Youth experiencing homelessness in Calgary will receive an extra boost, thanks to our generous donors who supported us this summer through the program, Shaw Birdies for Kids presented by Altalink, and the initiative, Chip in for Kids.

From February to August 2021, our donors raised a total of nearly $7000 through Birdies for Kids and Chip in for Kids. Shaw Birdies for Kids is the charitable program of Shaw Charity Classic, the golf tournament, and Chip in for Kids is the text-to-donate initiative launched by the tournament in 2020 to raise funds for youth charities throughout the pandemic.

Shaw has already matched Chip in for Kids donations and will match all Birdies for Kids donations by up to 50%, increasing the impact of each contribution. We will then allocate the donations to eight youth-serving programs we fund in Calgary.

Over the past eight years, Birdies for Kids has raised over $61 million for more than 200 kids and youth-based charities in Alberta. This summer marked our first time participating in the program, and we thank Shaw Charity Classic for giving us the opportunity, and our donors for their support.

Today is of great significance, as it marks Orange Shirt Day and National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Calgary Homeless Foundation carries out its work on the traditional land of the Blackfoot Confederacy – Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, and the Treaty 7 territory, which includes T’suu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda (which is comprised of  Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley First Nations). As we guide the fight against homelessness in our city, we acknowledge the disproportionate number of individuals experiencing homelessness who come from an Indigenous background.

Any strategy designed to see Calgary win the battle against homelessness must acknowledge and respond to this reality. Our goal is to continue to build knowledge and understanding within our organization regarding the marginalization of Indigenous peoples and enhance relationships with Treaty 7 leaders, Elders, and the urban Indigenous community. In so doing, we will become more effective in guiding and aligning service providers to meet the needs of their Indigenous program participants.

In our Guiding the Fight Against Homelessness: Focus to 2025 strategic plan, we have prioritized the support for implementing an Indigenous-centric homeless-serving system of care. We will do this by promoting the reconciliation necessary to break down barriers by giving, receiving, listening, and reaching out in love.

In support of National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee has organized a program that will allow all of us to participate in a meaningful way in this reconciliation process.

If you have not done so, take time to read and commit to taking action on the 94 calls to action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, found here.

I encourage you all to join me in taking time to reflect, honour and support each other through this collective reconciliation journey.

Calgary Homeless Foundation continues to mourn, alongside our Indigenous partners and communities, the devastating finds at Canadian residential schools. We are committed to reconciliation and acknowledging the truth of the atrocities and trauma Indigenous People experience in Canada. We share in this grief and sorrow and supports the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Support is available: 

I encourage you all to join me in taking time to reflect, honour and support each other through this collective reconciliation journey.

2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness or living in precarious housing are reconnecting with family and friends, thanks to training offered by the Centre for Sexuality and funded by Calgary Homeless Foundation.

The Centre for Sexuality, a Calgary-based organization that seeks to normalize sexuality and sexual health, has begun delivering Natural Supports Training to a select number of youth-focused, homeless-serving agencies in Calgary, including Distress Centre, Children’s Cottage Society, Trellis Society, Discovery House, Calgary John Howard Society, and The Alex.

The training, funded by Calgary Homeless Foundation, teaches agencies how to foster natural supports—or the relationships between 2SLGBTQ+ youth, their friends, and families—so youth can remain housed. It includes training plan development and professional support to leadership and staff.

“For many 2SLGBTQ+ youth, experiencing rejection from their friends and family is an unfortunate reality,” says Dori Palmiere, Training Centre Team Lead at Centre for Sexuality. “Reducing these behaviours from their natural supports is critical, and often this has meant removing the youth from their natural supports to prevent ongoing rejection.”

She says the natural supports framework encourages staff to work with families in a different way. “We draw on their values and strengths to encourage connection, support, and acceptance of the 2SLGBTQ+ youth in their lives. We’re prioritizing connection as a basic need.”

Patricia Jones, President and CEO, Calgary Homeless Foundation, says, “Our work to guide the fight against homelessness is focused on ensuring that when homelessness is experienced, it is rare, brief and non-recurring—perhaps an episode in someone’s life, but never a condition that defines it,”

She adds: “By funding this training through the Centre for Sexuality, we support homeless-serving agencies in strengthening and reconnecting vulnerable 2SLGBTQ+ youth with natural supports. Together, we prevent or limit 2SLGBTQ+ youths’ experiences of homelessness, connecting them with appropriate housing and supports they need to thrive.”

So far, staff from the Distress Centre have attended the first of three training sessions. The training has been positively received. One participant says, “I liked bringing the training into my real-life work and being encouraged to reflect on the material over a period of time.”

“The reflection process has been important for me and helps keep the information front of mind,” another participant says. “I find myself integrating the principles into my work as a result.”

As of August 26, 2021, there were 101 youth, aged 24 and under, awaiting housing with supports in Calgary. Of those 101 youth, 23 have identified an interest in 2SLGBTQ+ specific supports. The Natural Supports Training is therefore a timely and necessary service for creating a positive, lasting impact on the lives of these youth.

To learn more about the Centre for Sexuality, and their work, visit: www.centreforsexuality.ca.

 

In honour of Calgary Pride Week, Calgary Homeless Foundation is shining a light on 2SLGBTQ+ youth and the agencies helping them find a home where they can feel safe and free to be themselves.

As of August 26, 2021, 101 youth, aged 24 and under, are awaiting housing with supports in Calgary. Out of those 101, 23 have identified an interest in 2SLGBTQ+ supports.

According to the 2016 study, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey,” 29.5% of youth experiencing homelessness in Canada identify as 2SLGBTQ+. The survey notes this overrepresentation is a result of homophobia and transphobia in families, schools, and communities, which make it difficult for young people to remain at home.

These unique challenges demonstrate why homeless-serving programs for 2SLGBTQ+ youth in Calgary are so important. With the support of the Government of Alberta, Calgary Homeless Foundation recognized and responded to this need, funding programs like Aura, run by Trellis Society.

The Aura program supports 2SLGBTQ+ youth, aged 14-24, who are experiencing homelessness by helping them find appropriate housing where their gender identity and sexual orientation is respected and celebrated.

We spoke with Kim Ledene (she/her), Program Director at Trellis, to find out more about the Aura program and the unique challenges that 2SLGBTQ+ youth face as they journey home.

Q&A

Can you tell us more about the need for a program like Aura in our city?

The Aura program is proud to support a caseload of 10 youth at any given time. In 2021, it has supported 14 youth to date. However, there are far more youth who could use this type of program in Calgary.

Can you tell us more about the supports offered by the Aura program?

The Aura program provides intensive, one-on-one case management as well as housing supports, with the aim of helping youth develop the life skills and the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health necessary to be independent adults.

Through case management, our team works with youth to set goals and to access systems that support their physical and mental health, including any challenges they may have with addiction. Youth also receive support in the areas of employment, education, and making cultural connections.

In addition, we connect youth with their family and friends so they have natural support networks that can assist their growth into adulthood and independence.

What impact does this program have on the lives of the youth it serves?

Youth have consistently given us the feedback that the Aura program makes them feel supported and encouraged during such a challenging time. Youth who have been supported by the program have told us:

  • “Aura has given me a reason to have hope.”
  • “The people I’ve met make me happy & feel not alone.”
  • “The openness and support of the staff, their willingness to help – whether it’s a drive somewhere to getting trans confirming gear.”

 Can you describe the unique experience of a 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness and the contributing factors?

Rejection is one of the major reasons kids leave home, and 2SLGBTQ+ face a lot of unique barriers and challenges that leave them feeling rejected as if they don’t belong.

According to Dr. Alex Abramovich, family rejection is the primary reason for youth homelessness. In addition, program design often challenges 2SLGBTQ+ identities through things like dorm set-up, washrooms and intake paperwork.

This is why it is incredibly important to support programs and organizations that are offering supports and services that are specifically geared towards making 2SLGBTQ+ feel accepted and encouraged to be who they are.

 If you or someone you know is a 2SLGBTQ+ youth in need of supports, what resources would you suggest?

Trellis offers a variety of programs to support 2SLGBTQ+ youth and families who may be experiencing challenges at home, including our Fusion Program and our Avenue 15 youth shelter.

Two-Spirited identifying youth can reach out to Trellis’ Iiyika’kimaat Program. This program supports Indigenous youth and offers a very inclusive space. The team can connect the youth to affirming elders, if requested.

Trellis offers a youth program called Proudly every Tuesday from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm and it is for 2SLGBTQ+ identified or questioning youth aged 13-24. Each week there are games, activities and guest speakers. Come hang out, ask questions and have fun!

Other organizations in the city doing great work with 2SLGBTQ+ youth include the Centre for Sexuality and Calgary Outlink. 

How can 2SLGBTQ+ youth in need of support connect with the Aura program?

Youth looking to access the Aura program must complete an assessment through SORCe to be eligible. To book an assessment or find hours of operation for SORCE, please call 587-779-5015. 

How can Calgarians support 2SLGBTQ+ youth at risk of or experiencing homelessness?

Calgarians can support 2SLGBTQ+ youth by being kind and supporting organizations that create safe spaces. We also encourage Calgarians to reflect on their own attitudes and biases. Everyone is looking to be accepted and to feel like they belong in the community, and this is no different for 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.

On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, Calgary Homeless Foundation celebrated its third annual – but first virtual – Trail Blazer Breakfast, in support of our work to guide the fight against homelessness in the city.  

Thank you so much to our sponsors, our speakers, and to all who attended and supported us in this incredible event. You helped raise over $130,000 towards guiding the fight to end homelessness in Calgary! 

Now, more than ever, home is a place of solace and safety, and the event – which attracted over 350 attendees online – proved that the connection, dedication, and shared will to end homelessness is as strong as ever. 

We kicked off this year’s Trail Blazer Breakfast with a distinguished panel on youth homelessness, followed by our keynote speaker, Lieutenant-General (ret) The Honorable Roméo A. Dallaire, who shared his reflections about our shared humanity and what gives him hope for the future. To round it out, we honoured Timothy J. Hearn, the recipient of our 2021 Trail Blazer Legacy Award. 

Again, it is with immense gratitude that we thank our sponsors and speakers, and all the attendees who continue to support our work in guiding the fight against homelessness. With your help, Calgary Homeless Foundation is working towards a future where every Calgarian has a place to call home, with access to the supports they need to thrive. 

 


“Waking up in the morning and seeing the sun…knowing a communion between humanity and the planet is possible. There is an enormous amount of effort from our youth who want to see humanity thrive, not just survive. I see the young people of our nation wanting to move in and be partners in the decision process and engage in our future. The ultimate hope that I live with is that I live, as you do, in an extraordinary country, a nation that has values and depth sought by so many.”

– General Dallaire, speaking about what gives him hope


Lieutenant-General Dallaire calls on us to recognize the shared humanity that binds us and imposes a duty to help one another. 

Dallaire – who is the founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, a global partnership with the mission to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers – also spoke about the ways in which veterans and child soldiers experience homelessness. 

He then shared his reflections on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we can apply the lessons gleaned from his experiences to our efforts in building healthy communities. 

We thank General Dallaire for sharing his story, and for providing valuable insight that we can apply to our lives and work.  

2021 Trail Blazer Legacy Award: Honouring Calgary leader, Timothy J. Hearn 

Together, we had the privilege of presenting the 2021 Trail Blazer Legacy Award to business and community leader Timothy J. Hearn for his tireless efforts in ending homelessness. 

Thank you, Tim Hearn, for your continued dedication to ending homelessness. You are a true visionary that has had a life-changing impact on the lives of many people, while inspiring countless others to step up to join the charge. Thank you for being a force of lasting change in our community, and beyond.  

Panel Discussion: Ending Youth Homelessness in Calgary 

In 2018, Calgary conducted a Point-in-Time Count to determine the number of people experiencing homelessness in our city on any given night. Of the 2,911 people who were identified during the count, 18% (524) were youth and children. 

Youth homelessness is unique and requires a different approach than that taken in addressing adult homelessness. 

Trail Blazer Breakfast host Dave Kelly – alongside Patricia Jones, President and CEO of Calgary Homeless Foundation – engaged in a discussion with an expert panel on youth homelessness in Calgary. The panel featured:
 

  • Jeff Dyer, CEO of Trellis; 
  • Soraya Saliba, Executive Director, McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association, and 
  • Leslie McMechan, Executive Director, Calgary John Howard Society. 

“The key for me, is to address the misconception that youth homelessness is a result of youth behaviour. The fact is, youth are homeless based on our whole community’s systemic barriers, breakdowns and exclusions. Address that and hope returns.”

Jeff Dyer, CEO, Trellis


 

Thank you! 

 

 Thank you to our sponsors for helping to make this event a reality.  

The success of this event was largely due to our Trail Blazer Breakfast ambassadors who championed the event. Thank you for generating excitement and spreading the word about the breakfast.   

And to each and every one of our partners, thank you for the life-changing work that you do every day. 

Until next year, thank you for being a part of Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Trail Blazer Breakfast.  

 

Calgary Homeless Foundation is proud to announce that Patricia Jones, President and CEO of Calgary Homeless Foundation, will bring her insights and expertise to a government-led working group tasked with revitalizing downtown Calgary. 

Patricia is one of twelve members appointed to The Calgary Office Revitalization and Expansion (CORE) Working Group, co-chaired by Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer and Calgary-Currie MLA Nicholas Milliken. The working group, which includes representatives from a cross-section of stakeholders, seeks to provide a road map for rejuvenating Calgary’s downtown area so that it remains a vibrant, healthy, and inclusive place for all to live and work.  

“As we build and reimagine a revitalized downtown core, Calgary Homeless Foundation is honoured to continue guiding the fight against homelessness by bringing the perspectives of vulnerable Calgarians to the table,” Patricia says.  

She adds: “I am humbled and privileged to be a part of a group that allows me the opportunity to speak up for Calgarians whose voices may not always be heard. I look forward to collaborating with such a knowledgeable cross-section of Calgarians.” 

Calgary’s downtown vacancy rate has remained at 32.3 per cent throughout the first quarter of 2021 — a stark contrast to a healthy downtown vacancy rate of eight per cent, according to the Government of Alberta. Organizations across Calgary, including the city council, have already undertaken research and planning initiatives that seek to address the issues facing the downtown core.  

The working group will assess existing findings and recommendations presented by the co-chairs, determine their feasibility, engage with Calgarians in town halls over the spring and summer, and provide a clear path forward for all three orders of government and the private sector. The working group is expected to submit its final report to the government by September 30. 

Patricia says the mandate of the working group presents a rare opportunity to address the long-standing deficit in affordable housing in the city.  

Currently, only 3.6% of households in Calgary are supported by non-market housing, compared to 6% of households nationwide. To reach the 2016 national average, Calgary would need to add approximately 15,000 new affordable housing units.    

“With this working group, we have the opportunity to address the needs of all our citizens. Calgary Homeless Foundation has a unique line of sight that enables us to advise governments on innovative solutions for vulnerable Calgarians, so we can thrive together as we move forward.” 

For more information about the working group, please visit the Government of Alberta’s online announcement. 

Throughout the past year, we have experienced collective challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic unlike anything many of us have witnessed in our lifetime. But together, we have also experienced resiliency, humility, a newfound gratitude for connection, and a heightened awareness of the importance of a home for health and well-being.

As we reflect on this past year, we not only focus on the hardships, but also the silver linings and the dedicated work of all the agencies within Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care

Throughout the pandemic, we have worked alongside community and government partners to continue our unwavering dedication to implementing innovative, housing-focused solutions for those we serve.

Below are ten key noteworthy accomplishments that have taken place over the past year:

  1. (March 2021) Since March 2020, as a result of the community’s dedicated efforts, more than 1,640 individuals and families in Calgary are no longer experiencing homelessness. Read more HERE.
  2. (February 2021) Calgary Homeless Foundation, CUPS and Catholic Family Service launched a new Rapid Care Counselling pilot to connect Calgarians experiencing homelessness with mental health supports. Read more HERE.
  3. (February 2021) Through a joint effort between Calgary Homeless Foundation, HomeSpace Society, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, City of Calgary, philanthropists David and Leslie Bissett, and community support agencies, Legacy on 5th opened its doors to welcome 74 vulnerable Calgarians home. Read more HERE.
  4. (November 2020) In partnership with Calbridge Homes, HomeSpace Society, Enviros, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Government of Alberta and the City of Calgary, The Triveri House opened its doors in time for the holidays, welcoming 38 homeless and vulnerable youth home. Read more HERE.
  5. (November 2020) With support from NOVA Chemical and the Poelzer Family Foundation Fund, Calgary Homeless Foundation announced the launch of the community data hub — an initiative that streamlines work for agencies and provides a fuller picture of people’s needs on their journey home. Read more HERE.
  6. (October 2020) In partnership with Logel Homes and Cardel Homes, HomeSpace Society, McMan Calgary & Area, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Government of Alberta, and the City of Calgary, The James House opened its doors to welcome 27 formerly homeless Calgarians, home. Read more HERE.
  7. (September 2020) The Kootenay Lodge bridge housing program was opened in partnership with The Mustard Seed and HomeSpace Society, allowing individuals to quickly move from shelters to a home. Read more HERE.
  8. (August 2020) Calgary Homeless Foundation welcomed Patricia Jones, as the new President and CEO. Read more HERE.
  9. (June 2020) Calgary Homeless Foundation and Calgary Drop-In Centre launched a transitional housing building to move people into a safe living space while they await permanent housing. Read more HERE.
  10. (April 2020) Calgary Homeless Foundation, HomeSpace, Alberta Health Services, Government of Alberta, CUPS and The Alex collaborated to launch Assisted Self-Isolation Site for Calgarians experiencing homelessness. Read more HERE.

This International Women’s Day, #ChooseToChallenge the gender inequity arising in the experience of homelessness.

Women face unique challenges when they do not have a home. Read on to learn more – and consider supporting some of the women-serving organizations in Calgary listed below.

FACT: Women are less likely to be recognized in homelessness data[1]

According to Calgary’s 2018 Point-in-Time Count, 25% of the nearly 3,000 Calgarians experiencing homelessness were women.

Source: 2018 Point-in-Time Count Report

However, homeless counts may significantly underestimate the number of women experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity because women are more likely to seek shelter with family, friends, or partners to survive, even if these arrangements are precarious or dangerous.[2]  

Source: Schwan, et al., (2020)

Knowing less about the true extent of women’s experiences of homelessness means that it is harder to reach them with the help and supports they need.

FACT: The rate of women-led households in core housing need in Canada is almost double the rate of men-led households. [3]

Of the 1.7 million people experiencing core housing need in Canada in 2016, 28% of these were women-led households – almost double the rate of men-led households (16%).

FACT: 68% of shelter beds in Canada are co-ed or dedicated to men, compared to 13% for women.[4]

Research shows that many women may avoid mainstream homeless shelters because they do not feel safe.

According to a Calgary-based study, four key factors helped women exit homelessness: safety, time, a community of women with similar experiences, and a supportive environment and resources to recover from trauma.[5] A lack of dedicated shelter beds—and the feeling of security it brings—means that women may have a harder time exiting homelessness.

FACT: Homelessness is uniquely dangerous for women

According to national data, 91% of women who have experienced homelessness have also experienced assault in their lifetime,[6] with 37% experiencing a sexual assault compared to 8% of men. This can mean that women feel safer remaining in a violent or exploitative relationship than on the streets or in shelters.[7]

FACT: Women without homes also experience menstruation inequity.

The high cost of sanitary products and the lack of privacy makes it difficult to manage the physical and emotional aspects of a period while experiencing homelessness. According to Rhian, who has experienced homelessness, “When it was hurting a lot, I just had to sit down for a bit, just on the bench. I had nowhere else I could go.”[8]

The Women’s Centre of Calgary is accepting personal care donations during office hours.

Source: Schwan, et al., (2020)

Events in our community:

The United Way of Calgary and Area is hosting the Choose to Challenge discussion about creating a more equitable world on March 8 at noon.

The Women’s Centre of Calgary is holding an International Women’s Day Online Celebration on March 8 at 6 p.m.

Hear from women advocates and leaders, including the founders of The51 at Financial Feminism: Sharing the Wealth on March 8 at 4 p.m.

If you want to support women experiencing homelessness, please consider supporting the following organizations:

Aboriginal Friendship Centre
Alcove Addiction Recovery for Women
Aventa Centre of Excellence for Women with Addictions
Awo Taan Healing Lodge
Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association
Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre
Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
Carya
Elizabeth Fry Society
Elizabeth House
Highbanks Society
Next Step Ministries
Recovery Acres Society
RESET Society of Calgary
Rowan House
Sonshine Community Services
Sunrise Healing Lodge
The SHARP Foundation
Wheatland Crisis Society
Women In Need Society
Women’s Centre of Calgary
YWCA of Calgary


[1] Schwan, K., Versteegh, A., Perri, M., Caplan, R., Baig, K., Dej, E., Jenkinson, J., Brais, H., Eiboff, F., & Pahlevan Chaleshtari, T. (2020). The State of Women’s Housing Need & Homelessness in Canada: Executive Summary. Hache, A., Nelson, A., Kratochvil, E., & Malenfant, J. (Eds). Toronto, ON: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

[2] Maki, K. (2017). Housing, homelessness, and violence against women: A discussion paper. Women’s Shelters Canada. Retrieved from https://homelesshub.ca Bretherton, J. (2017). Reconsidering Gender in Homelessness. European Journal of Homelessness, 11(1), 1-21.

[3] Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2019b). What We Heard The Unique Housing Needs of Women. National Housing Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.placetocallhome.ca

[4] Employment and Social Development Canada. (2019a). Highlights of the National Shelter Study 2005 to 2016. Ottawa. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca

[5] Sarah Fotheringham, Christine A. Walsh & Anna Burrowes (2014) ‘A place to rest’: the role of transitional housing in ending homelessness for women in Calgary, Canada, Gender, Place & Culture, 21:7, 834-853, DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2013.810605

[6] McInnes, S. (2016). Fast Facts: 4 things to know about women and homelessness in Canada. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Retrieved October 21 2018 from www.policyalternatives.ca

[7] Walsh, C. A., Rutherford, G. E., & Kuzmak, N. (2009). Characteristics of Home: Perspectives of Women Who Are Homeless. The Qualitative Report, 14(2), 299-317. Watson, J. (2011). Understanding survival sex: Young women, homelessness and intimate relationships. Journal of Youth Studies, 14(6), 639-655.

[8] Vora S. (2020) The Realities of Period Poverty: How Homelessness Shapes Women’s Lived Experiences of Menstruation. In: Bobel C., Winkler I.T., Fahs B., Hasson K.A., Kissling E.A., Roberts TA. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-0614-7_4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Care Counselling Media Coverage: