Six years ago, when Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was launched in January 2008, I sat in a room with a few hundred other Calgarians and listened to the details and wondered, “Who are they kidding?” They’ll never end it. Not unless, of course, they end addictions and family violence and divorce and loss and child abuse and a whole host of ills that plague our society and contribute to homelessness in the first place.

At one point during the event, the man beside me, who worked in the addictions sector, leaned over and told me I’d better watch out. “You work in the homeless sector. In a few years you’ll be out of a job”, he said. I laughed and replied that I’d be okay with that. Because if we end homelessness it means we’ll have ended all those other things that made it possible – like addictions. “Then we’ll both be out of job,” I told him and added with a wink, “but that’s not going to happen, so let’s keep doing what we’re doing.”

I was smug, arrogant and wrong.

We can and we must end homelessness. I’m not talking about homelessness for those who need temporary shelter or assistance to overcome life’s transitory distresses, or those who come to Calgary because of the jobs and find they can’t afford the cost of living. Calgary has an amazing network of emergency shelters and homeless and poverty-serving agencies that provide for the basic needs of individuals and families in crisis. Data shows that the majority of these individuals leave the homeless system with minimal support from the social services network.

But for the chronically homeless, for those who have endured years, if not decades, sleeping on a mat or holed up in a makeshift shelter in the forest, we must do whatever it takes to bring them home. In their lives, homelessness has drained their resilience and capacity to make change happen. And in their homelessness, our social systems and public services are strained to keep up to the challenges they face every day. Providing these people with housing and support gives them hope that change is possible.

At Christmas, while volunteering to serve dinner at one of the buildings owned by the Calgary Homeless Foundation that provides housing and supports to formerly homeless individuals, I chatted with a man who had spent almost 15 years living in parks and back alleys in our city. “I figured I’d eventually die in the cold.”

His eyes misted up as he recounted his past way of living. “That’s where they found me,” he said. “Sleeping in some bushes.” It’s been eight months since he’s been housed. He’s grateful to be alive to tell the story because he’s not going back.

 “Homelessness robbed me of a decade of my life,” another tenant remarked. “I can’t get those years, nor the things I lost, back.”

But he can get back the thing that was lacking the most while he wandered the streets. “I’ve got hope now,” he said. “And with hope, it’s possible to get back dignity, self-esteem.” And possibly even a relationship with his kids.

Hope is one of the first things to go when homelessness hits, he told me. And it’s one of the first to return when it ends.

Six years ago, when I sat in a room and listened to our community’s 10 Year Plan, I didn’t believe it had a hope in hell of succeeding.

Time has taught me well the meaning of humility. Over 5,000 people have been housed since the launch of Calgary’s 10 Year Plan, and the majority of those people are still living at home. They’re doing things differently, and so are we. It’s working. We’re taking Calgary’s innovative, pioneer spirit and applying it to something we thought would never change. Like the builders and agencies involved in RESOLVE, a fundraising campaign to support the 10 Year Plan’s goal of creating more affordable housing options in Calgary, we are working together. We are not settling for status quo.

We can’t settle for doing what we’ve always done. Homelessness is hell and when you’re experiencing it, the longer it endures, the harder it is to believe there’s hope for anything different.

Ending homelessness isn’t about solving all the problems in someone’s life. It’s about building a network of supports and resources that provide the stability for each person to be able to thrive in community. It’s about being able to identify barriers and remove them so people have access to safe, affordable housing along with the vital supports to help them stay there.

To end homelessness, we must provide the most difficult to house and those who are the greatest burden on the system, the opportunity to plug into the resources they need to make changes in their lives. To do that, we must ensure that those who have walked so far from home and have lost all hope, have a chance to find it again. Because, in ending homelessness, lives are saved, dignity is restored and hope for a better future is possible.

We are delighted to present our first Thank you video to a supplier who makes sure we always looks good!

(Written by:  Amanda St. Laurent, Program Manager, Community Development, CUPS)

For those living at or below the poverty line, making ends meet is always a struggle.  Between rising rents, utility bills, food and other necessities, low income individuals and families often find themselves in a constant struggle to get by.  Many find themselves in the unenviable position of choosing between the hydro bill and food for their families. The holidays are no exception to this, and with the extra financial strain in trying to provide your children with a decent Christmas, finding a way to manage it all can seem impossible.  Fortunately , programs like Adopt A Family and other charities make it possible for every child to find a gift under the tree come Christmas morning.

What is often overlooked is that for so many of these individuals and families, the financial challenge is not the only struggle they face.  Many find themselves alone without the support and company of family and friends.  Unfortunately, social isolation frequently accompanies poverty and homelessness.  Social isolation is hard at any time, but at a time of year that is traditionally spent with family and close friends, it can be particularly devastating.  This is where Community comes in.

While social agencies do their best to assist, they cannot take the place of Community. They cannot take the place of friendships, and feeling welcome and included.  When Communities reach out to those that are alone, it means more than any gift or meal can provide.   It sends the message that you matter, that you are not judged or worthless and most importantly, that you belong.   Christmas is a wonderful time to make new friends – and a cohesive strong Community that includes all its members is a healthy and safe Community.  Reaching out to those in need and including them in all the social activities this season makes a world of difference right in your own Community.

Churches, Community Associations, local businesses and neighbors all do a wonderful job of reaching out to the most vulnerable in society.  The volunteerism and one on one contact means so much.  They adopt families to ensure they have a wonderful Christmas, but more importantly, they interact with them.  They bring people together, regardless of socio economic status, and that is so important to someone who finds themselves alone over the holidays, or may never have felt welcome at Community events in the past.  Wounds begin to heal, self esteem increases, and hope for a better future begins.  This is the power of the Community.

Thank you to all our communities for making a difference in the lives of so many this holiday season.

Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was initially published in January 2008 and updated in January 2011. CHF is revisiting the 10 Year Plan to update it and to align goals and objectives with what we’ve learned since beginning the sometimes difficult but very important work of ending homelessness, We will be publishing an update in June 2014, and your voice is integral to the conversation.

No matter where you live, work or play, no matter if you drive, walk or use public transit, homelessness impacts every Calgarian. And every Calgarian has a voice to share that will make a difference in ending homelessness.

CHF is hosting two Community Consultation Events in November.

We invite you to attend one of these events and share your thoughts, ideas, opinions and ideas. Your voice matters.

Click HERE for more information and to register for one of the consultations.

The client voice is a critical piece in the overall assessment of program performance in the homeless sector.  In addition, the client voice is essential in identifying needs and gaps in our system of care.  The client voice provides a reflection of the impact and effectiveness of social agency services as well as an important benchmark to identify needs and gaps in programs and service delivery.

In 2013, all CHF funded programs were invited to participate in the administration of a satisfaction survey with clients in their respective programs.  In total, 23 CHF funded programs supported the process resulting in 486 clients voluntarily completing the survey.  The survey focused on the experiences of clients being served in CHF funded programs in the areas of case management, program supports, housing, community activities and information gathering, and included a section on their reflections of their personal well-being since exiting homelessness. With 90 programs now contributing to HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) and over 486 client surveys completed, the data demonstrates the high-caliber of work being done by our partner agencies and the impact of housing first on meeting the goals of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Of the 486 clients that completed the survey:

  • 90.5% indicated they are treated with respect by their case manager
  • 81.9% indicated that their case manager was non-judgemental
  • 84.7% indicated they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their current housing
  • 94.7% indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of case mgmt. they receive
  • 60.9% indicated they were confident or very confident they would not return to homelessness
  • 51.2% indicated that sharing their personal information with other agencies would be beneficial

Peter and Minister Fantino chat

On Thursday, October 31, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino visited with Alpha House staff,CHF staff and residents of The Madison, a 16 unit apartment building in Calgary which the Calgary Homeless Foundation purchased in November 2011 using provincial grants, support from a donor and a $734,000 mortgage of which $554,000 remains.

The 15 residents of the Madison are formerly homeless veterans who are provided housing and support through program operators, Alpha House Society. The program funding is provided from a two year national pilot project funded federally by the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta. The pilot project ends in March, 2014.

In addition to the Madison pilot project, an additional 38 formerly homeless veterans are supported through Housing First initiatives throughout the city. 

Ending homelessness amongst veterans is possible. As one of the residents described it, being provided housing with supports gives him ‘a second chance’. We continue to work with the Federal and Provincial governments and our agency partners to ensure every homeless veteran has a chance at a second chance. 

Thank you Minister Fantino for taking the time to visit. Thank you Peter for opening your home to the Minister.

To view all the photos please visit our Facebook Page — and don’t forget to LIKE it!  Thanks!

To learn more about the Madison and the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness as well as our progress towards ending homelessness in Calgary, please see our Annual Report. 

Thank You!

The Premier’s Half-Time Show at the Red & White Club on October 23 celebrated the hard work and team spirit of the Calgary Stampeders run for the Grey Cup and the work of CHF and all its partners, government, agencies, corporate Calgary, stakeholders and volunteers who are helping to ensure Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness succeeds. Like the Stampeders, who have crossed the half-way point to a Grey Cup win, we are forging ahead to achieve our goal of ending homelessness by 2018.

Special thanks to Premier Alison Redord, and the Calgary Stampeders for their support and to MC Bruce ‘Tuna’ Covernton and Ralph the Dog for keeping the show fun and exciting.

Nearly $200,000 was raised to support the important work of ending homelessness. Thanks to event sponsors, Champion Sponsor, Devon Canada and to Touchdown Sponsors, Arc Resources Ltd., Boardwalk Rental Communities, BP Canada Energy Group, Brookfield Residential, Canadian Oil Sands, Cenovus Energy and Matco Investments and to all Field Goal Sponsors – Albi Homes, Conoco Phillips Canada, Enbridge, Meg Energy, Nexen, Pembina Pipeline Corporation, RGO and TransAlta. 

 

Check out more photos on our Facebook page!  HERE

The Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) who together with Face it Calgary partners commissioned an  Ipsos Reid survey earlier this year, take heart from the  survey that focused on understanding Calgarians views on homelessness in the city.  A similar poll in 2011 found that homelessness ranked fifth on a list of social concerns, while in 2013 it had risen to the third most important social issue facing Calgarians. Based on responses from a cross-section of 600 Calgarians, two-thirds of the respondents believe more should be done now to end homelessness. The survey also revealed that a lack of affordable housing is considered the leading contributor to homelessness with one in three Calgarians believing that affordable housing is the thing most needed to end it. For CHF and its partners, raising awareness around homelessness and the efforts being taken to end it has also resulted in a softening of ‘not in my backyard’ attitudes with fewer people stating they are against secondary suites, programs and low-income housing in their neighbourhoods. Good news for everyone!

We’d like to hear your views too. Please take the short survey below and let us know what you think about affordable housing and homelessness.

View full survey results HERE.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Moving a person from homelessness to housing with support provides stability. From that place, each person has the opportunity to make changes to improve the quality of their life. Those changes are often felt in ways the individual and the community at large never imagined.

When we reviewed the data on the costs of housing 72 high acuity individuals for a year, we found that while it cost almost double to house someone within our most intensive support programs ($10k/yr in a shelter vs $18K/yr housing with supports), the cost savings in systems use were greater than we imagined. When each individual was homeless, we found that the average cost/person to use public systems was $46,000/yr (with 90% attributed to hospitalizations and the remaining $5,000 EMS, ER visits and justice system interactions). Post housing, public system costs dropped to $3,000/year. Which means, housing these individuals saved taxpayers nearly $2.5 million (annual average saving of $34,000/person). To read the News Release and Full Report and remarks by CEO & President, John Rook at the AGM, click HERE.  

Moving house can be a stressful. Moving from a homeless shelter to a home can be even more daunting if you don’t own any furniture to fill your home. Thanks to an incredible donation from Statoil, people moving from shelter into apartments were given gently used, almost new furniture. Statoil generously offered the Calgary Homeless Foundation furniture used by expats in Calgary. With a list of soon-to-be-occupied apartments on hand, the furniture was delivered by Statoil’s movers to delighted tenants and agencies throughout the city.

One such recipient was Dan and his ten-year-old daughter. After months of living in a family shelter, they were ready to move into an apartment but had no possessions to furnish their new home. Receiving Statoil’s gift reinforced their sense of being connected to a community that cares.  Dan and his daughter give back to their new community by working in the community garden and supporting other tenants in their building.

Keys to Recovery is an agency that provides housing and support to previously homeless adults recovering from addictions. Thanks to Statoil, the agency was able to completely furnish five units with furniture and accessories.

Thank you Statoil for your generosity.

You’ve helped create more than just a place to call home, you’ve helped to instill dignity and beauty in the lives of many.