakeholder leadership group with the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) appointed as the implementer. Since then, Calgary has become a leader in the charge to end homelessness and our city’s homeless-serving community’s grounded approach in the Housing First model has become a world standard for addressing the chronic issues of homelessness in a collaborative, data-driven and forward-thinking way.

Factors to Progress

Factors that have contributed to this downward trend have been noted by Nick Falvo (CHF’s Director of Research and Data), as well as Ron Kneebone and Margarita Wilkins (both with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy)

“Housing First has always been a core component of Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness, and our primary focus on housing people with supports reduces the pressure on Calgary’s shelters,” says Diana Krecsy, President and CEO of CHF. “In concert with that, our city’s homeless-serving system of care has continually focused on creating greater housing stability for our clients. Continuous advancements and refinements in program design and measurement have resulted in constant improvements in housing retention, allowing us to achieve an annual housing retention rate of 91% – which means that fewer people are falling back into homelessness or having to rely on the shelter system.”

In addition to Calgary’s homeless-serving community’s successful implementation and execution of these core aspects of Calgary’s Plan, we should also consider the impact that the following components have had on contributing to this downward trend:

Better Triaging: Addressing the needs of our city’s most vulnerable through ground-breaking triage programs such as Coordinated Access and Assessment also means that our clients are moving straight into housing programs and remaining stably housed.

Rental market fluctuation. When rental vacancy rates are high, landlords are often more eager to rent units, as it becomes a ‘renter’s market.’ High vacancy rates in Calgary over the past two years have therefore made it easier for persons experiencing homelessness to access rental units in our city.

Social assistance benefit levels. Benefit levels for Alberta social assistance recipients have increased since 2008.  For example, total annual income received by a ‘single employable’ household receiving social assistance jumped by more than 30% in 2009; and the total annual income for a single adult receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped increased by 30% between 2011 and 2013. Higher incomes have made it easier for persons experiencing homelessness (or people on the verge of experiencing homelessness) to access and maintain rental housing.

What’s next?

With the goal of ending homelessness in our city, it’s vital that, as a community, we continue to focus on increased coordination and collaboration across our homeless-serving system of care. It’s also important that we continue to foster greater integration with ‘big system’ public service care providers.

For agencies at the front line, seeing the positive, measurable results of their efforts founded in data and research matters a great deal.

“We have to give kudos to the shelters in Calgary. They are a vital part of Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care, and we have some really amazing shelters that are serving people when they are in need”, says Krecsy, “The shelters are our emergency department, and they need to be there. But we must also focus on the group of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness – people who have been in there a long time – and get them into the housing and supports they need.”

We have made notable progress in ending homelessness in Calgary, but we can do more. To reach our collective goal we must continue to do the great work we are all doing together, until everyone has a home.