With tears, flowers, and a song for a friend who can no longer be found, Calgarians gathered on a cold morning on October 13, 2021 for a reflective ceremony marking the installation of the city’s first and only permanent homeless memorial.

“We have monuments all over the city to the rich and powerful. I’m really pleased we now have a memorial to those who are most marginalized and who have lost their lives being marginalized,” said Counsellor Evan Woolley in an emotional tribute to those who have lost their lives while experiencing homelessness in Calgary.

The memorial, located at 107 13 Ave SE, is the culmination of a three-year collaboration between the Client Action Committee, Calgary Homeless Foundation, University of Calgary, and the City of Calgary, with the support of Canadian Artists Against Poverty, and homeless-serving agencies in the city. It was created after Calgarians experiencing homelessness expressed a need for a permanent place to remember their family and friends who lost their lives while not having a home.

In the ceremony’s introduction, Patricia Jones, President and CEO of Calgary Homeless Foundation, noted the humanity of those who had lost their lives. “It is important to remember that the people honoured today are more than a ‘number’: they were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and friends of someone who loved them,” she said.

Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Client Action Committee (CAC)—a group composed of people with lived or living experience of homelessness—recognized the need for a permanent memorial site through their coordination of the annual Longest Night of the Year city-wide homeless memorial service.

In 2018, the CAC approached Dr. Jessica Shaw, who was researching end-of-life care for people experiencing homelessness at the University of Calgary. Together, they started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds. Calgary Homeless Foundation assisted as a funder and Councillor Evan Woolley, a former Board Member with Calgary Homeless Foundation, championed the memorial with the City of Calgary, securing the site.

Three years later, in September 2021, the memorial was installed. The memorial, designed and constructed by artists who have lived or living experiences of homelessness or poverty, has three features, notably a bronze backpack on a pillar, etched with the words: “In this space, we remember and honour our neighbours, family, and friends—known and unknown—who have lived and died because of the traumas of homelessness. In past, present, and future—may they rest in power.”

The memorial also has a bench free of barriers for someone to lay down and two pillars painted with a mural embedded with phone chargers. All parts of the monument had input from people with connections to Calgary’s homeless community.

By the end of the morning, the bronze backpack, modelled after one that was carried by a member of Calgary’s homeless community for over a decade, was blanketed in fresh flowers. On the ground around the statue, messages had been left in chalk: “For Max,” “More than a number,” and “for all those who deserve more.”

“I want to one day bring my child here and tell her that it exists because we used to lose someone every three days in Calgary [to homelessness],” said Dr. Shaw.

Until then, the memorial serves as a quiet place for reflection, and as a reminder, said Patricia Jones, that the fight against homelessness is worth all of us getting in the ring for.

View the program here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du70jQ7tJDs.

Click here for the photo gallery.

In the news: 





In recognition of World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day, Calgary Homeless Foundation is celebrating the success of a unique partnership in the city’s homeless-serving sector that pairs people experiencing homelessness with virtual or in-person mental health supports.

Mental health challenges can pose a barrier to obtaining and keeping a home, and the experience of homelessness can exacerbate a person’s mental health issues. According to The Mental Health Commission of Canada, between 25-50% of the homeless population in Canada suffer from a mental illness. On average, about three-quarters of those on our triage list awaiting housing have identified mental health concerns.

Calgary’s homeless-serving sector is doing its part to address these challenges. From March to September 2021, people experiencing homelessness attended 403 individual counselling sessions as part of the Rapid Care Counselling pilot. Of those 403, 88 (22%) were virtual, while the remaining 315 were conducted in-person at 17 different agencies in Calgary.

The pilot, launched earlier this year in February, is an innovative collaboration between Calgary Homeless Foundation, CUPS, and Catholic Family Service (CFS) that responds to the growing need for mental health supports during the pandemic.

Both CFS and CUPS have an established track record of offering mental health services to people experiencing homelessness through the CFS Rapid Care Access Counselling program and CUPS Shared Care Mental Health program.

Under the pilot, people who are at risk of homelessness or who are living without a home in shelters or supportive housing connect with a qualified CFS counsellor within three business days.

During their initial session, participants receive a care plan that may include future sessions, community supports, or referrals to long-term mental health supports with CUPS Shared Care Mental Health counsellors. Since the start of the pilot, 82 participants have moved past their initial session with CFS counsellors to attend an additional session with CUPS.

At the time of the launch, Patricia Jones, President and CEO of Calgary Homeless Foundation, described the pilot as “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 a recent Family Service Canada newsletter, a participant of the pilot said, “The session was extremely helpful. I achieved the mindset I was looking for.” Another participant noted, “I feel more confident about my plans for the future.”

Calgary Homeless Foundation looks forward to continuing this vital service for children, youth, adults, and families as they navigate through their mental health and housing challenges.


On November 24, 2016, StreetSide Developments: A Qualico company, alongside the RESOLVE Campaign, HomeSpace Society, the Calgary Homeless Foundation and Alpha House, hosted the grand opening of Aurora on the Park. This 25 unit, fully accessible building was constructed specifically to support vulnerable Calgarians experiencing homelessness. Named after the Aurora glow that symbolizes the dawn of a new day, the grand opening was a celebration of the beginning of a new life and a new home for these 25 individuals. Elder Casey Eagle Speaker blessed Aurora’s opening and spoke of the dawning of new hope for these 25 Calgarians who needed it most.


Each of the clients’ homes are designed for wheelchair accessibility and are completely barrier free. The common areas, a space where clients can gather for meals and to socialize, are also fully accessible. While each suite has been built for tenants to be able to cook for themselves, Meals on Wheels will also visit daily to provide tenants with healthy, well rounded meals.

The tenants of Aurora on the Park will receive full support from the Alpha House Society who will be the case manager for the building. This allows tenants to access support twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Aurora on the Park is the third building to be completed in a series of purpose-built apartments that are constructed by Calgary home builders for the Calgary Homeless Foundation through the RESOLVE Campaign and with support from the Government of Alberta. “The partnership of all levels of government, Calgary Home Builders and the RESOLVE Campaign continues to make ending homelessness possible in Calgary,” says Diana Krecsy, President & CEO of CHF. “Aurora on the Park represents more than just an accessible home for 25 individuals experiencing homelessness. It represents hope and a better future for them and for all Calgarians.”

For more information on Aurora on the Park, please visit the RESOLVE Campaign website or read StreetSide Developments’ blog, Grand Opening of Aurora on the Park.

Provincial count drops 31% since 2008 in 2nd 7 cities Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness

In the second biennual province-wide Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness (Count), the number of people in Alberta staying in emergency shelters, short term supportive housing and hotels used as emergency shelters as well as correctional facilities was 5373, down 19% from the previous Count in October 2014 and 31% from 2008 when Alberta’s Plan to End Homelessness was launched.

In Calgary, the total Count was 3222, an almost 11% decrease from its peak in 2008 when Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness (Calgary’s Plan) was launched. Calgary’s Count includes data collected by over 100 volunteers on the streets conducting surveys of those they encountered. This report does not include Alberta Health Services (AHS) data and observational tallies by volunteers of those they counted as homeless but were unable to survey. The Final Report, to be released in early 2017, will include more comprehensive demographic data as well as numbers from AHS.

Year-over-year growth in homelessness stopped

Prior to 2008, when Calgary’s Plan was launched, the city was experiencing a biennial increase in homelessness of 35%. Since 2008, over 8,000 people have been housed, growth in homelessness has halted and is on a downward trend. This year’s count shows a decline in overall homelessness on a per capita basis of 26% since 2008.

“Calgary has done what no other urban city has- reversed our past trend of increasing homelessness by 35% every two years to an astounding decline of 9% this year,” says Krecsy. “Calgary’s Plan is working because of local sector leadership, continued rigor, focus and collaboration. But make no mistake, Calgary remains in harm’s way. We need greater systems integration  between Health, Alberta Health Services and Justice with the Homeless Serving System and enhanced community based supports for our cities most vulnerable (health, mental health, addictions, affordable housing).”

Calgary remains epicentre of homelessness in province

As in the 2014 Count, Calgary continues to be the epicentre of homelessness in the province. Whereas the 2014 Count showed Calgary accounting for 54% of the total Provincial Count, this year’s Count shows Calgary represents 60% of the total provincial Count of 5373. “The good news is, homelessness is down across the province,” says Diana Krecsy, President and CEO, the Calgary Homeless Foundation. “What we are doing is working. The challenge is, in spite of continued progress throughout the homeless-serving sector, Calgary continues to not have enough appropriate housing for its vulnerable citizens.”

Calgary’s position as the epicentre is attributable to socio-economic factors unique to Calgary, primarily, one of Canada’s highest unemployment rates for a major urban centre (10.2%) and continued high cost of rental housing despite increased vacancy rates, particularly for those with lower incomes. “Calgary does a great job of serving people experiencing homelessness and with providing a strong network of services and supports to move people quickly into appropriate housing at the right time,” says Krecsy. “But it’s not enough for the number of people who continue to need our support because of economic factors over which they have no control.”

Second province-wide Count shows strength of coordinated approach to ending homelessness.

The province-wide Count dropped by 19.2% from 2014 to 2016. Since 2008 this represents a 31% decrease in homelessness across the province and a decrease of approximately 11% in Calgary since Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness was launched in 2008.

The Count was coordinated by the 7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The 7 Cities represent the lead organizations responsible for the implementation of local Plans to End Homelessness within each city. They coordinate at a systems level and align funding resources for greater impact and progress towards a shared vision of ending homelessness in Alberta.

In the first province-wide Count, 7 Cities members conducted their individual Counts over a week long period. This year’s Count was held on the same evening, October 19th, between 7pm to midnight in all 7 Cities with some cities counting on the morning of October 20th as necessary.

The Count serves two important functions: it provides a current snapshot of the demographics and number of people experiencing homelessness in the province as well as individual cities, and provides a snapshot of changes in homelessness over time. By aligning methods across Alberta, the 7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness can examine trends using similar definitions. Ultimately, this helps to inform solutions, policies and best practices to support the goal of ending homelessness in Alberta.

A Snapshot of Calgary’s Count

A total of 3,222 people were enumerated on the night of the count. Preliminary results show:

  • Unsheltered 5%
  • Emergency Sheltered 45%
  • Justice System 6%
  • Interim Housing & Other (ie. hotels/motels used as emergency shelter/short-term housing) 44%
  • 75% male; 25% female
  • Indigenous 20%; Non-indigenous 80%
  • 45 years of age and over 44%
  • 25-44 years of age 36%
  • 24 years of age and under 20%

In addition to the numbers reported in this document, Calgary counts individuals encountered outside who are not able to give consent to volunteers to complete surveys as part of the Count. This requires volunteer teams to use their discretion as to who is, or is not, homeless. We also collect data from emergency and inpatient services at Calgary facilities. These numbers were not complete at time of this preliminary report and will be included in a forthcoming final report in early 2017.

The Provincial Preliminary Report can be viewed HERE.

All 7 Cities Reports can be viewed HERE.

Calgary’s report can be viewed HERE.


This year’s Giving Tuesday has kicked off an exciting new development towards ending homelessness in Calgary. Sponsor Energy, an energy retailer that sells electricity and natural gas to socially conscious consumers in Alberta, has the means to turn an ordinary, everyday purchase of electricity and gas into a tool to change the world and they’re doing so one non for profit, one business, one Calgarian at a time.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) is now Sponsor Energy’s newest Community Partner; this partnership allows a consumer with Sponsor Energy, someone like you, to choose CHF as its recipient charity of choice when they power their home.

“The concept of harnessing a commodity that everyone needs to use daily in order to empower our communities is brilliant,” says Diana Krecsy, President & CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation. “We are incredibly grateful to Sponsor Energy for their partnership with us and we are looking forward to what this partnership can bring to those experiencing homelessness in our city.”

Over the next three months, CHF and Sponsor Energy are hoping to inspire 250 homes and five businesses in Calgary to make the switch, while selecting CHF as their charity of choice. For the length of the three month campaign, 100% of the profits from the energy consumption from those who have switched over, is donated to CHF. 50% of the profits post-campaign are donated each month after that for the entire duration of the consumers contract.

“It’s never too late to incorporate what matters,” says Carolyn Martin, CEO of Sponsor Energy. “You can always integrate having an impact on your world and on your community, into your life. Our newest partnerships gives our consumers the power to house those experiencing homelessness.”

You can make the switch. Turning on your lights can transform into a home for someone else. It’s as simple as reaching out and asking how. Be a part of ending homelessness in Calgary.

Click here to sign up today!

For more information, and those who are interested in donating to CHF through the Sponsor Energy partnership are encouraged to contact Ben Crews, Manager, Development at the Calgary Homeless Foundation for more information.

Ben Crews
Manager, Development
Calgary Homeless Foundation

Our Position on the National Housing Strategy


The Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) supports a National Housing Strategy and is grateful for the opportunity to provide input. We strongly believe that for the Strategy to be an effective tool to further the vision of ending homelessness, it needs to provide specific measures to address the specialized needs for housing with supports for vulnerable and homeless citizens, including Indigenous peoples.

The development of a National Housing Strategy will have a positive and lasting impact on our collective vision of ending homelessness in Calgary. As a community, Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness: People First in Housing First, identifies the need to address the current gap for 15,600 Calgarian households in extreme core housing need. We are pleased the government is taking action. We encourage our community partners to join the conversation share this with your social networks and participate in the survey and/or submit a written response by October 21, 2016. For more information please see our six recommendations for inclusion into the National Housing Strategy and our Key Supporting Statistics.

A highlight of our recommendations are listed below:

CHF supports a National Housing Strategy that will deliver safe, suitable and secure housing to every Canadian.

  • All Canadians deserve a decent place to live.
  • Canada is significantly behind in comparison to other OECD countries in providing social housing.
  • The National Housing Strategy (Strategy) should protect, preserve and improve existing low-income/social housing stock and build capacity in the non-profit housing sector to deepen financial sustainability, asset management and renewal.
  • Provide tax incentives for the creation of new rental stock.
  • The Strategy needs to guarantee access to affordable housing appropriate for low income, vulnerable populations and Indigenous Peoples, especially in major urban centres where evidence shows greater prevalence of homelessness.

A National Housing Strategy must specifically address the specialized needs of Canadians experiencing homelessness and strengthen the vision of ending homelessness in Canada.

  • The Strategy must link housing for Canadians exiting homelessness with the adequate and appropriate supports required for this population to remain stably housed and integrated into community.
  • Studies show that there are significant cost savings associated with the provision of housing with supports for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Funding for programs that provide housing first supports specific to Canadians experiencing homelessness, should be increased to provide real and possible advancement towards ending homelessness.
  • The Strategy must safeguard the economic, social and cultural rights of vulnerable populations, including Indigenous Peoples.
  • The Strategy needs to address the gap for the over 1.5 million Canadian households in core housing need.
    • There are approximately 15,600 households in Calgary in extreme core housing need.

Public Social Expenditure must increase to ensure cycles of poverty and homelessness are not repeated, especially for vulnerable Canadians.

  • Greater public social expenditure on anti-poverty initiatives, including housing and income assistance can strengthen Canada’s social welfare system and help prevent and reduce homelessness.

Please take 10 minutes to fill out the survey, share this with your social networks and encourage everyone to include their voice in the conversation.  The online survey is open to the public until October 21, 2016. More details can be found HERE.

To view our six recommendations for inclusion into the National Housing Policy, click here to download our brief.

Click here to read a blog post written by Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Director of Research and Data, Nick Falvo, on ten things to know about Canada and our National Housing Strategy.

By Nick Falvo, Ph.D, Director, Research and Data, Calgary Homeless Foundation

Canada’s federal government has begun national consultations on the development of a “national housing strategy.” The government is expected to release a report on November 22, which is also National Housing Day.  The consultation web site is called “Let’s Talk Housing.” It includes the consultation’s stated vision, principles, themes, intended outcomes and key dates.

Here are 10 things to know:

  1. In Canada, social expenditure by government—measured as a percentage of GDP—is considerably less than the OECD average. According to OECD figures, Canada’s total public social expenditure is approximately 17% of GDP, while the OECD average is almost 22%. (To see these figures for yourself, check out the OECD web site here.)  To put this into perspective, every 1% of GDP translates into approximately $560 per Canadian per year.  Public social expenditure includes spending on social housing and social assistance (i.e. welfare, disability benefits).  A full list of items included in these OECD figures can be found here.
  1. Canada has considerably less social housing per capita than most OECD countries. The percentage of housing units in Canada that are considered social housing (i.e. government-subsidized units for low- and moderate-income households) is approximately 5%.  To put this into perspective, England’s rate is 18%, France’s is 19%, Sweden’s is 32% and the rate for the Netherlands is 34%.[1]
  1. Historically, when Canada’s federal government has led on social housing, provinces and territories have followed with spending of their own. When it comes to subsidized housing for low- and moderate-income households in Canada, the leadership role of the federal government is important.  Indeed, when the federal government has offered matching dollars for new social housing units, provincial and territorial governments have typically agreed to match that spending with funding of their own.  And at times when such federal matching funding has not been offered, provinces and territories have typically not offered funding of their own.  Put differently, the role of the federal government matters.  A recent illustration of this can be found in the evaluation of the Affordable Housing Initiative; it found that not only did provinces, territories and third parties match federal contributions, they actually exceeded federal contributions!
  1. Every year, Canada’s non-profit housing sector as a whole gets less money than the year prior to operate existing units of social housing. In other words, funding agreements are starting to expire.  In most cases, funding from government that flows to non-profit housing entities through these agreements is required in order to keep the housing maintained.  Put differently, as a lot of these agreements expire, the non-profit entity in question will be forced to ‘sell off’ some housing units. (For a quick overview of this phenomenon, see this two-minute video; for a more nuanced consideration, see this PowerPoint presentation.)[2]  It was therefore welcome news for many non-profit housing providers when this year’s federal budget announced a funding extension “for all federally administered housing co-operatives with agreements expiring between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2018.”
  1. It’s become common for senior levels of government to express public support for housing first; sometimes this talk is accompanied by funding support, sometimes it isn’t. The Harper government made frequent mention of housing first (i.e. the immediate provision of permanent housing to homeless persons) over the years, including in the 2013 throne speech.  But under the Harper government, annual federal funding for homelessness saw a steady erosion.  In fact, by the time the Harper government left office, annual federal homelessness funding (i.e. the annual value of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy) was worth just 35% of its 1999 value after adjusting for inflation.  In this year’s federal budget, the Trudeau government announced substantial (but time-limited) increases in funding for housing and homelessness.  During the “Let’s Talk Housing” consultations, advocates may want to praise the Trudeau government for increasing this funding, while also recommending that funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy be permanently restored to 1999 levels (which would raise its annual value to $349 million).
  1. Very little rental housing has been built in Canada in the past three decades; this wasn’t the case in prior decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, tens of thousands of new rental housing units were built each year across Canada.  Some of these units were owned by for-profit landlords, some by non-profit landlords.  Many involved one type of subsidy or another from senior levels of government.  All were built in partnership with the private sector.  In the 1980s, with the onset of neoliberalism, Canada’s federal government started to ‘pull back’ its assistance. (For a bit more nuance on this, see point #6 in this blog post.  And for a compelling visual representation of this historical trend, see slide #2 in this presentation.)  A positive way forward on this would be for the federal government to seriously consider implementing proposals made in this 2015 advocacy paper commissioned by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.  Among other things, the paper recommended the introduction of federal tax incentives for new units of rental housing.
  1. On a per capita basis, Alberta has approximately half the number of rental housing units as the rest of Canada. Today, Alberta has approximately 28 apartment rental units per 1,000 people.  By contrast, Canada as a whole has 54 apartment rental units per 1,000 people.  That’s a large gap between Alberta and the rest of Canada…one that has grown in the past 25 years.[3]  One likely contributing factor here has been large in-migration to Alberta over the past several decades (which makes the denominator here larger).  Another is higher incomes in Alberta, which reduce demand for rental stock (because when it comes to housing, higher-income households tend to prefer buying over renting).
  1. Relative to the rest of Canada, Alberta has very few subsidized housing units. As of 2011, Alberta was home to 10% of all Canadian households, but had just 7% of all subsidized housing units (for a visual representation of this discrepancy, see Annex figure 1 on page 8 of this report).  I think at least two factors have led to this discrepancy.  First, in years past, some Alberta governments weren’t big fans of subsidized housing for low-income households (by contrast, the current provincial government recently announced the near doubling of provincial spending on housing).  Second, as mentioned above, Alberta has experienced rapid population growth over the past several decades.  In fairness to previous Alberta governments though, between 2002 and 2013, Alberta played some ‘catch up’ to the rest of Canada in the realm of subsidized housing (for more on this, see point #5 in this blog post).
  1. Any national housing strategy should prioritize the housing needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis persons. As of 2011, approximately 13% of Canadian households were considered to be in core housing need.  By contrast, approximately 19% of all Indigenous (i.e. First Nations, Inuit and Métis) households were considered to be in core housing need.  For Inuit households, the figure is 34%.  It’s also no secret that First Nations, Inuit and Métis persons are overrepresented among persons experiencing absolute homelessness in Canada.
  1. The Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) has submitted its own brief as part of the national consultation.  It calls for increased public social expenditure, including increased spending on social housing and supportive housing specifically.  It also calls for stable and predictable funding for non-profit housing providers, the need for increased rental stock generally and the need to focus specifically on the housing needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis persons.  The CHF’s brief, and official response, can be viewed here.

[1] I’ve taken these figures from Steve Pomeroy’s May 2013 presentation titled “The fundamentals of housing policy & governance: A condensed, one-day course” taught at Carleton University.  Mr. Pomeroy’s primary data source was CECODHAS Housing Europe.

[2] Each year, there is usually some funding from senior orders of government (for example, funding available through this program) to develop new housing units, but typically not enough to make up for the loss of housing stock caused by the expiration of funding agreements that were signed decades previously.

[3] These figures are based on calculations made earlier this year by my colleague, Janice Chan.  She used rental housing figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and population statistics from Statistics Canada.

By Nick Falvo, Ph.D, Director, Research and Data, Calgary Homeless Foundation

A recent news article serves as a reminder of the crucial role that can be played by the federal government in ending homelessness.  The article in question discusses a scenario in which a Calgary man who’d been living for five years at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre was finally able to access permanent housing once he turned 65.  According to the article, reaching the age of 65 meant that the man was “now eligible for Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement, and that helped him secure a spot in the Calgary Drop-In’s affordable apartments.”

Indeed, reaching age 65 in Canada generally means a substantial ‘pay raise’ for social assistance recipients, and that’s the topic of a recent study I co-authored that was published by How Ottawa Spends, an annual publication of Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration.  The study’s other co-authors were Allan Moscovitch and David Macdonald.

The study argues—among other things—that if the age of eligibility for Old Age Security were to move from 65 to 67 (a policy which the former federal government had announced, but that the current federal government has since reversed course on) the percentage of Canadians aged 65 and 66 living in poverty would see a very substantial rise.  In the study, we estimate the rise in poverty with the help of Statistics Canada’s Social Policy Simulation Database and Model.

A lengthy blog post which provides a good summary of the study can be found here.  The study itself can be found here.


The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

To be involved with an Organization such as Vibrant Communities Calgary and the Enough for All Strategy’ has meant many things on many levels to me both in a personal level and in a professional capacity.

I have lived in Poverty for many years and at that time I did not realize the implications of what that meant on the overall Community until I became Homeless. I studied and had conversations with my many peers and colleagues and became involved in Community Engagement.  It was then I realized the deep implications that Poverty can have on individuals, families and Calgary.  When I was invited to join Poverty Talks! and learned more about the E4A strategy, I soon came to the conclusion that Poverty affects many walks of life in many different capacities.

I have attended many events in the Community relating to Poverty.

  • Many Voices: Conversations about Poverty
  • Soul of the City 14: Poverty, Perspective and the Opportunity
  • The Sliding Scale Proposal to the City of Calgary Standing Policy Committee
  • The Payday Lending Proposal to Calgary City Council regarding a Bylaw for Payday Lenders not to gain a Business License within 400 metres from other Lenders operating in the same City Block
  • Community Conversations: Basic Needs regarding Goal 3 from the E4A
  • Payday Lending and Financial Inclusion Task Force with the City of Calgary

I have also participated and worked with the Client Action Committee of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

  • The Longest Night of the Year – The first Celebration of Life and Memorial for those in our Community who have passed while Homeless and/or living on the Streets. Interviewed with Global Calgary in regards to this event
  • The Homeless Vote – Mock Election for the Homeless in Calgary to exercise their voice in the October Federal election. With the initiative, the first ever Polling Station was set-up in a Homeless Shelter in Canada
  • I have been selected as a Keynote Speaker at the upcoming 7 cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness in May of 2016

I also served on the Payday Lending and Financial Inclusion Task Force mandated by the Mayor and City Council.

  1. Work with other levels of governments, agencies and organizations to develop recommendations to protect financially vulnerable from payday lending practices
  2. Influence financial institutions to re-engage low income earners with the ability to access short term small loans, and financial counselling

There are 12 people on the task force including 3 credit unions, VCC, Momentum, Sunrise Community Link, CUPS as well as someone who represents the payday lenders. The challenge was to find some common ground and develop recommendations that will help people who find themselves in need of short term, small loans.  This work is vitally important to Calgary so all in our Community can have a greater Quality of Life for ourselves, our children and Grandchildren.

As of last year in the spring, I have taken courses in Non Profit Management at Mount Royal University and I am also taking the ‘Working with Homeless Population’ at the University of CalgaryA joint collaboration with the Faculty of Social Work and The Calgary Homeless Foundation.  Shortly I am going to apply to take a Social Work Diploma at Bow Valley College.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness is having its fourth annual national conference in November and as such I have applied for a Lived Experienced Scholarship to attend.

In conclusion, I am a driven woman, impassioned by the belief that Homelessness and Poverty will end or at least be significantly reduced in our great City.  I will be there to see this happen.

Favorite Quote:

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one” Mr. Spock – The Wrath of Khan

*Submitted and written by a grateful member of the Client Action Committee.

By:  Nick Falvo, Ph.D., Director, Research and Data, CHF

From time to time, voluntary sector leaders—and advocates in general—come up with ideas for new spending and new social programs.  When they do this, they often focus too much on influencing elected officials, and too little on influencing senior public servants.  What’s more, it’s important that their proposals be supported by good research, in part because exaggerated claims about the benefits of their proposals may hurt them in the end.  With all of this in mind, here are 10 things to know about central agencies in Canada.

  1.  Even after a minister tells you they support your idea, there will often be further government approvals required.[1] At the federal level, this process is run by three central agencies; they are Privy Council Office (PCO), Finance Canada and Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS). Their respective roles will be discussed below. There are broadly similar functions for provincial and territorial governments (but details may vary).
  2.  For your idea to become a new program, cabinet will need to give “policy authority” and PCO supports this cabinet decision-making process. PCO coordinates the meetings of cabinet and cabinet committees, provides advice to the prime minister on cabinet business and briefs the chair of committees on agenda items. During this process, PCO analysts play a “challenge function role” (this will be a recurring theme), meaning they critically assess and examine proposals as they come forward. Questions that might get asked by PCO officials in Ottawa include: Is this an area of federal jurisdiction?  Does this initiative have intergovernmental implications?  Have you consulted on this with other departments within the federal government? (If no such consultation has taken place, PCO officials will coordinate a meeting among staff from various federal departments.)  PCO officials might call into question the rationale or evidence used to support the proposal and if a similar program exists elsewhere, PCO officials will point this out.  PCO will also ensure that the political implications are spelled out.
  3.  Once you have policy authority from cabinet, a new program will still need budgetary approval through Finance if it involves new money. Finance provides funding authority or a “source of funds” for new proposals through the budget process. Departments and Ministers generally make a request to the Minister of Finance and it gets assessed by public servants in the Department of Finance, who also play a challenge function. The underlying question asked by Finance officials is “Does this initiative really require new money?” My sources in Ottawa have three unofficial mottos that Finance officials can almost always be expected to say.  The first is “How much will that cost?” The second is “Why can’t you do that from your existing budgetary allotment?” And the third is “No” (hopefully, the last one is not so consistent).  It’s also important to note that the budget process doesn’t just assess the merit of spending money on your idea on a yes-or-no basis, but also the comparative merit of different proposals. You’re competing against other ideas for scarce resources.  Finance officials are suspicious of lofty promises that a proposal will save large sums of money somewhere else; they hear this often.  If the proposal has the potential to save money elsewhere, be prepared to demonstrate this with precision and nuance.
  4.  Treasury Board, a committee of cabinet, provides implementation authority for proposals and this approval process gets into the details of how the program will be run. Cabinet policy authority is sometimes thought of as “agreement in principle”, while Treasury Board is where the details get discussed. TBS officials play a challenge function that is focused on how the proposal will be implemented rather than challenging the basic idea. They will want to know the risks inherent in the proposed initiative and how they are addressed. They’ll also want to know if the proposal is compliant with other federal policies and they’ll want to know if the details of the proposal are logistically sound and realistic.  For example, if a complex program is proposed with a plan for three staff persons to run it, TBS officials will call this into question.  In Ottawa these days, treasury board officials are also very focused on the measurement of outcomes.
  5.  There is typically some overlap between what the different central agencies do. For example, in Ottawa, PCO officials might ask how results for a new program might be measured (even though that’s more typically thought of as a question asked by TBS officials). Likewise, PCO officials might also scrutinize a cost-benefit analysis that is supporting a pitch (even though similar scrutiny might be provided by finance officials). And the central agencies work closely together.
  6.  At the end of the day, if cabinet really wants a new program or new spending, central agencies won’t stop the initiative. An inherent principle underlying representative, executive government is that ministers are ultimately the decision-makers. Public servants, meanwhile, operate with the principle of “fearless advice, faithful implementation.”
  7.   In Ottawa, even the Minister typically has to wait until Budget Day to know if each proposal has been accepted. That’s because the final decision on every budget item is made between the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, and their decision is usually kept secret—even from the rest of cabinet—until the budget is released. (In Ottawa, proposals for a new program or new spending are typically made months before.)
  8.  A key take-away from all of this is that, when voluntary sector organizations advocate for a new program or new spending, they should think about both elected officials and senior public servants. Indeed, it’s important to engage senior public servants early and often. If an elected official likes your proposal, do not assume that members of the senior public service won’t eventually give it the third degree.  Ideally, as many senior public servants as possible should hear about your proposal directly from your organization before it arrives to them via official channels.
  9.  New proposals should be supported by sound research. Just because an elected official doesn’t scrutinize your cost-benefit analysis or your long-term savings calculations, doesn’t mean senior public servants won’t. Staff in both central agencies and line departments will appreciate intellectually honest analysis, the humble presentation of information and well-referenced propositions. The challenge function at the central agencies will involve dozens of very smart people reviewing and assessing the proposal; your proposal (sponsored by the department and minister) will stand up much better if it has a strong problem definition (a.k.a. the rationale for why action is needed) and recommendations supported by evidence.
  10.  Exaggerated claims about your proposal will probably burn you in the end. Consider a statement such as: “This proposed program will revolutionize this sector because nothing this great has ever been done before.” That might get you traction in the media and with some elected officials; but always consider the roles of central agencies discussed above. Senior public servants have heard such statements before and will likely scrutinize every aspect of such a claim.

The author wishes to thank Francesco Falvo, Louise Gallagher, Darcy Halber, Kayle Hatt, Alex Himelfarb, Kevin McNichol, Michael Mendelson, Leslie Pal, John Stapleton, Katherine White and one anonymous reviewer for invaluable assistance with this.  Any errors are his.   [Author:  Nick Falvo, Ph.D., Director, Research and Data, Calgary Homeless Foundation]

[1] An important exception is in the case where your idea happens to be within the minister’s existing authority and, more importantly, within the existing department/ministry budget and not especially politically contentious.