Where once an old and tired rooming house stood, a shiny new apartment building has risen from the ground. It is 4 stories tall. It is made of brick and mortar and steel and the hard labour of many. It is elegant, calm and welcoming.

It is Stepping Stone Manor, a new 30 unit permanent supportive housing project about to open in the Beltline area. It is also about to become the home for 30 individuals for whom homelessness has been their stark reality for far too long.

Living in homelessness is not an easy path. Whether sleeping on a mat in a shelter, or camping rough in parks or along the riverbank, homelessness takes a toll on the resiliency and capacity of those experiencing it to believe they can create positive change in their life. The longer one remains in homelessness, the harder it is to imagine ever moving beyond it. That’s why Stepping Stone Manor and the other 8 – 10 buildings CHF will be spear-heading construction on through their involvement in the RESOLVE Campaign are so important. Each building, each individual unit, represents the way home for those who have lost their way in homelessness.

“I know I’m in a home because I’m standing here in stocking feet,” says Diana Krecsy, President & CEO of Calgary Homeless Foundation in her opening remarks at the ‘sneak-a-peak’ tour of soon to be occupied Stepping Stone Manor. “I wouldn’t walk into anyone’s home with my shoes on, and it’s no different here. This will soon be home for someone who has probably given up hope of ever having a home again,” she tells the 20 or so home builders, government representatives, key donors and media who have come out to get a look at Stepping Stone Manor before finishing touches are completed and tenants move in.

Stepping Stone Manor is the first ‘purpose-built’ apartment building to be completed as part of CHF’s goal to build 8 – 10 permanent supportive living apartment buildings through the RESOLVE Campaign, a first of its kind in Canada capital campaign comprised of nine not-for-profit agencies who have joined forces to raise $120 million to create homes for 3,000 vulnerable Calgarians.

Funding for the 30 unit Stepping Stone Manor came from the Government of Alberta (70%) and Cedarglen Living Inc. (30%). Cedarglen Living is one of 11 Calgary homebuilders who have pledged $15.4 million to build a series of apartment buildings to house 3,000 vulnerable Calgarians at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Many other donors such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, pba land & development and The Surveillance Shop made Stepping Stone Manor possible.

“The generosity of Calgarians inspires our work to end homelessness in Calgary every day,” says Sharon deBoer, Director, Development at CHF. “They remind us through their contributions of time, talents and resources that we are not alone in wanting to improve the quality of life for homeless Calgarians and they bring meaning to our vision — Together, we will end homelessness. With their support, and the support of so many others, we will make it happen.”

For more information please click the links below:

Stepping Stone Manor.

RESOLVE Campaign


By: Nick Falvo, PhD                                                              

Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff has written a new book titled Working with Homeless and Vulnerable People:  Basic Skills and Practice.   I’m proud to call Jeannette a friend and colleague, but I’ve agreed to write a critical reflection of the book.

This is a ‘must read’ for anyone in North America wanting to do front-line work in the homeless-serving sector.  This book covers a vast array of topics, which is a huge undertaking for one person.  I’m especially impressed that the book is written for audiences in both Canada and the United States.  Few authors have the background to understand both contexts.

I spent 10 years doing front-line work with homeless persons in Toronto.  I had virtually no ‘social work’ education at the time and learned ‘on the job.’ I wish I’d read this book before taking on that work.

Here are ten things to know about this book:


  1. The idea for this book was conceived when its author was involved in starting a course for workers in Calgary’s homeless-serving sector. That course is now taught at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work, in partnership with the Calgary Homeless Foundation (my employer). This course is still going strong today; more information on it can be found on it here.


  1. Chapter 3, which focuses on homelessness and health, is very strong. The book’s chapter on health is both comprehensive and nuanced. It discusses high mortality rates among the homeless, the impact of stressful life events and common physical health problems among homeless persons.  I like that Table 3.4 (p. 66) contrasts the needs people have when ill with the realities of conditions in a homeless shelter.  My only disappointment about this chapter is that it didn’t discuss the Street Health Report 2007, one of the most comprehensive health reports even written about homeless persons. (Full disclosure:  I worked at Street Health when that report was written and helped with the report’s preparation.)


  1. The book says very important things about ‘burnout prevention.’ I saw a lot of burnout in the homeless-serving sector; and in retrospect, I think 10 years was too long for me to stay on the ‘front lines.’ In Chapter 3, I like that workers are encouraged to ‘say no.’ The same chapter also encourages regular exercise.  And Appendix 2 even features a survey instrument that helps workers gauge the extent to which they may suffer compassion fatigue and burnout.  (I personally think the same chapter should have also singled out the importance of doing yoga, but I’m hugely biased on this front: not only do I do yoga several times a week, but my partner is a yoga instructor!)


  1. You can always count on Jeannette to deliver a thoughtful, historically-grounded consideration of housing first; and in this book, she doesn’t disappoint. Jeannette knows more about housing first than anyone I know, having previously worked as Director of Research at Pathways to Housing in New York City. If you want to know more about housing first, read Chapter 6 of this book!


  1. Chapter 5 skillfully distinguishes which level of government handles which area of social policy that’s relevant to homelessness. It also makes the distinction between Canada and the United States. Many authors would shy away from trying to cover the social welfare systems of two different countries, but the author’s work experience in both countries allows her to do this.


  1. Not every approach offered in this book will appeal to every worker. When I worked with homeless people, my co-workers and I worked with smokers the way we did anybody else; often, we joined them. Chapter 2 of this book—which is available free of charge online here— offers an approach to working with smokers that I would not choose myself.  The reader is encouraged to ‘explore the positive’ by asking “When do you most enjoy smoking?  Can you think of other ways in which you could have the same pleasant feeling” (p. 44).  And if that approach doesn’t work, the reader is encouraged to ‘explore the negative’ by asking: “What comes to your mind when you think about an unpleasant part of smoking?  Have you thought about how to deal with these unpleasant parts?  Is quitting the only way” (p. 44)?  Many public health officials will thank the author for this section; but I suspect some homeless persons would find the above line of questioning a bit condescending.  Likewise, Chapter 5 encourages the use of something called a genogram—i.e. a family tree for the homeless person.  By sketching it out, the notion is that the worker will be able to better “understand the many different people that are part of the client’s life…”(p. 149).  Again, when I was a worker in the homeless-serving sector, I would not have opted for this approach.  Admittedly though, every homeless person and every worker is different; if a client and their worker mutually agree that such a map is helpful, I shouldn’t judge.


  1. Chapter 7’s discussion of mental health has some solid content, but misses a great opportunity to discuss the need for workers to advocate with clients vis-à-vis psychiatrists. I spent seven years working as a mental health outreach worker with homeless persons in Toronto. While I don’t think my work gave me a complete view of the mental health system, I was often struck by how little psychiatrists liked to talk to my clients (i.e. their patients) about the adverse side effects of psychotropic medication.  The book ignores this problem.  I wish it had drawn on this excellent book by Dr. David Healy.  I also wish it had discussed some the excellent self-help initiatives that exist in Canada, including the Empowerment Council and Toronto-based Sound Times.


  1. The book’s treatment of politics and public policy could have been a bit stronger. I’m disappointed the book didn’t discuss neoliberalism, which I personally think helps explain rising homelessness across North America in the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve previously discussed the way this played out in Toronto hereMuch smaller point:  the book perpetuates the myth that Canada is “the only G-8 country without a national housing policy” (p. 166).  Regrettably, most G8 countries lack a national housing strategy.  (For more on how Canadian housing policy stacks up against housing policies in other affluent countries, see this 2009 report by Greg Suttor.)


  1. I’m disappointed the book doesn’t give more attention to harm reduction. Chapter 8 focuses on addictions and does discuss harm reduction (an approach to practice that helps reduce the harms associated with drug and alcohol use while not necessarily requiring complete abstinence); but it devotes just half a page to this topic. Material the chapter could have had drawn on to enhance this section of Chapter 8 include: this resource, which was designed specifically for social workers; this training manual designed for frontline staff; and this report on a successful Calgary-based harm reduction program run by Alpha House (an organization whose work I admire very much and that receives funding from the Calgary Homeless Foundation).


  1. The book doesn’t talk about unions; I think it should. Many workers in the homeless-serving sector receive low wages, few (if any) benefits and little job security. Unions have the potential to change this.  Considering the book’s focus on self-care and burnout prevention, I’m surprised it didn’t discuss the important role that unions can play in improving working conditions (for more on the potential benefits of being in a union, see this 2014 report by the Parkland Institute).  Some Executive Directors will be grateful for this omission; union organizers, not so much.


Despite the shortcomings identified above, I wish to emphasize that this book is a ‘must read.’


Version française: Dix choses à savoir à propos d’un nouveau livre écrit par Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff



We all know that feeling. That hunker down, close your eyes against the snow, don’t breathe in too deeply or you’ll cough from the cold kind of feeling. Winter in Calgary. We boast that we’re tough, that we can withstand anything. We are, after all, Albertans. Forged in cold weather and an unpredictable mother nature.

Seven months out of the year, we bundle up, running as quickly as possible from one warm building to another, spending as little time as possible outside in the frigid Calgary weather. We run from our warm car, into our warm office building, back into our warm car and then scurry from the driveway into our warm home. The next day dawns, bright and chilly as ever and we repeat, asking ourselves when we’re due for another Chinook.

Tough right?

Or not.

There are those who endure the Calgary winter very differently. Those who line up at shelter doors in sub-zero weather, waiting to get in and claim their sleeping mat for the evening. Who wake up at 530am after very little sleep, get in line for showers with multiple others and very limited privacy. Those who truly walk the streets in Calgary winter, with perhaps a door frame to shield them from the wind and the occasional time they have enough funds to purchase a coffee to allow them a brief reprieve indoors. There are those with small children, hoping against hope that the donated winter clothing their little ones are wearing is enough to keep out the cold.

These are the Calgarians, those experiencing homelessness, that feel the true sting of our winters.

On February 20th, over 470 Calgarians will walk to raise funds for those truly subjected to our city’s winters. The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) is Canada’s National Walk for Homelessness, a walk that raises funds for Canadian charities and projects who serve the thousands of Canadians experiencing homelessness. Each city hosts their own walk; Calgary’s Coldest Night walk will raise funds for three local projects: Acadia Place, Feed the Hungry and the Mustard Seed. So far in Calgary 88 teams, 1045 donors and 92 volunteers have come together to raise $125,000. While there is still work to be done, this incredible achievement is proof that, even in tough economic times, Calgarians will take a stand for its most vulnerable citizens.

KAIROS Calgary, a national organization that unites 130 congregations from eight Christian-based denominations that helps those in need, has been the foundational support behind the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s (CHF’s) Acadia Place, a 58 unit apartment complex that provides affordable housing for families at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. Larry Pearce has been a member of KAIROS since 2007 and has seen the Acadia Place project grow since its original purchase by CHF in 2009. KAIROS Calgary’s goal is to fundraise enough to retire the mortgage on Acadia Place.

In support of Acadia Place and The Coldest Night of the Year, Larry will be walking for his third year in a row. “The thing about getting together with a group and seeing the companionship and energy of others on the team…you really get the feeling of being together and doing something important. Having three to four hundred people out doing the walk for the same cause is incredible and exciting. There is something special about all these people coming together to do this walk. This biggest thing is that you know what the funds are being raised for and the impact it can have. Raising funds for affordable housing is so important…having a safe, warm place for children has a huge impact on families.”

Larry will walk with a team that has fundraised in order to be a part of CNOY. One member in particular is eleven years old and has already raised over $1,000 himself alone by borrowing his grandmothers email list and kindly reminding her friends of those out there suffering Calgary’s winter on the streets. “This young walker has a built in concern about others. When his parents were volunteering in shelters, he would sit down and chat with all the people staying there. He sees people, not their situation.”

Many of us could stand to learn a thing or two from this young philanthropist.  

The Coldest Night of the Year will begin at Eau Claire Market at 5pm on the evening of Saturday, February 20th, where hundreds of Calgarians will zip up their parkas and tough out Calgary’s winter in support of the fight to end homelessness in Calgary.

Will you?

For more information or to sign up a team of your own, visit https://coldestnightoftheyear.org/location/calgary.





By: Nick Falvo, 

Original post can be found here.

On February 1, I gave a guest presentation on homelessness to a graduate seminar class on housing policy taught by Steve Pomeroy at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration. The focus of my presentation was the emergence of homelessness in Canada as a pressing public policy area in the 1980s. I discussed the growth of homelessness, policy responses and advocacy. My slides from the presentation can be downloaded here.

I first got involved in the homelessness sector in 1998 when I began working at a homeless shelter as a front-line worker. All told, I spent 10 years doing front-line work with homeless persons in Toronto; most of that time was as a mental health outreach worker at Street Health. (I also wrote a report on Toronto homelessness in 2009.)

I apologize in advance for the somewhat Toronto-centric nature of the present blog post. Since much of my early experience in the homelessness sector took place in Toronto, this blog post will no doubt omit important developments that have occurred in other parts of Canada.

With the above in mind, here are 10 things to know:

  1. Between 1980 and 2000, the number of persons sleeping in Toronto homeless shelters on a nightly basis increased by 300%.This resulted in more public attention on homelessness. I also think it helped lead to more public resources being channeled to homelessness.
  1. I think six main factors led to that increase in homelessness.During the time period being considered: 1) there were two deep recessions that led to double-digit unemployment levels across Canada; 2) the percentage of unemployed Canadians who qualified for unemployment insurance benefits fell significantly; 3) many Canadian provinces reduced the generosity (I use the term loosely) of their social assistance programs; 4) for-profit developers essentially stopped building rental housing; 5) senior levels of government stopped devoting substantial amounts of funding to the creation of new affordable housing units; and 6) rental vacancy rates dipped to very low levels. I would argue that all of these factors created the ‘perfect storm’ for rising homelessness.
  1. As homelessness grew in Toronto, supportive housing became a popular program response. By supportive housing, I mean government-subsidized, permanent housing for low-income persons, combined with ‘social work’ support to help the tenant maintain their tenancy. (For more on supportive housing, see this report.) In many cases, the homeless person receiving the housing did not have to prove their ‘housing readiness’ in order to receive the housing.
  1. Beginning in 2005, there emerged a lot of talk in Canada about something called housing first. For the purpose of the present blog post, I’ll define housing first as the practice of providing a homeless person with immediate access to permanent housing (rather than requiring that the person prove themselves ‘ready for housing’ before receiving it). I would argue that, at least in Toronto, housing first began in the 1980s with the introduction of supportive housing. In fact, Homes First Society, which started offering supportive housing in Toronto in the early 1980s, was named for precisely the same reason as housing first—its founders believed that people needed homes first before they could work on other challenges (e.g. employment, health problems, etc.). That said, I think the beginning of Streets to Homes (a large housing first program in Toronto) in 2005 ultimately encouraged officials across Canada to be more forthcoming than previously in terms of providing permanent housing to homeless persons without requiring ‘housing readiness.’
  1. The use of the term housing first is confusing. I think that’s because, by definition, it refers to the method by which program administrators determine when a homeless person should receive permanent housing. Yet, because it appeals to persons on the left and right of the political spectrum, it’s become a popular catchphrase. For example, the term appears 118 times in the federal government’s 2014-2019 directive for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy. I suspect the federal government uses the term so frequently in that directive largely because of the term’s popularity.
  1. The same federal department that mentions housing first 118 times in one document also administers federal funding for homelessness that today (on an annual basis) is worth just 35% of what it was in 1999. Last November, I wrote that annual federal funding for homelessness today is worth considerably less than it was in 1999. Indeed, I wrote that, in order for such funding to be restored to 1999 levels, the federal government would have to increase its annual funding for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy from $119 million to $343 million.
  1. Beginning in approximately 2005,[1] there was a shift in terms of who was dominating the public advocacy debate on homelessness in Canada. I think that many of the people who’d previously been strong advocates for the homeless on a national level started to ‘run out of gas’ (not to mention resources). Meanwhile, a new crop of advocates started to emerge. Suddenly, the most vocal advocates were more ‘glass half full’ than their predecessors. A key—often implicit—argument of the new generation of advocates was that public resources for the homeless had been mismanaged in the past and that, if they were better managed going forward, we would see major reductions in homelessness (possibly without a great deal more public spending). I’ve come to know key players in both the pre-2005 and post-2005 camps and have great admiration for their tenacity and integrity. I also think that each approach has its strengths.
  1. I think a strength of the pre-2005 ‘glass half empty’ approach was its brutal honesty. Many would argue that an honest, meaningful discussion about homelessness must include a strong focus on high mortality rates among persons experiencing homelessness; and you could always count on the pre-2005 advocates to raise this topic loudly. Moreover, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee’s call for senior levels of government to double annual spending on affordable housing, in my opinion, would have been good public policy.
  1. I think a strength of the post-2005 ‘glass half full’ approach is that it often presents as non-threatening to public officials. I find that adherents of this approach like to publicly applaud announcements and long-term goals that have the potential to reduce homelessness, even when such moves aren’t accompanied by new funding. Indeed, incremental moves by government are publicly applauded. The success of the aforementioned housing first approach is often offered as proof that methods of responding to homelessness have indeed improved over the years. I would argue that one key organization that embodies this ‘glass half full’ approach is the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
  1. There’s no inherent reason why both approaches can’t co-exist and complement each other. I think the ‘glass half empty’ advocates can create space for the ‘glass half full’ advocates. A colleague of mine refers to the former as “outsiders”—they’re typically outside the offices of elected officials and senior government staff. The same colleague refers to the latter as “insiders”—they’re very often meeting inside the offices of elected officials and government staff. In short, I think there’s room both inside and outside the offices of decision-makers for important conversations about homelessness.

[1] I’ve somewhat arbitrarily chosen 2005, as that’s the year that the City of Toronto introduced its Streets to Homes program.


A blog by Nick Falvo


CHF was pleased to attend an Eagle Spirit Survivor Street Celebration lunch on January 20, 2016. The Eagle Spirit Survivor Street Celebration lunches are organized every two weeks at the Community Wise Centre in Calgary.

The lunch welcomes the Calgary community to get-together, enjoy a hot meal and catch-up. In partnership with The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary (AFCC), the Eagle Spirit Survivor Street Celebration lunches begin with an opening prayer and Smudge.

The lunch events could not be possible without the amazing volunteers. Susan, Toni, Shandi, Samantha, Sheldon and Joyce offer warm smiles as they prepare, cook and serve the delicious lunches.

AFCC, one of CHF’s partnering agencies, provides social, cultural, education and employment services to the Aboriginal peoples withing the Calgary Metropolitan area.

Everyone is welcome to attend the next Eagle Spirit Survivor Street Celebration lunch on February 17, 2016 at the Community Wise Centre (223 12 Ave S.W.) from 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. If you are interested in volunteering, drumming and/or singing, please e-mail Shandi or call her at 403-270-7379 ext. 231.

 Eagle Spirit Street Survivors Group Luncheon 02 17 20162

Homelessness is defined as “those who do not have a permanent residence to which they can return whenever they so choose.”

Due to a lack of affordable housing In Calgary there are an estimated 3,500 individuals who live in that defined place called homelessness in our city.

The late Mr. Arthur R. Smith, entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist, founded the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) in 1998 to create a unified front to reduce homelessness in Calgary. In 2008, CHF and other homeless-serving sector agencies and community partners launched the Plan to End Homelessness, following year over year increases in Calgary’s homeless count. The Plan saw the provincial government and community partners focus on providing direct supportive housing and programs to the chronically homeless with the knowledge that a lack of affordable housing impedes individuals’ and families’ ability to find and sustain housing in Calgary. Because of those efforts, almost 7,000 people have been provided with permanent housing with supports, there has been a 15% decrease in homelessness in Calgary per 100,000 population and 895 housing placements were made, funded by CHF, through community agencies last year alone.

While great strides have been made, there is still much to do and we couldn’t do it without the supports of our community. In 2015 the Alberta Lottery Fund stepped up to the plate to support two essential positions within CHF in its mission to end homelessness.  These positions, The Manager of Acquisitions and Development and the Manager of Communications, align with the strategy outlined in the Plan to End Homelessness and have been essential to the goal of helping individuals find housing with supports. Without the support of the Alberta Lottery Fund for both positions, the Calgary Homeless Foundation would struggle to build the necessary relationships and housing units in the community required to make more affordable housing a possibility.

Both of these roles focus on community engagement as well as the building process. CHF prides itself on being a good landlord and neighbour and much of that depends on the relationship built during the consultation process. The individuals in these positions work with community associations to ensure that architectural guidelines of the community are met and that a Good Neighbourhood Agreement is put in place.

Matt Vermunt is the Manager of Acquisitions and Development at the Calgary Homeless Foundation. “My role contributes to ending homelessness in Calgary through the acquisition of developable land and then guiding these sites through the community consultation, regulatory and approval process. Through the CHF’s RESOLVE partnership, these projects are then paired with a local home builder acting as construction manager and, together with the CHF’s development team, work to provide purpose built, permanent supportive housing units.”  Matt’s overall role at CHF is to lead the development of 8-10 projects providing a total of 240 permanent supportive housing units to house some of Calgary’s most vulnerable. Without this role, there would be many Calgarians still without a home today.

Many thanks to the Alberta Lottery Fund, through the Community Initiatives Program Operating Grant, for their generous donation and for their contribution to roles that are essential to helping us end homelessness through affordable housing.

For more information on the RESOLVE Campaign please visit www.resolvecampaign.com.

Thank you to all that attended the Longest Night of the Year on December 21, 2015. The memorial service was open to every Calgarian and allowed them to share their light and silence in memory of those who have lost their lives while experiencing homelessness in our city.

As we gathered, we stood in silence to remember those we have lost who have walked the streets, slept in alleyways or spent time in a shelter. We remembered our loved ones that have passed and recognized their place forever in our hearts. We stood together and said with our silence that these people mattered.

Brothers, sisters, friends, partners. We will not forget you.

*Above is the list of names of people who have died while experiencing homelessness in Calgary, written down by people in our community. If you have lost someone and would like their name added to this list, please contact Darcy at darcyh@calgaryhomeless.com

We are pleased to announce that Calgary will be hosting the 7 cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness this year.

This is an opportunity for the homeless serving sector to come together to learn, share, create dialogue, and collaboratively focus our efforts on ending homelessness in our local communities and the province of Alberta. 

We look forward to working with you to create a conference that will benefit our sector, the people we serve and our province.

Please note that registration will open Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Alberta’s 7 cities on Housing and Homelessness are the lead organizations responsible for the implementation of local Plans to End Homelessness, working together since 2001. The 7 cities coordinate local plans at a systems level and align funding resources for greater impact and progress towards ending homelessness. You can read more about Alberta’s 7 cities on Housing and Homelessness by clicking here.


The 7 cities are:

Calgary Homeless Foundation

City of Grande Prairie

City of Lethbridge

Homeward Trust Edmonton

Medicine Hat Community Housing Society

City of Red Deer

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo​


Thank you for your support!


February 20th brings the Coldest Night once again to Calgary.

A partnership of charities aiding individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty is encouraging Calgary residents to bundle up and raise cold, hard cash for The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY).

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary (Feed the Hungry), KAIROS Calgary (Acadia Place) and The Mustard Seed are hosting the third annual family-friendly winter fundraising event for Calgarians experiencing homelessness, hunger and hurt. The WALK takes place on the evening of Saturday, February 20, 2016.

Thousands of participants will be taking part in the WALK in an anticipated 100 cities across Canada. By walking together in the chill of the night, participants will better understand the experience of being on the streets during a cold Canadian winter, while raising funds to aid the work of these three partner charities in providing much-needed support to members of our community.

Calgary’s CNOY event begins and ends at Eau Claire Market, located at 200 Barclay Parade SW, where walkers will register, turn in the results of their fundraising efforts, and return at the end of the evening for a warm celebration meal. Donning iconic blue toques, participants will walk a 2km, 5km or 10km route, and will warm up with toasty drinks at rest stops along the way.

This is Calgary’s third year taking part in CNOY, and the Diocese and KAIROS Calgary are honoured to have The Mustard Seed join their partnership. The Calgary Homeless Foundation is also taking part in this event.

Calgary organizers are aiming to raise $150,000 in support of people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Calgary. As many as 600 walkers and 75 teams, including staff and friends of the organizing partners are expected to brave the cold winter’s night. Community sponsors include The Print Shop, Eau Claire Market, and the Calgary Curling Club.

Together, the three partner agencies have been serving Calgary for over 100 years, and the funds raised from CNOY will benefit their clients in a time of year known historically for low levels of giving. To find out more visit www.coldestnightoftheyear.org/calgary



For further information, contact:

Samantha Jones, Events Manager, Diocese

E: samantha.jones@calgarydiocese.ca   P: 1-403-218-5531



For National Event information, contact:

Brian Carney, Executive Director

E: brian@blueseaphilanthropy.org   P: 1-519-603-2250


By: Louise Gallagher

We gathered in the early evening darkness, the city a constant hum of traffic on the streets surrounding us.

We gathered and we held our tiny flickering candle lights and listened to the sounds and stood in the silence. Remembering.

We remembered. People who have walked the streets, stood on corners and asked for change and slept in alleyways and city parks or a mat on the floor in a shelter.

We remembered. The laughter and the tears. The good times and the bad.

We remembered. The friendship. The camaraderie. The stories told and those not shared.

We remembered. Moments we shared. Moments we knew about. And the stories we never knew of where they’d been before. Of where they’d come from before this thing called ‘homeless’ hit. And as we remembered, as we carried the light in the darkness, the city moved around us, a sibilant, hissing stream of traffic carrying people to and from the places they needed to be, wanted to go, had to get to.

And we stood surrounded by tall buildings looming in the dark, their windows lit, lights glistening. And our voices called out the names of those we’d lost. Our voices spoke their names into the night and for a moment, their names lit up the darkness and in the stillness between each breath, hearts beat in time, candles glowed and we were one.

Last night, we held the first Longest Night of the Year, a memorial service for those who have passed away in homelessness. About 50 people gathered in a downtown city park to stand together and speak the names of those they knew who had passed away and to write their names on a large framed poster and to tell stories of the ones we miss.

One woman came to the mic and spoke of her brother whom she lost to the streets several years ago. They had lived together on the streets back then. It was not a good life. She spoke of gang wars and drugs and fighting and hurting people and lashing out at those who passed by who never saw her, who didn’t know her name but who still chose to call her names and mock her and her brother for their baggy clothes and angry ways. She didn’t care, back then when her brother was alive. She only cared about blocking out the pain, numbing the fear, burying her past. And then, her brother died a violent death.

We must stop the violence, she said. Stop the violence.

And she’s right. We, all of us, must. Stop the violence. We, all of us, must, end homelessness.

It was a night of remembering and a night of promising to do better. To do more to ensure we do not lose more of us to the dark. We do not lose our way completely.

Last night, we stood together so that we do not forget those who left who once walked our streets. We stood together so we do not forget they once lived amongst us. That they once laughed and joked and told stories and shared a cigarette, a last meal, a last smile.

And I wondered, what if we saw them/this differently?

What if we, the privileged ones, the ones with homes and jobs and places to go, stopped our busy just to see those who walk amongst us with no fixed address as other than ‘homeless’?

What if, we do not see them as them or ‘other than’ but as all of us? What if we took time to remember, this is our world. One planet. One earth. One home. For all of us. And we are each responsible for one another. We are all one.


To read more about the Longest Night of the Year:

Metro News: Marking a Solemn Solstice in Calgary

CTV:  Longest Night of the Year

Global News:  Homeless People who Lost their lives get Dignified Farewell