Today, Minister of Community and Social Services, IrfCRST_Photo4an Sabir, along with members of Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care and its partners, celebrated the release of the Calgary Recovery Services Task Force Final Report and Recommendations. Held at Venue 1008 where the Task Force first began meeting in 2015, the event was attended by over 100 individuals including those with lived experience of homelessness, front-line staff, medical providers and agency executives.

The Report highlights findings of a research study conducted by Dr. Katrina Milaney and the Cummings School of Medicine of 300 chronically homeless Calgarians. Based on Dr. Milaney’s research, and input from stakeholders across the homeless-serving sector and related service providers, the Report provides Seven Key Recommendations which, when implemented, will provide for better health outcomes of the approximately 900 individuals identified as chronically homeless in Calgary.

The Task Force is comprised of 26 organizations including system planners, homeless-serving sector front-line agencies, large systems players such as Health, Justice and Child Welfare and other public service providers working collaboratively towards creating a better more coordinated and integrated response to address the complex health, housing, and case management needs of chronically homeless Calgarians.

Kevin McNichol, Vice President of Strategy at CHF and a Task Force participant says what is most impressive is, “The collaboration and conversation that has triggered change in the community. It was exciting to see the willingness of everyone to come to the table to seek solutions for those experiencing homelessness. The Report and the event today is an affirmation of our intention to make social change possible in Calgary.”

We are committed to working collaboratively with the Task Force working groups to further develop strategies and plans to implement the seven key recommendations in the report. To read the full report click here.


1. Better Access to Health Services on Front Lines
Access to health services should be available through the entire homeless system of care including shelter, supportive housing, and mobile outreach.

2. Case Management During Transition to Housing
Ensure access to intensive case management and health supports as homeless Calgarians transition into supportive housing.

3. Recognize Homeless Calgarians’ Choice in Recovery Services
Integrate harm reduction approaches into the continuum of recovery services in recognition of homeless Calgarians’ choice.

4. Responsive Approaches for Indigenous Populations
Develop housing and health approaches that are responsive to homeless Indigenous populations.

5. Open Communication within Homelessness Sector
Ensure open communication and access to information amongst organizations and agencies serving homeless Calgarians.

6. Specialized Responses for Women and Children
Develop specialized responses for homeless women and children.

7. Advance Governance Structure
Advance the development of a steering committee/governance structure to provide leadership and oversight for moving forward.

It’s cold out there and we need each other!

If anyone knows harsh weather conditions, it’s Calgarians. We learn to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather in this city; hail, snow, sun, rain, we are prepared for it all. We laugh at other cities who complain about snow, because they’ve never experienced a Calgary winter! Put on your parka, plug in your car, get out your snow shovel, and deal with winter like the tough Calgarian you are –because you know, you’ll be back home warming up soon enough!

But what about those who don’t have home to look forward to?

Every day in Calgary there are individuals who spend their days wondering where they’ll be sleeping that night. They line-up outside shelters to get a warm meal and a place to sleep, and some spend the night without any shelter at all. There are families who couldn’t afford winter jackets this year, or don’t have enough money at the end of the month to pay for heat. There are many Calgarians who worry just about surviving for those long months of cold winter weather.

On Saturday, February 25, Calgarians will join with more than 110 other communities across Canada and walk to raise funds for those who are struggling. Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) 2017 is a walking fundraiser that raises money for those experiencing hunger, hurt, and homelessness. This event brings together the Calgary community to fight discrimination and advocate for people living at or below the poverty line, are battling addictions, mental health issues, homelessness and for improved social supports for those who struggle to find access to adequate food and employment.

The walk is a way to tell our city’s most vulnerable that they are not alone. We walk together.

This will be the fourth year for CNOY in Calgary, and will be hosted by KAIROS Calgary – Bankview Apartments, Feed the Hungry, and The Mustard Seed Calgary. Hundreds of Calgarians will be positively impacted by this one event, thanks to fundraising by teams participating and community sponsorship. So far in there are 54 teams and 232 walkers registered, with $40, 958.00 raised towards the goal of $100,000. This amazing event shows that even in tough economic times, we can still rally as a community to support Calgary’s most vulnerable.

Sponsors for CNOY 2017 include: Boardwalk Rental Communities, Printcor Inc., Knox United Church, CUPS Calgary, Harvard Property Management, and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

The event will start and finish at Eau Clare Market, located at 200 Barclay Parade SW. With Registration opening at 4pm, opening ceremonies at 5pm, and the walk for all distances starting at 5:15pm. Calgary organizers and participants are aiming to raise $100,000, and are over a third of the way to their goal. They need support from you: start or join a team, donate or volunteer! To sign up today or learn more visit:

Nobody in our city should be left out in the cold. Join the Walk to help end poverty and homelessness in our City!

Coldest Night of the Year 2017

Saturday, February 25

Eau Claire Market (200 Barclay Parade SW)

Registration 4pm

Opening Ceremonies 5pm


News Items for Thursday, February 16, 2017:

  1. United Way raises more than $55 million despite economic hard times
  2. Medicine Hat poverty-elimination plan draws skepticism from locals
  3. Eliminating poverty the best prescription for better health, doctor says
  4. Four Keys to a Successful Housing Strategy
  5. More about the Game-Changer Approach to Poverty Reduction
  6. Cambridge man camping out 90 nights for homelessness
  7. Vancouver rental building part of federal plans to ‘innovate’ housing sector
  8. Stable housing critical to success of mental health treatment
  9. We’re Losing What ‘SRO’ Hotels Can Do Right

United Way raises more than $55 million despite economic hard times
Calgary Sun, Feb 13, 2017
Shawn Logan

Calgary’s hobbled economy didn’t deter thousands from stepping up to boost the United Way. Monday, United Way of Calgary and Area unveiled the tally from the charity’s 2016 fundraising campaign, which raked in $55.7 million thanks to the support of 984 workplace campaigns, 34,623 individual donors and more than 12,000 volunteers. Karen Young, president and CEO of the United Way, said she was astonished by the support show in difficult financial times, which topped last year’s total by some $500,000. “I am humbled by the generosity of our city and appreciative of every single person’s support,” she said. “The steadfast commitment through good times and bad demonstrates the true spirit of Calgarians.” Funds from the campaign will be invested back into the community through a variety of local programs and partnerships focused on poverty, children and communities. More than 100 agencies along with some 177,000 Calgarians will benefit from the donated funds. The campaign was further buoyed by a special one-time gift of $2 million to the United Way’s Tomorrow Fund, a long-term investment fund, from long-time volunteers and supporters Michael and Heather Culbert. Campaign Co-Chair for 2016 Mick Dilger, president and CEO of Pembina Pipeline Corporation — who was joined this year by Calgary Herald columnist Deborah Yedlin — said he was awed to see the community rally behind those on the margins. “The 2016 campaign ‘We Are All Calgary’ has very special meaning to me,” he said. “To see thousands of people come together for the greater good to bring about change is inspiring. We issued a plea to Calgarians because the need was greater than ever. And Calgarians responded overwhelmingly.” The co-chairs for the 2017 campaign were also announced at Monday’s event, with Minhas Breweries co-founder and television personality Manjit Minhas joining forces with Rich Kruger, president and CEO of Imperial Oil. “We’re going to tell the story of Calgarians; those who support United Way and those who need our support,” Young said of the 2017 campaign.

Medicine Hat poverty-elimination plan draws skepticism from locals
CBC News, Feb 15, 2017
David Bell

The southern Alberta city that ended homelessness two years ago is now upping its game with a plan to eliminate poverty in 13 years. Medicine Hat made the bold claim it had ended homelessness in May 2015. It got a lot of attention as cities and communities across the country struggle with the same issues and look for answers. A city councillor and food bank co-executive director says the city hopes to apply its learnings on homelessness to poverty as a whole. “Lots of people would say that’s a utopian belief, that we would ever have a community without poverty, but I think it comes back to inclusion,” Celina Symmonds told CBC News Wednesday at the program launch. “Instead of having a segmented society, that we have an inclusive society where everyone belongs, everyone feels like they are part of something bigger,” she said. Symmonds says it’s a matter of taking a big picture approach. “We have come to a functional zero on homelessness here in Medicine Hat, and I see no reason we can’t do the same thing with poverty. We had our naysayers then too, [but] we always have early adopters who believe that we can do it.” “We can push this forward like we did with the ending homelessness plan.” A volunteer and client of the food bank says that’s a tall order, and he struggles to see it working. “They have been trying to take care of poverty since the beginning of time,” Norman Whitford said. “A thousand years from now, you will still have poverty. I don’t think for one moment you will every solve poverty. Not even in Medicine Hat.” He says the issue is complex and textured. “Medicine Hat is well known for the street people’s programs. Nobody lives on the street, but they are still hungry,” he said. “To say that it is not going to continue, I don’t believe that for one minute. Some other reasons will come up and next thing you know you are going to have needy people. We are a wealthy country. There shouldn’t be as much poverty.” Alina Turner, a consultant who has worked on both the homelessness and poverty initiatives, agrees on that last point. She said Medicine Hat is in a good position to come at the problem. “You have leaders that are really good at executing,” Turner explained. “It is not just setting ambitious plans — we have tons of examples of ambitious plans that don’t have the same level of impact that we see here. There is this perfect marriage of visioning, a sense of urgency and this ability to execute and practice that is often harder to find.” Turner says poverty is about a lot more than just money in the bank. “If you ask people with lived experience … they will tell you it is mental health, recreation for their children, food security, access to good jobs,” she said. The Medicine Hat approach, if successful, could be applied to larger centres quite easily, Turner said. “You can apply it anywhere,” she said. “In bigger cities, you’re not talking about 200 programs; you’re talking about thousands of programs, so in that case, maybe it is a matter of dividing it up in bite-size pieces, or maybe it is a phased approach where we focus on one part of the system and then expand to include to all the other pieces.” Medicine Hat’s goal of getting rid of poverty by 2030, is in line with a global World Bank initiative to do the same thing.

Eliminating poverty the best prescription for better health, doctor says
Calgary Herald, Feb 15, 2017
By: Jonathan Charlton

Toronto family doctor and hospital administrator Dr. Danielle Martin is visiting the Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon on Thursday to speak about her six big ideas to improve the health care system. Among them is a call for a national guaranteed basic income. She explained the link between poverty and poor health to reporter Jonathan Charlton.

Q: What do your Toronto stories have in common with the stories of people in, say, rural Saskatchewan?

A: Most of the issues apply across the country. Martin tells the story of a patient living in social housing which flooded, causing mould. The patient subsequently developed asthma. “That happens in every community — rural, urban or otherwise — across the country, that people living in substandard housing experience health complications as a result of their poverty.”

Q: Can you explain the relationship between poverty and health?

A: Income explains the likelihood of getting sick better than any other factor — even the existence of a health care system. Low income people are less able to access the necessities of life, such as housing and nutritious food. Poverty restricts access to higher education, which affects people’s future income, meaning their children will likely also be poor. Low income people are also more likely to live with “survival stress” and turn to smoking and drinking. Low income people are less likely to be in community networks that can help in times of stress. Poverty and poor health then last through generations.

Q: Why is a guaranteed basic income the best way to address this?

A: Martin cites data from Canada and other countries showing a basic income is an effective way to reduce poverty and improve health. She draws particular attention to a study decades ago in Dauphin, Manitoba in which low income people received a small income top up. The town saw an 8.5 per cent decrease in hospitalization during that time. “It is hard to imagine a bigger health impact from any single intervention. I can’t think of anything else that reduces all-cause hospitalizations by 8.5 per cent.” Stable housing critical to success of mental health treatment

Four Keys to a Successful Housing Strategy
National Newswatch, Feb 12, 2017
By: Rosanne Haggerty

This is an exciting time to be working in housing and homelessness in Canada. Over the last year and a half, my team and I have had the honour to support a growing movement of communities in Canada working to house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people.  It has been wonderful to witness communities like Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Hamilton and others achieve significant and permanent reductions in homelessness – an outcome that seemed impossible only a few short years ago. With the impending release of a National Housing Strategy and the government exploring a revamp of Canada’s flagship national homelessness program, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, an end to homelessness across Canada has come within reach. I’ve been working for an end to homelessness in the United States for over thirty years now and my team and I have watched closely the progress being made in several Canadian cities.  I wanted to share some of our lessons in the hope Canada can avoid making the same mistakes we made. In 1983, when I started working at a Times Square shelter for homeless youth, homelessness was a new issue in America, as it was in Canada.  Back then, homelessness seemed so urgent, but also so fixable. Yet, that initial confidence had faded by the end of my first winter in New York as we witnessed the same young people return to our shelter over and over. It became clear that we would never end homelessness without creating more affordable housing opportunities. Over time, the non-profit housing organization I founded built nearly 3,000 units of new, supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness and for low-income workers. But, homelessness continued to rise. Somehow this housing wasn’t putting a dent in the overall numbers of those experiencing homelessness in New York City, or reaching the most visible, ill and vulnerable people on the streets. We soon realized that all the affordable housing in the world wouldn’t reduce homelessness if we didn’t have a coherent housing system: a coordinated, user-friendly set of pathways to connect vulnerable people to the housing and services we already had. Our team shifted course, and since 2010, we have worked with more than 200 communities to design housing systems aimed at ending homelessness for good.  We’ve learned a great deal in each place, and signs of progress are everywhere, including here in Canada, but it’s clear that the most successful communities are doing these four things differently from everyone else:

They focus their efforts toward providing housing first.  When we ask people experiencing homelessness what is getting in the way of finding housing, we learn that many of our assumptions about what people need to escape homelessness are wrong. They don’t want elaborate programs and treatment plans, they want a safe place to live that they can afford, and to accept help on their own terms. Successful communities focus on housing first.

They pay for the outcomes they want. For too long, governments and regional funders have paid non-profits to deliver services, regardless of whether those services end people’s homelessness. This has created perverse incentives for non-profits to keep their programs running, rather than attempting to work themselves out of a job. That’s easy to change if funders are willing to renegotiate their housing and social service contracts.

They don’t just gather data in the aggregate. Successful communities coordinate across their shelters, service providers and street outreach teams to identify every person experiencing homelessness by name, assess and document their specific needs, and follow them all the way through to becoming housed. These real-time, by-name lists matter because as much as 70 percent of people who experience homelessness also escape it quickly on their own. Without a coordinated method for knowing who needs what, communities often end up over-subsidizing people who need only minor help, leaving less money for those with deeper needs.

They turn their by-name lists into multi-agency command centers. In most communities, a complex tangle of agencies and organizations own different pieces of the housing process. The best communities align those groups around a shared, measurable time-bound goal, and then using a by-name list to drive progress toward that goal every month.

These four strategies are concrete enough for any community to pursue, and they work in Canada, too. Canada clearly needs more affordable housing – which the National Housing Strategy should begin to address – but our learning suggests that new housing alone won’t end homelessness. Communities must also weave their existing resources and institutions into accountable, well-designed local housing systems that work for everyone. This can be at the heart of a revamped Homelessness Partnering Strategy. These are exciting times in Canada as the federal government steps back into a leadership role on housing and Canadian cities step up to the challenge of ending homelessness. Canadians have been very smart about applying lessons from around the world to preventing and ending homelessness here. I know the day will come very soon when the world will look to Canada for leadership and inspiration.

Rosanne Haggerty is president of Community Solutions. She previously founded Common Ground, which continues to develop affordable and supportive housing in New York City. The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on National Newswatch are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

More about the Game-Changer Approach to Poverty Reduction, Feb 13, 2017
By: Mark Holmgren

As some of you know, I have written about and I am continuing to work on what I call a Game-Changer Approach to Poverty Reduction Strategy and Evaluation. I have been asked about the difference between Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) and this game-changer approach I am working on with my colleagues at Vibrant Communities Canada. The game-changers we have identified are Housing, Transportation, Education, Health, Income and Jobs, Food Security, Financial Empowerment, and Early Childhood Development. All of these are aligned with SDoH, but there is, I suggest, more to what we are exploring than social determinants of health.

The Game-Changer Approach also is stressing the importance of avoiding the creation of “thin” strategies among a host of other “thin” strategies that, in effect, can lead to an overall poverty reduction strategy that is a mile wide and an inch deep. The notion of prioritizing our efforts is one that is often accepted as necessary but in practice not emphasized. One of the fundamental tenets of the Game-Changer Approach to Poverty Reduction Strategy and Evaluation is rooted in an old Taoist saying, For every yes there is a no. In other words, to have the degree and scope of impact we want to have in our communities, we must make hard choices in order to ensure that we have the time, resources, and capacities to achieve transformational impact. This is especially true for local roundtables addressing poverty in their communities because more often than not they are underfunded and under-staffed. A mile wide, inch-deep approach in such a case may not cut the mustard.

Another key aspect of the Game-Changer Approach is that we need to see our work to end poverty within a learning framework more so than focus on data as the indicator of success. While data is important, just measuring LICO and LIM over time is not good enough. Why? First because too often the measures we use are not realistic. The poverty line is not reflective of reality, so to speak. Second, our historical desire to tie “our work” to results in a way that proves “our success” is more often than not a pipe dream. For example, we see this desire for “attribution” as a key driver for funding. This occurs often in programs. Employment programs is one example. It is not uncommon in my experience with such programs for a funder to want assurances that someone employed through the program will still be employed a year or two from now. The fallacy of such expectations is easy to discern, yet still many of us still attempt to attribute success to our work in ways that are unreasonable. If a person goes through an Employment program and gets a good job, attribution is easier to claim; however, there are too many factors (the economy, employer downsizing, a person’s health situation, not to mention disasters like the Fort McMurray fire, to allow us to really believe our program’s effect can be proven successful two years out. Besides, while funders may want this type of attribution, a key question is to what extent are they willing to pay for an intricate, long-term measurement system that still could produce unclear claims of success? The Game-Changer approach includes the calling to focus more on “Contribution” as opposed to “Attribution.” While the former may be criticized for being too subjective, in reality it is no less so than the latter. That said, significant change, in particular systemic change, does not occur because of one program, one agency, or even one collective impact effort. Such efforts, especially when linked together with the efforts of others, can and do contribute to big changes and there can be reasonable analysis provides that supports such contribution; however, clear and definitive attribution claims are, I suggest, more of a subjective reach than focusing on contribution.

As well, historically, we have tended to focus on measuring results within arbitrary time-lines, most often annual segments. This 12 month view of our work is embedded in budget processes and in funder forms that ask for comparative results from one 12 month segment to the next and the expectation, whether stated or subtle, is that these numbers will improve. This is risky business in terms of effecting transformational change in a Game-Changer area. For example, affordable housing in Canada has not received sufficient attention by the Federal Governments of the past. Our housing stock is aging, and wait lists for subsidized housing are more likely to motivate hopelessness for those on the wait list than result in being housed. We identify affordable and safe housing as a game-changer because the benefits of decent housing has a cascading effect beyond the procurement of housing. People’s health improves, mental health problems often decrease or stabilize, social inclusion becomes more real, children experience more stable access to schools, addictions often decrease, and people start thinking about their futures (getting job training, going back to school) because they no longer have the stress and experience the harm of inadequate housing.

Getting to a place where our country and communities have appropriate housing for persons of all incomes will take time and involve the efforts of innumerable organizations and leaders from all sectors. One cannot measure the progress of achieving more and better housing for Canadians by simply measuring the quantity of housing in 12 month segments. In fact it could take years to start seeing the growth in numbers.

Working across sectors to improve the state of housing in our country requires many contributors and will involve a lot of learning. Mistakes will be made. Barriers will surface, as well as great ideas, new policies, and so on. If we are serious about measuring the progress with this game-changer, we need to not only re-think our collective strategies but also rethink how we can evaluate this progress. I was part of a conversation a while back where one colleague expressed to a group of us that the only poverty reduction priority we should focus on is safe and affordable housing. Her view point was not well-embraced to say the least and I am not inclined to see housing as the sole priority. However, her perspective does tie to the idea that in order to move forward on major changes, we may have to leave some others in the background. We may still work on them, but not to the extent the priorities we commit to. Again, for every yes, there is a no.

I am going to continue to write about this. And I am keen to hear from others. When we work with change, all of us need to learn as we go. Any help you care to provide is welcome, and I hope you are getting the same from me.

Cambridge man camping out 90 nights for homelessness
CBC News, Feb 14, 2017
By: Kate Bueckert

Over the past week, Paul Tavares has camped out in snow, freezing rain, high winds and mild winter temperatures. Tavares has set up a small abode across from The Bridges shelter on Simcoe Street in Cambridge to raise money for the shelter and awareness about homelessness in his city. “I wanted people to say, ‘What’s going on? And then come here and ask me questions,” he said Monday on a cellphone outside his tent. He said he has received a lot of support; People honk as they drive past him, “complete strangers” and friends have brought him gift cards to get coffee at the nearby Tim Hortons, and he said he even received a call from a group in Wiarton, Ont. offering help. “I’ve kind of got my own little furnace going on inside me,” he said. “I do not regret what I’m doing and I doubt that I will ever feel any regret throughout this 90 days.”

‘People are homeless now’
Tavares pitched his tent at 6 p.m. on Feb. 6 and despite the “rollercoaster” of winter weather over the last week, he said he will press on. “I’ve had a couple of my friends ask me, why don’t I do this when it’s warmer or why don’t I do this indoors,” he said. “People are homeless now.” So far, Tavares said he has helped raise $1,200 for The Bridges shelter, which he says is bursting at the seams with people who need a place to stay. He knows first-hand what it’s like to struggle. While he has a home now, he said he has previously been homeless and he’s currently unemployed. He said he’s going to use the time in his tent to think about what’s next for him. “The overnight, in the tent, I’m on my own, but that’s given me some time to do some soul searching because at the end of this 90 days, my life has to go on,” he said.

Vancouver rental building part of federal plans to ‘innovate’ housing sector
CTV News, Feb 16, 2017
By: Jordan Press

OTTAWA – The federal government’s bid to find new ways to finance the construction of affordable housing is yielding its first results. A new $3.5 million, three-storey, 40-unit building that came about through a small federal fund that financially backstops projects that are innovative in their financing or construction techniques, is to be inaugurated in Vancouver today. The federally backed project could be scaled for use in other cities to help house homeless populations, provide disaster relief, or quickly house people displaced by construction in fast-growing cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal, says Luke Harrison, CEO of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency. The Vancouver housing authority received $1.5 million from the federal affordable rental housing innovation fund to complete the project that include movable, modular units and accompanying foundations that can be easily set up on undeveloped, city-owned land. The $200 million innovation fund, overseen by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., is expected to support the construction of up to 4,000 new rental units over five years. The fund is part of a two-pronged effort announced in last year’s budget to increase the supply of affordable rental housing in the country.

Stable housing critical to success of mental health treatment
CBC News, Feb 1, 2017
By: Adetayo Bero

A Wilfrid Laurier University professor hopes a new approach to deal with mental health and homelessness will change the way cities across the country look at tackling these issues. Geoffrey Nelson, a professor in the university’s psychology department led a four-year research project that studied the viability of using a “housing first” strategy in dealing with mental health in five Canadian cities. The program offers immediate access to permanent housing for individuals who are homeless and may be dealing with mental illness. “Having a stable home [and] a place you could call your own really provides a secure base for someone to begin to deal with mental health issues, and with one’s life in general,” he told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Wednesday. Individuals in the program also have case management and support workers who help them secure the housing, as well as work on some of the unique issues they may be dealing with such as mental health and addiction. Aside from access to permanent, rent-supplemented housing, there are no requirements for eligibility in order to take part in the program. Where other programs, shelters, or transitional homes may place conditions such as sobriety or abstinence on their participants, the housing first project does not. They focus instead on things like harm reduction for people dealing with addiction. This means reducing the negative impacts alcohol or drug use might have on an individual. Allowing the participants to have their independence puts them in a better position to be able to focus on improving themselves, Nelson said. During the initial At Home/Chez Soi research project, 2,000 participants in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Moncton, N.B., took part in the program over two years. Nelson said the pilot was successful and about 75 per cent of participants are still being stably housed within the last six months of the project. Preparations are now being made to roll out the program in several other communities across the country.

We’re Losing What ‘SRO’ Hotels Can Do Right
The Tyee, Feb 13, 2017
By: Stefania Seccia

In a year from now, 59-year-old Tom de Grey could lose his home. That’s when his landlord will be released from a 15-year agreement with the city binding rents in his building to the welfare rate. De Grey lives in an SRO — a single-room occupancy hotel. To some, they’re synonymous with cockroaches, bed bugs and slumlords, but not all are so poorly managed. For the low-income or homeless, SROs provide an integral option on a short list of shelter choices. That, experts say, is why it’s not always a great idea to tear down SROs and build something new — even if the new structure is also meant to include some lower-income tenants. In fact, cities might do better to leave them in place — but insist they actually meet existing health and building standards. U.S. research shows that the loss of virtually any form of existing shelter for vulnerable populations leads to street homelessness. And that is true even if the housing is replaced — usually later, only partially, and often costing more. If de Grey’s rent is allowed to rise to market rates, the former film and construction worker says he’d face a “real crisis.” He fears winding up at another SRO hotel worse than the one he’ll have to leave. His current unit is well maintained, near a park, and has a big enough kitchen and washroom for him to live independently. Before moving two years ago into his clean room in a 100-year-old heritage building with 12 suites outside the downtown core, de Grey lived in the storied Downtown Eastside landmark Astoria Hotel for seven years. It was “what you call a real SRO,” he says. “And I certainly don’t want to go back.” De Gray lived on the North Shore for 20 years before circumstances put him in a cheaper apartment in Strathcona — until that too fell through and he wound up at the Astoria. “I only planned to stay three days,” he says. But after years of working and being able to support his family, a chain of events kept him there. “They used to call it the poverty trap,” he says. Despite their reputation, SROs are an important link in the chain of options that advocates say is necessary to address rising homelessness. Their demise in Vancouver, they say, is due to loopholes in their protection and not enough enforcement of SRO maintenance bylaws. And it’s putting even more people on the street. Particularly at risk are SROs like de Grey’s, where rents are limited by agreements between the building owner and the city, supported by federal funding.

SROs getting fewer, costlier

A single adult on welfare in British Columbia receives $610 a month, and has a budget of $375 to pay their rent. Yet in 2015, the average of the lowest rents in Vancouver SROs surveyed by the Carnegie Community Action Project was $517, up from $398 in 2009. Average rents in the “eight fastest-gentrifying hotels” doubled over the same six-year period, from $444 to $905 a month. One hotel advertised a unit on Craigslist for $1,500 a month. The Carnegie report calculates that for every eight units above welfare rate slated to be built from 2014 until February 2016, there was only one built to rent at the welfare rate. In all: 205 units that low-income people can afford, 1,663 they can’t. De Grey is fighting back by becoming active in the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative, which aims to preserve units and make them more habitable. The group wants the city to better enforce existing bylaws aimed at slowing the loss of the hotels. “That’s all we’re asking for,” says Wendy Pedersen, a longstanding advocate in the Downtown Eastside now active in the same group. SROs, she says, are “a pretty inadequate form of housing, but there is nothing else. We can’t afford to let them go.” In 2015, the city changed its Single Room Accommodation bylaw in an effort to stymie landlords from using “renovations” as small as fixing a sink as excuses to evict tenants. Landlords now need a city permit for any renovations. The fee to convert a single SRO room to another type, like student housing or a hostel, jumped from $15,000 to $125,000. The city also fines landlords when they break health and safety codes and don’t meet maintenance standards. According to a media release late in 2015, Vancouver City Hall issued “over 150 compliance letters and 75 orders” under the SRO bylaw that year. In the previous year, it levied penalties totalling $6,800 against landlords in what it calls “standards of maintenance” cases. But some SRO owners, critics say, continue to use legal loopholes — such as forcing tenants to sign fixed-term agreements — that allow them to hike room rents significantly, forcing tenants out. And according to a city staff report, a new trend finds investors buying SROs in strategic locations not to operate as low-cost accommodations, but as gentrification projects. After upgrading rooms they attract tenants with deeper pockets to up-and-coming locations where they can also earn revenue from renting commercial and retail space. “These renovations, although helpful in enhancing the quality of the rooms,” the city report states, “are resulting in the displacement of tenants due to their lack of affordability, which has negative impacts on the individual but also the community as a driver of homelessness.” The Carnegie report and other critics say that Vancouver can do more. They urge the city to give itself the power to impose non-profit management on hotels with outstanding maintenance complaints, and to limit incentives like renovation subsidies to owners that agree to keep units at the welfare/pension rental rate afterward. The province, the Carnegie report adds, could provide more effective rent control and higher welfare and disability benefits.

‘Affordable’ — in whose eyes?

Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Chicago have all toyed with permitting new SRO-style micro-units to be built. But merely loosening zoning to allow for smaller rooms hasn’t always increased affordable choices. Many new micro-units aren’t built for lower income brackets, let alone those on welfare. Vancouver already requires 30 per cent of units in new rental housing to be affordable to tenants with incomes low enough to qualify for BC Housing apartments. That works out to no higher than $912 for a bachelor. It’s also nearly two and a half times what provincial welfare provides a single person for rent in the city. Vancouver has a separate definition for the Downtown Eastside. There, a bylaw stipulates that a building within the neighbourhood’s borders must rent one-third of its units at the welfare rate, another third at the BC Housing rate, and the final third at what it vaguely calls “affordable market rents.” There are about 8,500 people living in the community on welfare and disability cheques, the Carnegie report states, and 4,000 more on seniors’ pensions. That’s roughly two-thirds of the neighbourhood’s more than 18,000 residents who have between $375 and $403 a month for rent. According to critics, building one-third of the housing for two-thirds of the people isn’t enough. BC Housing says the province increased its total number of homeless shelter beds by a quarter between 2012 and March 2016. However the number of independent social housing units barely rose, by less than one per cent. The number of transitional, supported and assisted-living units actually fell, by about the same amount. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 names still languish on the BC Housing waitlist for housing, and at any one time an estimated 15,000 people in the province have no secure shelter at all.

‘Help’ that (also) hurts

B.C.’s path of supporting housing for those in need selectively, and not the full spectrum, has produced unintended consequences in U.S. cities. Los Angeles, for example, shifted city funds away from transitional housing with the admirable motive of building more permanent units. But the result left more people on the streets. Although the estimated number of homeless living in the City of Angels didn’t change from 2015 to 2016, its “unsheltered population” rose by 1,400. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority blamed the rise on the disappearance of transitory beds to planned permanent housing — and cuts to funding for shelter programs in order to pay for the new construction. The 220 low-rent rooms in the Panama Hotel in the city’s infamous skid-row neighbourhood, for instance, were recently vacated and gutted. It’s expected to reopen as permanent supportive housing. But there will be only 79 new units. L.A.’s shift was encouraged by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development under former president Barack Obama. The agency bet on more permanent housing to solve America’s homelessness crisis. To help pay for it, HUD cut funding to some 2,000 transitional housing beds across the country. But it takes time to build. People who lost beds mostly didn’t have an interim place to go, or a guarantee they would be able to get an upgraded unit when replacements were built.

No single ‘happy home’

That’s why it’s important to understand what “affordable” housing means to different people needing support, says Alina Turner, who played a role in eliminating long-term street homelessness in Medicine Hat, Alberta. “The reality is that people vacillate through different housing types throughout their lives, depending on their experiences, situations, contexts,” she says. “So it’s unrealistic to think that one solution is going to solve all your problems.” An architect of Alberta’s provincial framework for defeating homelessness and a former vice-president of strategy at the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Turner knows what it means to be homeless herself. Her family were refugees from communist Romania, lived in a refugee camp in Germany for two years, and when they came to Canada she was eventually removed by child-care workers and lived in a basement suite by herself until she aged out of government care. Turner’s experience leads her to stress the importance of listening to those living without a home. “If you listen, you’re going to know it’s not going to be this ‘one size fits all’ [answer],” she says. The best outcomes happen, she says, when the type of shelter — a temporary bed, transitional, or permanent — is well matched to an individual’s needs. And, more surprisingly, when they’re free to say, “No thanks.” Turner contests an argument influential in the United States: that transitional housing isn’t as “cost-efficient” as permanent housing. While efficiency is desirable and worth improving, she says, “That doesn’t mean that we should do away with an entire sector.” Vancouver lawyer DJ Larkin agrees. The housing rights advocate says the province needs to stop simply reacting to events. Policy gestures in response to “a fuss” over symptoms, like the appearance of tent cities last year in Victoria and Vancouver, Larkin says, are “never going to solve the problem.” Rather, they prompt the province to “over-focus on one aspect of the housing spectrum to the detriment of others.” Over the years, Larkin says, a shift of government focus to supportive housing has meant that other types “fall off the map a little bit. “If we focus on permanent housing, there are going to be people who need transitional housing, who need shelter, and who are getting pushed out of those spaces where they currently exist,” Larkin says, as happened in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, “people living in poverty end up being quasi-institutionalized in supportive housing where they may not need it.”

Canada: money, but no plan

Canada’s 2016 federal budget promised more money to address homelessness. There was $111.8 million for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy; $208 million to the newly created Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund; and $30 million to assist with upkeep of existing rent-geared-to-income housing units. But neither Ottawa nor Victoria have presented thought-out plans to keep all the necessary doors on the low-income/homeless housing spectrum open to those in need. And they haven’t asked for the valuable input from those who would benefit from that shelter. As for de Grey, he continues to work with the SRO Collaborative hoping to preserve affordable units like his. “We’ve been crunching numbers, and half of them are gone — and by gone I mean they’re over $500 a month in rent. They’re no longer low-income,” he says. Another “550 rooms, I believe, are being rapidly gentrified, renovicted, by any means possible.” The small rooms may not seem much to others. But to many seniors he knows personally, they’re a locking door and a place to call home. “Poor people have to live somewhere.”

Improving client-care through shared knowledge.   

Each year The University of Calgary (U of C) offers a Certificate in Working with Homeless Populations, purposefully created for front-line workers in the homeless-serving sector. Any individual can take the course and those who complete it, receive  an academically recognized certificate with career building credentials. One of the purposes of the program is to encourage sharing of knowledge and best-practices from within the homeless-serving sector. Many individuals within Calgary’s Homeless-Serving Sector make presentations and teach modules for the Certificate Program.

The Certificate Program was formed through a partnership between The Alex Health Centre, Calgary Homeless Foundation, The Faculty of Social work at the University of Calgary, and the University of Calgary. Since its inception in 2009, over 250 people have graduated from the program, including some individuals with lived experience of homelessness. The program allows for a group of diverse industry professionals to come together and collaboratively discuss innovative solutions front-line workers can provide client care. As well, having individuals with lived experience in the program allows for true expression of what those experiencing homelessness need.

For more on the Certificate for Working with Homeless Populations program, please click here.

Data and research sharing is an important value within the Homeless-Serving Sector, as knowledge distribution allows us to collaborate and advance our practices for the betterment of everyone within the system, from those working front-lines to those accessing services. At the beginning of this year, Nick Falvo, PhD, Director of Research and Data at Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) presented a three-part series on homelessness. The topics he covered were:

  • Part 1 –Public Policy and Homelessness
  • Part 2 –Emerging trends in homelessness
  • Part 3 –Homelessness Advocacy

Nick’s three-part series showcases the value in providing education based on principles of inter-professional practice and competencies. Ultimately, this focus will provide a better systems and humanitarian response for individuals experiencing homelessness and practices focused on ending homelessness. He also highlights the importance of including various sectors in the conversation on ending homelessness, because these sectors may hold more powerful positions than one might realize.

Over the next three weeks, we will be publishing Nick’s presentation here. The first blog post will be published Tuesday, February 21, with the next two parts released the two following weeks. To read more by Nick Falvo see the CHF Research Blog, here.



News items for Thursday February 23, 2017:

  1. Free tax clinic helps Calgary’s poor, homeless file their returns
  2. Calgarians participate in National Day of Action on overdose crisis
  3. Calgarians gear up for ‘Coldest Night of the Year
  4. Trudeau asked about Housing plan for the North
  5. City of Ottawa hopes for ‘year of housing’ in upcoming federal budget
  6. Medicine Hat unveils proposal to assist residents dealing with poverty
  7. ‘Hard-to-house’ weak link in effort to end homelessness in Edmonton, report says
  8. No fixed address: How I became a 32-year-old couch surfer
  9. Local 107.3 hosts long-running indie radio marathon on homelessness
  10. Homeless clothing line takes heat for ‘making it look like it’s sexy to sleep outside’
  11. Canadian Definition of ‘Ending Homelessness’ Released Today. National organizations ask: “What does ‘ending homelessness’ mean and how do we know when we’ve reached that goal?”
  12. Government of Canada announces close to $3 million to support participation of designated communities to participate in Everyone Counts: the 2018 Coordinated Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Canadian Communities
  13. Organizations Call for Budget 2017 to be the “Housing Budget”

Free tax clinic helps Calgary’s poor, homeless file their returns
CBC News, February 22, 2017
By: Stephanie Wiebe

Calgary’s most vulnerable people are getting a helping hand when it comes to filing their taxes. H&R Block has set up a free tax clinic at the Mustard Seed — a non-profit organization and homeless shelter in downtown Calgary. Richard Sutcliffe, one of their clients, saw a sign about the free clinic, and thought it was an added bonus that he wouldn’t have to pay fees to file. He says his work as a home renovations and auto shop labourer has been inconsistent. “It should help me a lot because I haven’t got my GST for the last few years,” he said. “They just sort of not send you GST if you don’t file your tax.” Donna Ryder, an advocate and community health nurse with the Mustard Seed, says having tax preparation done on site has been a huge help to the clients. “It happens all year long. Guests come in and say, ‘I need to get my taxes done,’ and often it’s five years, 10 years, they haven’t had them done. So it’s a big deal,” she said. The Calgary based tax preparation service has direct access to forms with the Canada Revenue Agency, which streamlines the process for people who don’t have an address or identification. “If they don’t file they are missing out on some potential credits so there could be money coming to them like GST credit or the carbon tax rebate, so if they don’t file they are missing out on that.” Valorie Elgar, a senior tax preparer with H&R Block. The clinic is open Feb. 21 to Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The Mustard Seed is at 102 11th Avenue S.E.

Calgarians participate in National Day of Action on overdose crisis

CTV Calgary, February 21, 2017

About 40 Calgarians participated in a National Day of Action on the overdose crisis. This was one of several rallies held across Canada on Tuesday that called on all levels of government to do more to reduce the number of overdose deaths. The group was calling on the government for more funding, safer injection sites and more availability of Naloxone which is the antidote for Fentanyl. Hillary Chapple was among those participating because she lost a great-niece to a Fentanyl overdose. She died while on a Greyhound bus to B.C. Chapple says she carries a Naloxone kit with her in case she encounters someone who needs it. “I think safe injection sites are the key when they are monitored, we need more support out there for mental health, homelessness, we need a ton of support,” she says. “I work with the homeless, I was homeless myself, we need to cut the stigma, not be judgmental, because I guarantee you, everything is based on trauma.” Alberta doesn’t have any safe injection sites now but the province is researching the issue. John Tabler, a former Fentanyl addict, agrees it’s time for safe injection sites. “In Alberta, a lot of the cities are throwing people in jail, look them up. There’s no treatment. I believe a safe injection site in this city would be amazing.” In 2016, 343 Albertans died of overdoses related to Fentanyl that compares to 257 deaths in 2015. Calgary police chief Roger Chaffin supports setting up a safe injection site in our city and Mayor Naheed Nenshi has offered Calgary up to Ottawa as a “test bed” for new treatments.

Calgarians gear up for ‘Coldest Night of the Year
660 News, Feb 22, 2017
By: Audrey Whelan

About 400 people are expected to participate in the Coldest Night of the Year walk in Calgary this weekend. The goal is to raise $100,000 for homelessness projects in the city. “Here in Calgary we are raising funds for Feed the Hungry, The Mustard Seed and to pay down the mortgage on Bankview apartments,” Location Director Samantha Jones said. The Calgary East walk starts at Eau Claire Market Saturday night

Trudeau asked about Housing plan for the North
CKLB101.9 FM, Feb 13, 2017

KLB’s news team was at the Town hall gathering with Prime Minister Trudeau on Friday. Questions for Trudeau ranged from education, electoral reform, self-government negotiations, legislation, and this one on from Harvey Field of Ndilo on housing. “I’m looking after my grand-kids and have a two bedroom house, I’ve been trying to get a house, no one will listen to me. I’ve been trying with the band and housing corporation, lots of people need a place to stay. Can you help me out or do something about it,” Field asked. Harvey Field of Ndilo asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau what he’s doing about housing on Friday. Trudeau accepted a letter from Field, and sympathized saying that Canada has not been active on the housing file for the last decade. “A huge part of our approach is going to be a National Housing Strategy, that will be announced in the coming months with be investing historic amounts in housing, billions and billions right across the country,” replied Trudeau. According to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, As of 2011, 19% of all Indigenous households were considered to be in core housing need. For now Field and many Northerners hope it’s part of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2017-18 Budget, which could be coming by the end of February or early March.

City of Ottawa hopes for ‘year of housing’ in upcoming federal budget

CBC News, February 17, 2017
By: Kate Porter

City of Ottawa officials will make their pitch for a big funding boost in the upcoming federal budget to allow hundreds of new affordable or social housing units to be built locally. At a committee meeting on Thursday, city staff described how 40,000 households in Ottawa live in poverty — but there are only 25,000 units available in social housing or at affordable rates.”We want to be able to make a big dent,” said Coun. Diane Deans, referring to the long waiting list for social housing. “We want to be able to build new units, and that takes money.”Deans, who chairs the city’s community and protective services committee, and Janice Burelle, the city’s general manager of community and social services, plan to write a letter to federal housing minister Jean-Yves Duclos ahead of the tabling of the federal budget, which is expected in the coming weeks.

Tripling construction funding
The municipality received $68 million between 2014 and 2020 under the Investing in Affordable Housing program, said Shelley VanBuskirk, manager of the city’s housing branch. Officials will ask the federal government to nearly triple that funding to $200 million, allowing the city to build 1,300 new units, she said.  The city also hopes for more money to repair existing social housing units, as it falls short $22 million every year. The city’s housing branch would also like more stability in its long-term social housing agreements with the federal government, and is asking that those agreements be maintained so that the city doesn’t have to worry about their upcoming expiry dates.

Time is right, says Deans
Deans said she believes the time is right to ask for an influx of cash for affordable housing. The federal government is preparing a national housing strategy, she said, and housing has been an important topic at recent meetings of Canada’s big city mayors. “Municipalities across Canada are very hopeful that this is going to be the year of housing and that we’re going to see giant steps forward in housing funding federally,” said Deans. “For a number of years, the federal government hasn’t been very present on this issue,” she added. “So this is an opportunity.”

Medicine Hat unveils proposal to assist residents dealing with poverty
The Globe and Mail, February 17, 2017
By: Allan Maki

The race to eradicate poverty has moved to the forefront of issues confronting Alberta’s cities, large and small. The provincial capital has End Poverty Edmonton, a 10-year plan to address the more than 100,000 people living in poverty. In Calgary, Enough For All: The Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative is working to help the more than 114,000 people who live below the poverty line. Now, Medicine Hat has joined the fight. On Wednesday, its Poverty Reduction Leadership Group unveiled Thrive, its own proposal to assist the one in 10 residents dealing with poverty – defined as someone who earns “less than what they need to meet the necessities of life.” But what makes Medicine Hat so uniquely qualified to end poverty is its reputation as a place where things get done. Two years ago, it became the first Canadian city to solve homelessness. It succeeded by taking 1,072 people, including 312 children, off the streets and providing them with a place to live, be it a house, an apartment, basement suite, trailer, townhouse or condo. The rent was set at 30 per cent of a person’s income, and pride of ownership has helped keep homelessness from making a significant comeback. Medicine Hat has been so vigilant at monitoring homelessness, it has attracted the interest of city officials from Victoria, B.C. to St. John’s, Nfld., to Texas, Washington State and the United Kingdom. The program was so successful it became the springboard for ridding an even bigger problem. “When we announced a functional end to homelessness, the next step was logically poverty reduction,” said Medicine Hat Councillor Celina Symmonds, who was involved in the homelessness project as a member of the Community Housing Society. “It is a very co-ordinated effort [taking on poverty], but this community does pull together. I like to call it the little community that can.” Emanuel Akech, 44, can attest to that. He arrived alone in Medicine Hat in 2008, after leaving his war-torn homeland of Sudan and spending 14 years in Cuba, before eventually becoming a Canadian citizen. When he reached Medicine Hat, he had only a backpack with him. Community Housing put him in a place for the night, got him into the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Housing First program, which ultimately placed him in a fourplex. He pays his rent from the income support he receives from the federal government. He is aware of how fortunate he is. “I see some suffering the same way. I’ve been there,” he said of his early days in Alberta. “To not suffer like that, I like that way.” Medicine Hat’s approach is to streamline a one-stop system where all services and social needs can be met. Assistance will come from a myriad of sources – including the city, Medicine Hat College, the school board and the food bank, all of them committed to making things work and work well. “They’re all on the inside and they’re pushing the agenda through their different networks,” said Jaime Rogers, manager of the Homeless and Housing Development Department. “That’s why this is working, because you have all these background players who have connections and legitimacy in the community.” Measuring poverty in Canada is not an exact exercise. The federal government has defined the low-income measuring point as having “half the median income of an equivalent household.” In Statistics Canada’s most recent survey, nearly five million Canadians were considered impoverished. End Poverty Edmonton was unveiled in September of 2015 as united task force involving the city, the province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and the United Way’s Capital Region. Its members are business people, academia and health-care and social-service workers. Their research told them one in eight Edmontonians earn less than $16,968 per year. In Calgary, the Poverty Reduction Initiative first surveyed the public to understand what poverty meant and how it impacted people. Enough For All is a collaborative effort between the city and the United Way of Calgary designed to assist the one in 10 Calgarians living below the poverty line. The goal is to be poverty free “in a generation.” “I think it’s a worthy initiative,” said John Kolkman, research and policy analysis co-ordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. “Is it overly ambitious? Some have argued that there’s so much attention on the overarching developments that we miss what it really is – a series of small steps.” Mr. Kolkman pointed to Medicine Hat as proof that social ills can be cured. “Medicine Hat has largely eliminated chronic homelessness – that’s when people can’t hold a place to stay no matter what is done. Medicine Hat has the gold standard for eliminating that,” he said. “I’ve been to Medicine Hat and I’ve been impressed with how cohesive it is there between the city, the non-profit organizations, businesses, the labour unions. It’s helped by having the population it has [being the right size to see positive results].” Medicine Hat’s approach to poverty has 17 milestones to gauge how it’s performing. Yearly suicide rates will be monitored. So will the waiting lists for social housing. It will be, its administrators believe, very much a made-in-Medicine-Hat success story. “I think communities now are starting to take a look at themselves and saying, ‘What can we do to be part of the solution?’ ” Ms. Symmonds said. “Yes, provincial and federal governments are going to have to be a part of this. There has to be changes in systems across the board. That said, we have a lot to offer here.” A House of Commons committee on human resources, skills and social development will be in Medicine Hat Thursday for a public hearing. The committee is gathering information on how to reduce poverty.

‘Hard-to-house’ weak link in effort to end homelessness in Edmonton, report says
CBC News, February 21, 2017
By: Natasha Riebe

Edmonton is nearing the end of its 10-year plan to end homelessness, but a solution to the problem remains a distant reality. A new report called “Addressing Hard-to-House Homeless Population” shows Edmonton has built less than a third of the supportive housing units the plan called for in 2007. Now nine years into the initiative, 213 housing units have been built of an estimated 1,000 needed to fill the demand. In October, a city-wide “point in time” count uncovered about 1,750 homeless people living on Edmonton streets. “The dark side of all this is the fact that we have not looked after these people,” Coun. Scott McKeen told CBC News Monday. “Why haven’t we done it? It’s a really good question.” The report shows that the chronic or “hard-to-house” population is the toughest to help. City council is scheduled to review the report at a meeting Tuesday, which includes a recommendation that the mayor write provincial ministers and express the need for both levels of government to work together. But a solution will take effort from three levels of government, said Gary St. Amand, CEO of Edmonton’s Bissell Centre. St. Amand is hopeful the federal government will come through for Edmonton and its need for supportive housing. “Not only in terms of numbers of investment, but also the alignment between the three orders of government so they’re not approaching the conversation from different perspectives and trying to accomplish different things,” St. Amand said.But supportive housing is expensive, he said, adding that many of the hard-to-house or chronic homeless wouldn’t be able to live on their own without support for mental and physical illness.

No more NIMBY. It will also take social and political will, McKeen suggested. The multi-layered issue is perpetuated in part by societal values, he said. “I think governments haven’t done it in part because there’s no huge outcry,” he suggested. “If there was a huge outcry, if there were rallies at the legislature, in front of the city hall, I don’t think we could ignore it anymore.” McKeen said communities need to accept some role and responsibility to have these extended-care housing facilities in their neighbourhoods. He said he hopes the city will not continue to get the “not in my backyard” reaction like when affordable and supportive housing initiatives were proposed in the past. “Frankly, I think this is where politicians are going to have to develop a spine and say, ‘Well no, this is what we do. What we do as a community is look after people who need to be looked after and we’re going to do that.'” One example of a success story is Ambrose Place, a supportive housing facility for Indigenous people in the McCauley neighbourhood. McKeen said a previous community league had originally opposed it, delaying the project by three years. “I do believe that if you or I were treated like a stray dog every time we stepped out on the street, ‘No, you can’t be here, get out of here,’ that we’d have actually start to turn on culture as well.” he said. “These people change. They get healthier, they get happier.” The city report also calls for an updated version of the 10-year plan to end homelessness to be presented to community partners and the province by March 13.

No fixed address: How I became a 32-year-old couch surfer

CBC News, February 21, 2017
By: Shannon Martin

I’m 32 years old, work at my dream job and have an amazing circle of family and friends who love me. Life is pretty great. There’s just one thing — and I can’t believe I’m about to admit this to you, but here goes. Right now, I live nowhere in particular. I’m a couch surfer. For the record, I did have a nice place. But then my rent went up nearly $1,000 per month. Let’s backtrack for a moment. I arrived in Toronto in 2011 from the prairies; bright eyed, ambitious and totally naive. Chasing a childhood dream to live, work, and build a life in what I believe is the best city in the world. Almost everyone back home peppered me with questions: isn’t Toronto too big, too loud, and most of all, too expensive? “I’ll make it work,” I said, having no idea what that actually meant. I managed to, for the first few years. Living with my then-boyfriend, we split the rent and bills. When we broke up, I was suddenly alone in the big city. No problem, I told myself. ‘I’ll make it work’ Downtown is full of young professionals, just like me. We work hard, play harder. It’s what we do. Hustle. I moved into my teeny tiny 454-square-foot apartment in January 2016. Small but cute — just like me, I joked to anyone who’d listen. At $1,650 a month, plus hydro, things were tight. But, swapping stories over $1-an-ounce red wine at Gusto with my girlfriends, I quickly realized I was far from alone. Whether we work in media, pharmacy or public relations, most of us are forking well over 50 per cent of our paycheque to put a roof over our heads. Then my lease renewal arrived in late September. I anticipated a bump in rent and was already making a mental list of expenses I could axe (who needs Wi-Fi when I could “borrow” from the restaurant next door?). I opened the email from my property manager and there it was in black and white. My rent was soaring $950 a month to an astronomical $2,600. At first I laughed. It had to be a typo. A misprint. But as I scrolled through the PDF and saw the amount repeated, any laughter died, as Drake would say, into a dry cry (’cause I’m hopeless.)

‘You’re screwed’ I called the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board and the guy who answered my call broke it down for me in two words: You’re screwed. Real estate lawyer Mark Weisleder confirmed the worst of it. “You’re at the whim of your landlord,” he told me. “It can be a real painful surprise for tenants.” The painful surprise is that if you live in a building that is 25 years old or less, you have no rent-control protection. Rent increases at renewal time, 20 to 30 per cent or in my case much much more, is something many Torontonians are now dealing with, especially in the downtown core, where so many of us want to live. Geordie Dent, with the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, says his organization gets a “steady stream” of annual rent increases that exceed the guidelines set by the province. And that’s not all.  There are bidding wars for basement apartments, open houses with line-ups around the block.  “Toronto’s rental market is bananas,” Dent tells me, shrugging his shoulders. Average GTA condo rent: $2K per month And, unfortunately, it only gets more grim.

We’re paying more than ever, too. According to Urbanation Inc, which tracks everything condo related in the GTA, the average condo rent for a one-bedroom is now about $2,000 a month. That’s up 12 per cent from the year before. How much did your salary increase last year? That’s what I thought.

For me, I had no choice but to move. I packed everything into storage, and now I’m floating around until I figure out the future. But here’s what keeps me up at night: I have a good job, I’ve saved some cash. I’m fortunate I have family and friends who’ll put me up for a couple weeks at a time. What about students? Single moms? People who work two or three jobs just to make ends meet? How are you getting by? Share your stories about trying to find housing in this city. I’ll look for solutions and examine what the future may hold.

Local 107.3 hosts long-running indie radio marathon on homelessness
CBC News –New Brunswick, February 22, 2017
By: Julia Wright

Saint John’s community radio station, Local 107.3, takes over hosting duties Wednesday for the Homelessness Marathon, an annual radiothon that began in 1988 in Geneva, N.Y. Topics include in-depth portraits of individuals who have experienced homelessness, profiles of activist organizations and docs on social issues affecting homeless populations. Local 107.3 program director Mike Specht was excited to gear up for a 12-plus-hour day at work. “I’ve got this great nervous energy and excitement,” said Specht. “The Homelessness Marathon is a a great day to be a part of.”

Linking communities across Canada
The goal is “to raise awareness and create linkages between homeless populations across Canada and stand in solidarity with those in the streets,” Specht said. Local 107.3 started airing the Homelessness Marathon in 2010 — but 2017 will be the first year the Saint John community radio station has produced original content. Local 107.3’s Femcore Feminist Collective created an hour-long segment on the role of gender in homelessness, in which women’s co-ordinator Abigail Smith spoke with Jenn Megeney from the Coverdale Women’s Centre, and Diane Kerns and Julie Dingwell from AIDS Saint John. 17 broadcasters in six provinces will air the marathon.

Fuelled by caffeine, social responsibility
The all-night broadcast is a way for largely volunteer-run community radio stations to showcase less-heard perspectives on homelessness. “People across the country do a really great job of interviewing either people who are experiencing homelessness, or people who have experienced homelessness in the past,” said Specht, “and share that with communities across the country.” The 2017 Homelessness Marathon starts its 11-hour broadcast on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. and runs until Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6 a.m. on Local 107.3.

Homeless clothing line takes heat for ‘making it look like it’s sexy to sleep outside’

CBC News, February 23, 2017
By: Laura Fraser

Standing outside the Good Shepherd shelter, Jason Smith pulls on a cigarette and scrolls through photos of $50 sweatshirts and $135 hoodies branded with the word Homeless. He pauses at an image of a woman reclining against a mattress that’s propped up against a garage, then shakes his head. “They’re making it look like it’s sexy to sleep outside,” he says. “And it’s not sexy at all.” Smith, 30, is currently homeless himself. He says he’s a drug addict. And he also says he was disgusted by a new Toronto clothing brand dubbed Homeless that’s come under fire on social media for what’s been seen as exploiting those who actually live in shelters and on the street. “They’re glorifying homelessness, they’re making it look like it’s a cool way to live,” he says. “You’re sitting out here and you’re cold and you’re hungry and there’s nothing to do so you do drugs or you start drinking.” If the clothing and images were solely to raise awareness or funds for homeless organizations, Smith says he might feel a little more comfortable. But then he looks at them again and shakes his head a second time.

Charitable intentions.
The clothing line, however, brands itself as being built on the idea of giving back.  Its website says that it plans to donate 40 per cent of its proceeds to youth homeless organizations in Toronto. It noted, too, that those involved with the brand launched it because several of the employees have experienced homelessness themselves. Co-founder Trevor Nicholls says the company had good intentions. He’s 27, says he doesn’t have a “permanent place of residence now” and also spent some time living out of his car after he lost everything on a business deal. “Based on my own experience, recognizing how difficult it is sometimes to get by, I know how much of a difference even a little bit of help can make,” he said.   The clothing line officially launched about two weeks ago. After its first sale, he said that he and other staff bought supplies and then handed out care packages to homeless youth that included water bottles, toothbrushes and hand sanitizer. But neither he nor anyone on his staff contacted Eva’s Place — the homeless support organization the website lists as the likely recipient of 40 per cent of the company’s proceeds.

No firm partnership
Alanna Scott is in charge of fundraising at Eva’s Place and told CBC Toronto that she only heard about Homeless and its intentions when she was contacted by the media. She spoke with Nicholls on Wednesday afternoon. While Scott says she told him she’s happy to talk about future ideas, they don’t plan to be partners with Homeless. “It really is making light of a very serious situation,” she says. “There are 2,000 youth who are experiencing homelessness on any given night [and] we would want not to exploit them, but support them.” Others in the support community shared similar views on Instagram and Twitter, including advocate and street nurse Cathy Crowe.

A different perspective
Lloyd Daley, however, feels differently. He thinks Eva’s Place should have considered that the campaign would bring in critical funding, he told CBC Toronto. Daley described himself as currently homeless. But he says he wouldn’t be offended to see someone who clearly wasn’t in his situation wearing a hoodie that proclaimed they were. “I say, if it can sell, if it can make money, if it can help the homeless, then I’m all for it.” If the brand were solely trying to profit off of someone’s poverty, Daley says he’d feel differently. Nicholls says he accepts that the clothing line has created controversy on social media — and he says it’s fine that Eva’s Place doesn’t want to partner with them. “If you don’t like what we’re doing and you don’t like our clothes, I mean we highly encourage anybody else to go give to Eva’s or to any of the other organizations directly,” he says. “I think that’s the important thing here.”

Canadian Definition of ‘Ending Homelessness’ Released Today. National organizations ask: “What does ‘ending homelessness’ mean and how do we know when we’ve reached that goal?”
Canada News Wire, February 23, 2017

TORONTO -In Canada, there has been no single, agreed-upon definition of what it means to end homelessness. The Government of Canada, in preparation for Canada’s first National Housing Strategy, has encouragingly identified ending homelessness as a priority. Communities, policy makers and advocates across the country have done the same. However, until today, there has not been a cohesive vision of what an end to homelessness in Canada really looks like. In a major step forward, The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) of York University, The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) have released Canada’s first definition of ending homelessness. The definition is based on consultations conducted across the country. “A national definition can help us address concerns and skepticism about what it really means to end homelessness and help drive our efforts by providing clear goals,” said Alina Turner, lead author and Fellow with The School of Public Policy. “There was so much variation internationally in the definitions and the measures different communities used, that it was difficult to see what progress was being made. This makes it difficult to determine the benchmarks for success.” The definition comes at an opportune time: “As the Government of Canada takes steps towards launching a National Housing Strategy, we need to have agreement on what ending homelessness means. Then, we can all hold ourselves accountable to achieving that goal,” said York U Professor Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (Homeless Hub). The national definition takes into account factors such as poverty, access to affordable housing, mental health and life cycle stage. These factors interact in complex ways to impact homelessness. It also takes into account the perspectives of people who have experienced homelessness. For many, an end to homelessness means more than housing. It means safety, security and affordability. “We need to be able to spell out exactly what we mean when we say we’re ending homelessness; this needs to be backed up by evidence and it has to resonate with those experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Turner. Future work will include how to implement the definition in communities across Canada. Adaptations of the definition for key groups, including youth and Indigenous peoples, will be explored as well.

Some of the indicators in the new definition include:

  • Participants in a homeless-serving system must report high satisfaction and have been included in the decision-making to develop and deliver services.
  • All unsheltered persons should be engaged with services and have been offered low-barrier shelter and housing at least every two weeks.
  • The total number of unsheltered persons and emergency-sheltered persons is consistently decreasing year over year towards zero; the community has reduced its initial baseline total unsheltered and emergency-sheltered count by 90 per cent.
  • The length of stay in emergency shelters and length of being unsheltered is consistently decreasing year-over-year towards zero. The community has reduced the initial baseline length of stay in homelessness (unsheltered and emergency sheltered) by 90 per cent. No more than 10 per cent of those who exit programs return to homelessness within 12 months.


The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute at York University that is committed to conducting and mobilizing research so as to contribute to solutions to homelessness. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness leads a national movement of individuals, organizations and communities working together to end homelessness in Canada. The School of Public Policy is Canada’s leading policy school. The School was founded in 2008 by renowned economist Jack Mintz with a vision to drive policy discourse with relevant research, outreach, and teaching. Its faculty is composed of scholars with exceptional credentials, and experienced practitioners, working together to bridge the gap between government, business, and academia.

Government of Canada announces close to $3 million to support participation of designated communities to participate in Everyone Counts: the 2018 Coordinated Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Canadian Communities
Canada News Wire, February 23, 2017

GATINEAU, QC, – Today, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, announced nearly $3 million to support Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) designated communities that wish to participate in Everyone Counts: the 2018 Coordinated Point-in-Time (PiT) count of Homelessness in Canadian Communities. The 2018 Coordinated Point-in-Time (PiT) count will help communities measure their progress in reducing homelessness and will contribute to the understanding of homelessness throughout Canada. The results of this initiative will also contribute to the Government of Canada’s efforts to reduce poverty in Canada. Communities can also choose to implement a joint PiT count and Registry Week, which helps the community to create a by-name list of individuals experiencing homelessness. This list can be used to link individuals to housing supports as part of the 20,000 Homes Campaign of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Findings from the 2018 Coordinated PiT count, when coupled with results from the 2016 Coordinated PiT count, will provide important insight into changes in the homeless population over time. In 2016, a total of 32 communities participated in the first nationally coordinated PiT count. Key findings from this PiT count, which ended on April 30, 2016, were published in Highlights – 2016 Coordinated Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Canadian Communities.

Quick Facts

  • The call will be open until May 31, 2017. Following this call, PiT counts will be conducted in designated communities from March 1 to April 30, 2018. In addition to the Guide to Point-in-Time Counts in Canada, participating communities will receive support through an implementation toolkit and training.
  • From Budget 2016, the Government of Canada invested an additional $111.8 million over two years in the HPS to provide communities the support they need to help prevent and reduce homelessness, including Housing First activities, better emergency response services, and supports for youth, women fleeing violence and veterans. This builds on the program’s existing investment of nearly $600 million over five years.
  • To support community efforts to understand homelessness, the Government of Canada is investing nearly $3 million in this initiative.
  • Since the launch of the HPS, nearly 35,000 Canadians who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless have benefitted from education and training opportunities; assistance has been provided to support over 34,000 job placements; more than 6,000 new shelter beds have been created; and the program has helped place over 82,000 people in more stable housing.


Point-in-Time Count
A Point-inTime (PiT) count is a method used to measure sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. It aims to enumerate individuals in a community who are, at a given time, staying in shelters or “sleeping rough” (e.g., on the street, in parks), providing a “snapshot” of homelessness in a community. PiT counts include a survey that can provide communities with information on the characteristics of their homeless population (e.g., age, gender, veteran status, Indigenous identity). This information can be used by communities to direct resources to areas of greatest need, and to connect individuals with specific backgrounds to targeted supports to help them achieve stable housing. When completed in subsequent years, it can also be used to track changes in the homeless population over time and measure progress in reducing it. The coordinated PiT count of homelessness uses a common methodology and is coordinated with communities across Canada through the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). In Quebec, the HPS is administered through a formal agreement that respects the jurisdiction and priorities of both governments in addressing homelessness. Discussions with Quebec are ongoing with respect to the 2018 Coordinated PiT Count.

Registry Week
In 2015, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) launched the 20,000 Homes Campaign to house 20,000 people experiencing homelessness by July 1, 2018. Communities that participate create a registry, or By-Name List, of people experiencing homelessness and determine the severity of their needs in order to prioritize people for housing interventions. The creation of this list typically begins with a Registry Week, when surveys are conducted with people experiencing homelessness to begin to evaluate the severity of their needs. Data collected from a Registry Week will allow communities to target supports and services that meet the needs of the individual, but also the community. Since its introduction, 37 communities have participated in the Registry Week.

Homelessness Partnering Strategy
The HPS is a unique community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelesness by providing direct support and funding to 61 designated communities in all provinces and territories, as well as to Aboriginal, rural and remote communities across Canada, to help them address homelessness.

Funding for Homelessness projects
Through the HPS, qualified organizations may receive funding for projects to help prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada. These projects are funded through regional and/or national funding streams.

Regional projects
Funding delivered regionally focuses on the needs of homeless and at-risk individuals at the local level, and aims to help individuals gain and maintain a stable living arrangement. The three regional streams are:

  • Designated Communities:
  • 61 communities across Canada that have a significant problem with homelessness have been selected to receive ongoing support to address this issue. These communities—mostly urban centres—are given funding that must be matched with contributions from other sources. Funded homelessness projects must support priorities identified through a community planning process.
  • Rural and Remote Homelessness (non-designated communities):
  • The Rural and Remote Homelessness funding stream targets smaller, non-designated communities located in rural and outlying areas. This funding is not available to the 61 designated communities.
  • Aboriginal Homelessness:
  • The Aboriginal Homelessness funding stream addresses the specific needs of the off-reserve homeless Aboriginal population by supporting an integrated service delivery system that is culturally appropriate and community-driven.
  • The HPS partners with Aboriginal groups to ensure that services meet the unique needs of off-reserve homeless Aboriginal people in cities and rural areas. The unique needs of all First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and non-status Indians peoples are also considered.
  • Off-reserve Aboriginal people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are also served under the Designated Communities and Rural and Remote Homelessness funding streams.

National projects
The national funding streams help to develop a better understanding of homelessness based on local data collection, and make surplus federal real properties available to organizations that plan to use the facilities to address homelessness.

  • Innovative Solutions to Homelessness:
    • The Innovative Solutions to Homelessness funding stream is delivered nationally and supports the development of the best innovative approaches to reducing homelessness. Funding can be used to support activities in three key areas: supporting community-based innovative projects to reduce homelessness and/or the cost of homelessness; building strategic partnerships with key stakeholders; and testing and/or sharing tools, social metrics, and research findings geared towards homelessness.
  • National Homelessness Information System:
    • The National Homelessness Information System is a federal data development initiative designed to collect and analyze baseline data related primarily to the use of emergency shelters in Canada.
  • This funding stream supports the implementation and deployment of the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) software, HIFIS training at the community level, and projects related to community shelter data coordination.
    • Data collected through HIFIS and other sources, such as provincial or municipal governments, feed into the National Homelessness Information System to help develop a national portrait of homelessness.
  • Surplus Federal Real Property Initiative:
    • The Surplus Federal Real Property for Homelessness Initiative is a funding stream of the HPS. It makes surplus federal real properties available to eligible recipients for projects to help prevent and reduce homelessness.

Organizations Call for Budget 2017 to be the “Housing Budget”
Canada News Wire, February 23, 2017

OTTAWA, – Three leading national housing and homelessness organizations today jointly called on the federal government to commit to long-term investment on the scale needed to tackle the housing crisis in Budget 2017. The three organizations – the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association – are united in their call for a solution that will ensure all Canadians have a safe and affordable place to call home.

In an end-of-year interview last month, Prime Minister Trudeau stated that affordable housing is “a fundamental building block that leads towards people being able to succeed,” and suggested significant investment in housing would be forthcoming in the 2017 Budget. Furthermore, the federal government committed to unveiling a National Housing Strategy that prioritizes the needs of Canada’s most vulnerable populations. The three organizations applaud the Prime Minister and his government for their commitment to housing, but caution that promises must turn to action in the 2017 budget.

There is no question that housing needs are great, especially when considering:

  • 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year.
  • 1 in 5 renters spend more than half their income on housing.
  • 5 million households can’t find decent housing they can afford.
  • The affordability of housing for low-income families living in social and co-operative housing is uncertain, as federal funding agreements will expire. In the absence of a new federal commitment, by 2020, 175,000 fewer low-income households will be assisted compared to 2010.
  • Indigenous households living in cities and communities experience higher rates of homelessness and are more likely to be living in precarious housing than non-Indigenous Canadians.
  • A November 2016 report prepared by Morrison Park Advisors estimates total capital needs of the social housing sector to be in the range of $8.4 billion to $13.6 billion per year.

“The 2017 Budget and the subsequent National Housing Strategy marks an unparalleled opportunity to  address the many pressing housing needs facing the most vulnerable members of our society,” stated Jeff Morrison, Executive Director of CHRA. “Today, our organizations are saying that the 2017 Budget needs to be the “housing budget” so that we can make meaningful progress in tackling the myriad of problems experienced daily by vulnerable households.” “We agree with the Prime Minister when he calls affordable housing a building block to success,” said Nicholas Gazzard, Executive Director of CHF Canada. “Over the past fifty years we’ve developed a successful foundation of social and co-operative housing in Canada. Now let’s leverage this shared commitment to affordability and inclusion in order to tackle Canada’s housing crisis once and for all.” “If Budget 2017 is the ‘Housing Budget’ we’ve been calling for, Canada could see the beginning of the end of homelessness,” said Tim Richter, President & CEO, of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. “A Housing Budget would save lives, reduce the incredible cost of homelessness, and would mean tens of thousands of low income Indigenous peoples, women, seniors, veterans, children and young people have a shot at a better life.”

News Items for Friday, Mar 03, 2017
1. Krecsy: Together, we will end homelessness in Calgary
2. Calgarians bear Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise funds for the homeless
3. Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat
4. Agency celebrates a decade of helping homeless, at-risk youth
5. City has to change locks on up to 7,300 affordable housing units after locksmith van stolen
6. Throne speech: Province to cut school fees, cap electricity rates, diversify energy markets
7. 4,000 people are now homeless in Greater Vancouver
8. Housing First strategy likely not enough to end Regina homelessness
9. Toronto woman handing out ‘Period Purses’ filled with tampons, pads to homeless women
10. Success stories abundant, money is not for Housing First in Regina
11. Where will hundreds of people living in Hamilton social housing go during repairs?
12. Inuit housing shortage a public health emergency, Senate committee says

Krecsy: Together, we will end homelessness in Calgary
Calgary Herald, Feb 25, 2017
By: Diana Krecsy

Since launching Canada’s first plan to end homelessness in 2008, Calgary has made significant progress in transforming how we as a community address homelessness in our city, and as a province. Despite economic upheavals and issues such as the least affordable housing in the country for the lowest quintile of income earners, since 2008, we have housed more than 8,000 people out of homelessness, with 91 per cent of those achieving success in their housing. We’ve decreased homelessness on a per capita basis by 26 per cent and added more than 425 new units of specialized housing. In late 2016, to accelerate the building of more specialized housing for vulnerable people, the Calgary Homeless Foundation took the bold step of transferring its entire housing portfolio to HomeSpace Society, a registered charity focused on excellence in the development, building and management of affordable housing for vulnerable Calgarians. Over the past eight years, we have made extraordinary progress in how we solve the deeply complex and troubling societal issue of homelessness.
As the system planner for Calgary’s homeless-serving system of care, the Calgary Homeless Foundation has promoted greater co-ordination throughout the system, and developed program and funding measurements to ensure our resources are directed to create the greatest impact and build Canada’s largest homeless-information database. What we’ve achieved since 2008 has been the result of extensive collaboration between the homeless-serving sector, government, faith groups, the corporate and philanthropic community, and Calgarians. As we move into the final two years of Calgary’s plan, we are inspired by what we’ve achieved and are committed to working collectively to bring about changes that will continue to end homelessness in our city. Last October, over 60 board chairs and CEOs from over 30 service agencies, foundations and community partners working in or with the homeless-serving sector, gathered to collectively determine the three priorities they believed can and must be achieved by the end of 2018.
The collective vision of the group is to:
House more people. Ten thousand people between 2008 and 2018, with 8,000 housed to date.
Create more futures, with more than 600 units, 425 units built to date.
Save more lives. Ensure Calgary has a high-performing system of care that provides single point of access and assessment, is integrated with big systems and is informed by quality data, rigorous performance and outcome measurements. One of the key elements of achieving these priorities is greater integration between the homeless-serving system of care and big system players such as housing, justice, health and children’s services. Recently, the government of Alberta announced the separation of Human Services into two distinct ministries: Children’s Services, and Community and Social Services. For the homeless-serving sector, this is a significant move. It should provide better lines of sight internally, heightening capacity of each ministry to address the distinct needs of vulnerable populations. It should also strengthen capacity to address critical policy changes, the issues of rising disability caseloads and the lack of sustainable guaranteed income for vulnerable adults. As distinct ministries, each should have enhanced opportunity to accelerate and activate meaningful system changes that will benefit vulnerable people across our province. Calgary’s homeless-serving sector is made up of a strong and professional workforce, leaders, advocates, collaborators and partners committed to building strong communities and to helping all people not only exit homelessness, but to re-enter community life. Just as the Alberta government’s recent establishment of two distinct ministries will enhance the delivery of real-time solutions in the community, every Calgarian can take action to support ending homelessness in Calgary. Whether it’s volunteering, donating, being a positive and inclusive voice for affordable housing in your neighbourhood, everything you do is making a difference. When we each do our part, together, we will end homelessness in Calgary. 

Calgarians bear Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise funds for the homeless
Calgary Herald, Feb 25, 2017
By: Anna Brooks

Donning bright yellow, glow-in-the-dark toques, more than 400 Calgarians braved the cold Saturday evening to raise awareness and funds for the homeless. Samantha Jones, location director for the fourth annual Coldest Night of the Year event, said the walk — which included 60 teams walking 2-, 5- and 10-km routes around downtown Calgary — isn’t just about raising money for those in need, but puts Calgarians in the shoes of those without homes struggling to survive in the bitter winter cold. “Just being out there walking the streets for a couple hours gives you a tiny experience of what it’s like for the homeless population here,” Jones said. “All those people on the streets are citizens. They’re someone’s son or daughter, and it’s our job as fellow neighbours to take care of them.” Partnering with community members to raise funds for Bankview Apartments, Feed the Hungry and the Mustard Seed, Jones said they’re on par to raise around $105,000, slightly down from the $125,000 raised last year. “Considering we had almost 600 walkers last year and only 450 this year, the fact that we’re still that close to our goal really speaks to the generosity of Calgarians,” Jones said. “An interesting phenomenon we’re seeing this year is we have (fewer) donors, but the gifts we’re getting are bigger.” Part of a national event seeing thousands of participants walking in more than 110 communities across Canada, Jones said the Calgary event is one of the largest fundraisers for the national campaign. With more than 80 volunteers helping out, registrants started their walk at Eau Claire Market and ended with a hearty bowl of chili. The group is taking donations until the end of March, online at

Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat
New York Times, Feb 26, 2017
By: Craig S. Smith

MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — Kurt Remple, a toothless, unemployed, struggling alcoholic in Medicine Hat, the curiously named prairie town in Alberta, is a success story of sorts. Five years ago, he was living under a bridge and surviving on free meals from charities. Today, he lives in a small but tidy one-bedroom apartment in a stucco bungalow. “It was November and it was getting cold when I met this worker at the Champion Center,” he said, referring to a local establishment that serves breakfast to the poor. “She said, ‘Come to my office and we’ll see if you can find a place.’ ” Medicine Hat is on the leading edge of a countrywide effort to end homelessness through the “housing first” strategy, developed nearly 25 years ago by a Canadian in New York by which anyone identified as homeless is offered a home without preconditions for sobriety and other self-improvement that keep many people on the street elsewhere. Alcoholic? Here’s a one-bedroom apartment where you can live — even if you’re still drinking. Drug addict? Here’s a studio with heat and hot water — even if you’re still getting high. Mentally ill? Here’s a place to feel safe and call your own — and where caseworkers can find you. The theory is that only after people are in stable housing can they begin to address their other challenges. The strategy has been widely adopted in Europe and Australia. In the United States, it has found its most striking success in reducing homelessness among military veterans in cities like New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. But no country has embraced the approach as firmly as Canada. And nowhere in Canada has as much progress been made as in Medicine Hat, a small energy-rich city on the South Saskatchewan River. In November 2015, the city declared that it had succeeded in ending homelessness, bringing accolades and attention from all over the world. But Medicine Hat’s claim points to the fuzzy logic of the problem: The end of homelessness is a state, not a moment. There will always be people who become homeless, and there will always be people who prefer to remain homeless, even in Medicine Hat. “I like moving around — I can’t explain it,” said Gordon Thompson, a cheerful homeless man of 72, sitting in a Medicine Hat Salvation Army day room where clusters of people gather to pass the time and get a hot meal. He jokes with the caseworkers who come by imploring him to accept a home but stays instead in shelters or on the street, one among a hard-core cohort that shuns assistance. As elsewhere in the world, Canada’s homelessness problem grew in recent decades as rising rents pushed the country’s most vulnerable citizens into the streets. The oil boom fed the real estate bubble in Alberta.
Calgary, the center of Alberta’s energy industry, had the worst homelessness in the province. In 2006, the province gave the city money to test the housing first approach, which had been pioneered more than a decade earlier by a Canadian psychologist, Sam Tsemberis, while he was working in New York. With parallel projects popping up in British Columbia and Ontario, the Mental Health Commission of Canada got involved, lobbying for federal money to study the strategy. The commission started a clinical trial in five cities across Canada — Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton — in which 2,200 homeless people with either mental illness or an addiction were randomly assigned to either housing first or treatment as usual. The results were startling, validating the housing first model and showing that the cost of housing the homeless was far less than the cost of the emergency services needed by the homeless while they were living on the street. “The reduction in days in jail alone pays for the program,” said Jaime Rogers, a Medicine Hat housing official. She cited studies that said the average homeless person costs taxpayers 120,000 Canadian dollars a year, or $91,600, in services, while it costs just 18,000 Canadian dollars a year, or $13,740, to house someone and provide the necessary retention support. That kind of evidence persuaded the conservative government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pursue housing first as a national policy. “This is where it went to a scale that I have not seen in any other country,” Dr. Tsemberis said in a telephone interview. Under Canada’s subsequent Homeless Partnering Strategy, the federal government now distributes about 176 million Canadian dollars a year, or about $134 million, among 61 communities to fund services for the homeless. About 40 percent of that money must be spent on housing first interventions.
Seven Alberta cities — Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Wood Buffalo and Medicine Hat — formed a loose coalition and in 2007 each wrote its own 10-year plan to end homelessness. The province now spends more than 83 million Canadian dollars, or about $63 million, a year to carry out the plans, and came up with a 10-year plan of its own. Progress has been promising. In 2014, when Alberta performed the country’s first “point in time” count — giving a snapshot of people who are homeless on a particular night — the total in the seven cities studied was 6,663. In 2016, the number had fallen nearly 20 percent, to 5,378. Results in Medicine Hat were even more striking: The number of homeless counted fell by nearly half to 33 from 61. The number of participants in the housing first program, meanwhile, doubled to 120. Medicine Hat leapt ahead, in part, because the problem is more manageable here. It is easier to deal with homelessness in a town of 63,000, where social workers know the names of almost everyone who is down and out. It is also easier when members from the agencies working on the problem are so few that they can sit down around a table. But Medicine Hat has another advantage that could point the way for other cities: a centralized office that manages both housing stock and support programs.
The Homeless and Housing Development Department of the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society is led by Ms. Rogers. Recognizing that some people will always lose their homes, and with no national consensus of what “ending homelessness” means, Ms. Rogers and her team came up with their own definition: In Medicine Hat, it means connecting anyone identified as homeless with a caseworker and putting him or her on a waiting list for a housing program within 10 days. That turned out to be a stroke of public relations genius, because when they reached their goal, word that Medicine Hat had “ended homelessness” ricocheted from Argentina to Germany to Japan. The once-skeptical mayor, whose office plays only a marginal role in the plan, has since given as many as 200 interviews on the subject to news media from all over the world. The question, of course, is: How long do people remain homeless before being housed? Because of adequate federal and provincial funding and a good supply of local housing, few people in Medicine Hat remain truly homeless for more than a few months, Ms. Rogers said. She added that it took time to help homeless people get their papers straightened out and arrange for government assistance. Then, they are offered at least three potential homes. Some prefer to wait in a shelter until they are happy with what is available. Ms. Rogers said it cost less in the long run if the process was slow and deliberate because the goal is to house people permanently rather than rush them to unsuitable housing and have them return to the street. Of course, a housing first strategy in larger cities becomes exponentially more complex, cautioned Dr. Stefan Kertesz, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, who has studied housing first challenges in the United States. Only some major metropolitan centers are equipped with the leadership, manpower or structure necessary to coordinate a multiagency effort. “Cities with tight housing markets need a very substantial amount of work, both in terms of front-line staff and organizational leadership, put toward recruiting landlords and even rehabbing buildings,” Dr. Kertesz said by email. “It means a major organizational undertaking with all pistons firing.” In Canada, there is now a move to define on a national scale what it means to end homelessness, providing a benchmark for success. Alina Turner, a fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and one of the lead researchers pushing for a definition, said current programs should aim for “functional zero,” which recognizes that there will always be some people without homes. Under the currently proposed definition, functional zero would mean a 90 percent decrease in people experiencing homelessness in a community. “Housing is the easy part,” said Ms. Rogers, who acknowledged that by Dr. Turner’s definition, Medicine Hat still had a way to go. “Keeping them housed will always be the difficult part.”
Indeed, Mr. Remple, sitting in his sparsely furnished apartment, said this was the fifth place he had lived in during the five years since he connected with the housing first program. “I kept taking in homeless friends,” he said blankly. “I’d have two or four people living and drinking and partying with me until I’d get evicted.” Frustrating as such people might be, most eventually manage to settle down, social workers say. The stability of a home allows people to gradually address their problems. Mr. Remple’s caseworker, Allysa Larmor, said he had been sober since January and seems determined to change his ways. She has helped mediate with his landlord and connect him with services like addiction counseling and a food bank, and she will soon start working with him on developing “meaningful daily activities” to fill the time that was once taken up drinking.

 Agency celebrates a decade of helping homeless, at-risk youth
CTV News, Feb 28, 2017
Cynthia Roebuck

Calgary Adolescent Treatment Services, or CATS, has been helping street youth for a decade and is going strong.
It’s a modest looking place in the downtown core, but the CATS clinic is doing mighty things.
“It’s not a lot to look at but what happens here is incredibly important for young people who are at risk of falling through the cracks, who are at risk of falling out of the community, they come here, they have their health care looked after, they have a warm place to be, they have warm arms that embrace them, this stuff really matters,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. This is the 10th anniversary for the clinic, started by pediatrician Dr. April Elliott who believes that it’s never too late to help a kid out of a tough situation.
“When you believe in someone they do better, there’s such a growth mindset for youth, that we just give them encouragement, we hear their story, we really do coach them more than anything to take care of themselves both physically, mentally and emotionally so I think we are additive,” she said. “If we can get in there and give them that trauma-informed care, if we can have that growth mindset for them, we can change the trajectory of their lives considerably.”Dr. Elliott and Dr. Ellie Vyver are available to young people between the ages of 12 and 23 two days per week, no matter what situation the kids are in. “A lot of the kids who come and access our services, they really come often without identification, Alberta Health Care services, so we want to offer service that is barrier-free and non-judgemental so they can get the care that they need while they are trying to transition their lives into something much better,” said Adam Flegel, Wood’s Homes. The clinic is run through Wood’s Homes downtown exit community outreach, which has been helping youth in Calgary since 1914. They see people with complex issues like addiction, mental health issues, homelessness and abuse, and don’t limit themselves to helping only youth. “The program is designed to be 13 to 24 but we are seeing a bunch of older adults come in here just because they can see the sign, they can see what we offer and they are coming in for services,” said Flegel. Dr. Elliott is currently writing an international paper about what she and her team are doing here in Calgary. You can find out more about CATS on the Wood’s Homes website.

City has to change locks on up to 7,300 affordable housing units after locksmith van stolen
Calgary Herald, Mar 02, 2017
By: Annalise Klingbeil

It could take as long as six weeks to re-key thousands of affordable housing units across the city after key-making equipment connected to the Calgary Housing Company was stolen from a vehicle. City staff and Coun. Brian Pincott worked through the night Wednesday and early Thursday to put in place a response plan, after learning a contractor’s vehicle was stolen overnight Monday, possibly putting the safety of thousands of residents living in the city-owned units at risk. The yellow and black ABOE Locksmith van was stolen outside an Airdrie apartment complex, and though the vehicle was quickly recovered Tuesday morning, officials learned equipment and information used to cut keys was missing, according to RCMP. “The equipment taken could allow someone to create keys for some CHC units,” Sarah Woodgate, president of Calgary Housing Company, said at a news conference Thursday. The Calgary Housing Company houses 25,000 people in 7,300 units on 211 properties across the city. “If the person who stole this equipment knew how to use it and put the equipment together with the information, and knew how to put all that together, there’s a potential they can . . . create keys to access units,” said Coun. Pincott, the chair of the Calgary Housing Company. No Calgary Housing Company tenant names or other personal information was included in the stolen information. Officials say it’s not yet known how many units are affected, so out of an abundance of caution, information is being hand delivered to all units and locks on fewer than 7,300 units will be changed. “Part of our challenge is understanding the scope of it, so we’ve shot big to make sure we’re not missing anybody,” Pincott said. Pincott and Woodgate stressed tenant safety is top of mind and police are conducting a full investigation. “First and foremost for us is our tenant’s safety and everything that we’ve done has that in focus. Everything else is secondary to that,” Pincott said, noting contractor policies will be looked at down the road. Mayor Naheed Nenshi agreed. “The No. 1 thing we have to do is make sure that we’re looking after people’s safety. Particularly, some of the tenants are vulnerable and so we need to make sure we’re OK there. It’s all hands on deck. Fix this, do the re-keying, make sure we have everyone’s safety in place,” he said. “Once that’s all done, we have to have a big conversation about policy, procedure, process and how we can avoid this sort of thing in the future.” At this point, it’s not known how much it will cost to re-key the unknown number of units. “There is undoubtedly a cost for this. We’ll have to see the result of the police investigation as to where that lies,” Pincott said.

Throne speech: Province to cut school fees, cap electricity rates, diversify energy markets
660 News & Canadian Press, Mar 02, 2017

EDMONTON – The Alberta government says the first job of the spring session of the legislature will be to cut school fees. Premier Rachel Notley’s government made the announcement Thursday afternoon in its speech from the throne. The government says news legislation will forbid parents from having to pay for essentials such as textbooks or to bus their child if they already live within their designated school area. The move is expected to save 25 per cent of the fee costs and take effect this fall. Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell said in her speech from the throne that the province will continue to fight for the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia ports. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, as has B-C, but opponents are promising to fight it. The government also says it will help residents with their electricity bills by capping rates. The spring session is expected to last until early June as members debate 15 pieces of legislation or more. Finance Minister Joe Ceci brings in the budget in two weeks on March 16.
Highlights of the 2017 speech from the throne include (via the Office of the Premier):

Creating jobs and supporting jobs
•Diversifying Alberta’s energy markets by seeking intervener status on any legal challenges to the Trans Mountain Pipeline and continuing to work with the federal government and provinces on the Energy

East proposal.
•Putting more Albertans to work building highways, schools, affordable housing and health facilities across the province.
•Moving forward with the first renewable energy auction, attracting up to 400 megawatts of new generation, along with new investments in a more diversified economy.
•Expanding supports to help entrepreneurs across the province.

Making life more affordable
•Reducing school fees to help families save money.
•Capping electricity rates with new legislation.
•Helping families, businesses, Indigenous communities, municipalities, farms and non-profits save money and reduce emissions with new energy-efficiency programs.
•Protecting pocketbooks with a new Consumer Bill of Rights.

Protecting public services
•Approving more new schools to be built across Alberta.
•Partnering with the Alberta Medical Association to help communities find and retain health-care professionals.
•Building more long-term care and dementia spaces that are modern, safe and allow our loved ones to age with dignity.
•New legislation focused on ensuring child death reviews receive the utmost care and attention.
•Eliminating barriers to justice for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Making Alberta a better place for everyone
•Addressing the critical need for access to clean drinking water in First Nations communities.
•Moving forward with the City of Edmonton and City of Calgary on the creation of city charters.
•Expanding protection for whistleblowers and strengthening conflict of interest laws.
•Continuing with consultations to protect the Castle area and improving our parks.

4,000 people are now homeless in Greater Vancouver
Metro News, Feb 27, 2017
By: Jen St. Denis

The number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver rose 44 per cent in just three years, according to estimates released ahead of an official count of the region’s homeless population.
Metro Vancouver estimates that 4,000 residents in the region are now homeless, compared to the 2,777 counted in 2014. The regional district says the number of homeless residents has gone up 26 per cent every year since 2011. In the midst of a real estate boom that has also impacted rental rates, the region now also has the distinction of hosting more than 70 homeless tent camps. The regional district estimates that every week, five people lose their housing and fall into homelessness. “This is a crisis that is moving in the wrong direction,” said Nicole Read, mayor of Maple Ridge, a municipality that has struggled to permanently house a group of former tent city residents because of community opposition to sites for new transitional housing. “We have no plan here in the province of British Columbia to address homelessness, and local governments are scrambling to do their best with no resources, no funding to be able to deal with the citizens on their streets who need care and need attention and need places to live.” Mayor Gregor Robertson, who was first elected mayor in 2008 and campaigned at that time with a promise to end street homelessness, laid the blame for the problem specifically at the feet of current B.C. Premier Christy Clark. “We had an immediate partnership with the B.C. government, we had community partners and we were very successful for three years in bringing the street homelessness population down from over 800 to under 150,” said Robertson of the period between 2008 and 2011. “In 2011 things turned and Christy Clark became premier. There was no commitment to solving homelessness here in the province. There was very little follow through action in accelerating the pace to get housing built to address homelessness.” Homelessness has risen nine per cent every year since 2002, according to Metro Vancouver, but the rate of growth picked up after 2011, rising 26 per cent a year between 2011 and 2016. Metro Vancouver mayors are calling on the provincial government to work with the federal government, municipalities and community groups to create an action plan to deal with homelessness, a coordinated approach they say has so far been non-existent. B.C. is currently the only province without a poverty reduction plan. Metro Vancouver’s report also calls for a suite of measures to prevent homelessness, including the improvement and expansion of home care for those with chronic illness, mental illness and addictions; the establishment of supported living programs for youth aging out of foster care; an increase in the supply of rental housing for residents who make less than $30,000 a year; and supports to help former prison inmates find housing.
Increasing social assistance rates, which currently allow just $375 a month for housing and have been frozen for 11 years, is also a key recommendation, as is eliminating the BC Housing waitlist. Many people on the waitlist say they have been waiting years to get housing. Rich Coleman, B.C.’s responsible minister for housing, said he was “flabbergasted” by Robertson’s comments. He said his government has made “the most investments made in Canada on any file like this,” including $375 million on affordable housing and rent supplements in Metro Vancouver. He called on municipalities to use their land zoning powers to protect existing rental and build new, higher-density rental housing.
Coleman added the federal government could provide tax incentives and low-cost financing to build rental and non-profit housing. Coleman has in the past said that the BC Housing waitlist is not a good measure of how many people need housing in the province, since many people on the list are already housed and are asking for transfers within the housing system. In response to the Metro Vancouver report, he said that homelessness numbers are rising in part because more people are coming to B.C. from provinces like Alberta to look for work. “We were bending the curve (of homeless numbers) downward but then the economy in Alberta changed dramatically,” Coleman said.
However, homeless counts conducted by Metro Vancouver in 2014 and the City of Vancouver in 2016 found that the majority of respondents had lived in the municipality where they were interviewed for at least five years. Metro Vancouver will conduct its regional homeless count on March 7 and 8, with results expected to be released by April 4. The federal government will be releasing a National Housing Strategy this spring.

Housing First strategy likely not enough to end Regina homelessness
Regina Leader-Post, Feb 27, 2017
By: Heather Polischuk

While Housing First is a good place to start, a recent report out of Edmonton suggests the strategy will need a lot more help as it works to house the chronically homeless. The Edmonton report, released earlier this month, noted there had been “much progress” in the eight years the strategy has been in place in that city. But, it added, while there had been a 43 per cent decrease in the city’s homeless count over that eight years, 70 per cent of the still-homeless were considered “chronically homeless.” As in Regina, many of the homeless self-identified as Indigenous. Less than a year into its own existence, Regina’s own Housing First strategy is likely to face similar challenges unless all levels of government work together to address the issue, say those involved with the program. “We need collaboration of all three levels of government to be able to move forward with it,” said Phoenix Residential Society’s Kendra Giles, Housing First program supervisor for HOMES (Housing and Other case-Management and Engagement Services) and CHIP (Centralized Housing Intake Process). “Funding from the federal government just won’t cut it in terms of being able to get that (going).” She said the city is “getting more on board with” Housing First, but noted the province has not contributed — something YWCA CEO Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen fears is unlikely to change in the upcoming budget given the province’s economic woes. “I think that we’re in a place now too where we’ve seen some growth in terms of shelter availability and shelter beds, and yet the stats aren’t changing …,” said Coomber-Bendtsen, adding she would be hesitant to lobby the government for more money for the province’s existing system for dealing with homelessness. “Instead, I think it’s more important for us to work with the government in really analyzing and strategically looking at what has worked across the country and really changing the program itself.” Where that money could be better spent, the Housing First partners say, is through investing in affordable housing options for those currently homeless, including supportive housing for the chronically homeless, many of whom have mental health or addictions issues. In achieving the stability of a home, these people can then start to focus on the issues that kept them on the streets in the first place — the principle behind Housing First. Coomber-Bendtsen referenced 2005 numbers that found affordable housing costs significantly less than $10,000 per person per year while shelters cost between $13,000 and $42,000. Institutional costs of homelessness, such as frequent use of hospitals and jails, run between $66,000 and $120,000 per person per year, she said. “So it’s much cheaper for us economically as a province to look at things in a different way than it is to continue to do what we’re doing,” she said. Another important piece of the conversation, say those with the YWCA, is “hidden homelessness,” which includes women and their children. Coomber-Bendtsen noted a 2015 count found 37 per cent of the homeless population was children under 18. Hillary Aitken, senior director of housing with the YWCA, said 2016 numbers for the organization’s 22-bed emergency shelter My Aunt’s Place are startling. While they served 358 women and 118 kids, a staggering 768 women and 503 children had to be turned away. “The province is not putting enough funding into actually creating an effective strategy to end homelessness in the province …,” she said. “There’s tons of data that says if you put a dollar into housing, you get back 10, because of a lot of the cost-savings, but also because people are in more stable situations so then start costing the system less and actually putting more into the system. So it’s incredibly frustrating to hear nobody wants to put in the one dollar … We’re not seeing the political will to make that happen, at any level of government.” In the meantime, the YWCA held its Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday to raise funds and awareness about homelessness. With 179 walkers and 28 teams, the event raised just over $37,000 — more than $7,000 above its goal. Coomber-Bendtsen said this year’s top fundraising team was the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan, which raised more than $3,000 with close to 15 walkers.

Toronto woman handing out ‘Period Purses’ filled with tampons, pads to homeless women
CBC News, Feb 27, 2017
By: Ramna Shahzad

Jana Girdauskas is a mother of two with a full-time job who admits that until last week, she hadn’t really thought about what it would be like to have your period and be living on the streets. “It’s such a mundane and not fun thing for me. It has to be much worse if you’re on the streets,” she told Metro Morning on Monday. The thought of menstruating and having limited or no access to feminine hygiene products is what led Girdauskas to put together Period Purses. She said the idea of giving out handbags filled with pads and tampons to women who may not be able to afford them prompted an overwhelming amount of donations from her Bloor West Village community. “I posted it on one of my parent Facebook groups in my neighbourhood because I needed a purse,” she said. “I got many, many purses and so many donations. I had to take it and run with it.” Girdauskas said it very quickly came to include not just feminine hygiene products but also a variety of other things such as scarves, deodorants and coffee gift cards. She had to ask a local cafe and bakery to help her store the purses and their contents. “There’s been many times things have shown up on my doorstep. I’m just flabbergasted it brings me to tears,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness in our community.”
An uncomfortable conversation
Girdauskas, who says she hasn’t done anything like this before, admits talking openly about periods with women who live on the streets is an uncomfortable conversation. It reminded her how fortunate she is. “From woman to woman, I get it. We’re all just human. It’s nice for us to spread our kindness,” she said. “I think the uncomfortable feeling is needed so I don’t forget my privilege.” Due to the positive feedback and willingness of her community to help, Girdauskas says she plans to keep this project going until March 10. She is looking into local charities and shelters to see if there is a way to keep the project going forward past that date.

Success stories abundant, money is not for Housing First in Regina
CBC News, Mar 01, 2017
By: Tory Gillis

If you don’t know where you’re going to sleep, it’s tough to focus on other pressing matters, such as addiction, employment or improving your health.That’s the idea behind Housing First in Regina, which will receive approximately $700,000 dollars in federal money in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Since it began in earnest just over a year ago, 32 clients who are chronically homeless have been given housing, as well as support for whatever else they need once they have a roof over their heads. Bob Kastrukoff beams as he gives a tour of his modest one-bedroom apartment just north of Dewdney Avenue in North Central Regina. “This is my new home for the past five months and it flew by, it’s been great. I think it’s right-on, it’s a beautiful, beautiful place,” he says, adding a chuckle. “If my vacuum was working I would have had it even cleaner.” Kastrukoff says it could have been 20 years since he had a place to clean, and admits life wasn’t always easy before he got the keys to his apartment last August. ‘I’m getting too old to lay on the cement in 40 below’ “I kicked the streets for a lot of days and drank a lot of the downtown juice,” Kastrukoff says, admitting he’s struggled with alcohol. “I slept in banks, honestly, I did for the last few years… [the new apartment] worked out good, I’m getting too old to lay on the cement in 40 below anyway,” he says. Kastrukoff gestures underneath his TV to a shelf of new books, some of which were gifts from police officers who visited to congratulate him on the home. He says he often had run-ins with police and had regularly spent time in cells during the years when he was living on the streets, sometimes even twice in one day, on a bad day. “If you’re on bad behaviour, too intoxicated; downtown cells. And you get released, it’s always a charge. Public intoxication, or open liquor or whatever,” he says. “It wasn’t pleasant. Of course, nobody likes to go to jail, and I’m one of them, I don’t like to go to jail.” Kastrukoff smiles and says his case worker recently told him he hasn’t been in jail since August, a feat which he says feels “pretty right-on”.
Frequent flyers
“Anecdotally, I would say that yes, we’ve noticed that Housing First has made a difference,” said Regina Police Inspector Lorilee Davies. She says police interventions often end up becoming a kind of fail-safe for people who are chronically homeless in Regina, with nowhere else to go. The Regina Police service has noticed a decrease in calls about unwanted guest calls and public intoxication arrests in the downtown area since the program began. The police performed an analysis based on one client who was frequently in contact with police before they were given a home. Over a two-year period, that person was the subject of 139 calls for service and was arrested 105 times. After they received a home, that same person was the subject of just seven calls for service within seven months. Davies says police are currently studying statistics in relation to more Housing First clients to better understand what changes they’re seeing. “But like I said, that’s one person and we’ve definitely, definitely seen a change,” she said.
Detox centre, hospitals also see changes
The Detox Centre in Regina says their most frequent visitors stayed in brief detox nearly every night. But this past winter, around ten of those frequent visitors now have homes, and aren’t staying over nearly as often. “It wouldn’t be out of reach to suggest that some of them attended our facility over 300 visits,” said Troy Neiszner, manager of the addiction treatment program for the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. “We haven’t had to turn people away this winter, whereas in the past there were nights where we had to call mobile crisis because beds are full.” The health region has a team called Connecting to Care that works to find out why its most complex clients have so many visits to emergency rooms and overnight stays in acute care, and works to fix it. Sheila Anderson is the executive director of urban primary health services for the health region. She says the team works to connect those clients with community agencies, including those that administer Housing First. Sometimes, the most frequent visitors to the hospital need very basic help, including finding a family doctor or gaining access to services at the food bank, or the stability of having somewhere to call home. “If people don’t have a home and don’t have food, those are basic necessities of life. So when you say you want to help that person take care of blood sugars, they’re actually just concerned with where they’re going to sleep tonight, and where they’re going to eat,” she said. “So you need to actually meet some of those basic fundamental needs of a person before you can get them invested in some of those health issues that they have,” Anderson added. While the acute care and emergency visits can count as some of the most expensive aspects of health care in for the health region, Anderson says the program is aimed at improving lives, rather than just saving dollars.
Success abundant, money is not
Kendra Giles is the Housing First Supervisor at Phoenix Residential Society. She sees the program’s progress so far as nothing short of ‘phenomenal’, given that 32 people have received housing to date through Housing First. Each client says their quality of life has improved within a year of the program. She says some clients have ‘graduated’ out of needing help from the program, gained education, or sought employment. There have been no cases of ‘failures’ or people for whom the program just didn’t work. However, Giles says while the current funding from the federal government is ‘a good start’, she says it’s not nearly enough to end homelessness. She cites that other areas are combating homelessness through Housing First with money from all three levels of government, rather than just one. “The funding has definitely allowed for a significant decrease in homelessness, particularly for those that are the most vulnerable and ‘hard-to-house’ but it is nowhere near putting a big enough dent in homelessness for those that are still on the streets struggling every day,” she said, adding that 97 more people in Regina are currently on an active waiting list for Housing First. Blair Roberts is the Director of Homelessness Partnering at the YMCA of Regina, which administers the money for Housing First. He says the $700,000 for 2017-2018’s Housing First efforts in the city is not expected to extend past this year, and is likely to return closer to $400,000 next year. “It’s pretty rare that you’ll have something like this that everyone can kind of agree is a good thing. The challenge is, is it resourced enough? And the answer right now is no,” Roberts said.
A different kind of police visit
For Bob Kastrukoff, it’s nice to know police see him in a different light than they did when he was on the streets. He can be sure of that, because they’ve visited his new apartment. “He offered them snacks and juice, and showed such pride in his residence,” said Insp. Lorilee Davies. “They were just so happy, number one that he was doing so well and had such pride in his place… it’s really good for our officers to see that, too.” “They gave me those books right there and some other home-warming gifts, very, very nice actually,” Kastrukoff said. “But they’re impressed with my place. One cop said ‘Hey Bob, you’ve got to show my wife how to clean the house.’ I said, it’s easy, don’t let it build up this high. Just do it daily, and it’s a done deal.”

Where will hundreds of people living in Hamilton social housing go during repairs?
CBC News, Mar 01, 2017
By: Samantha Craggs

The city is grappling with what to do with hundreds of people living in two north end social housing complexes who will soon be forced to temporarily leave their homes. Now, one Hamilton councillor says it should sell two of its own properties to someone willing to temporarily house them. Jason Farr from Ward 2 says the city should look at selling two prime corner lots — 344 Bay St. N. and 38 Strachan St. W. — to a developer. That developer would have to be willing to temporarily house residents from Jamesville and the 500 MacNab high rise — two social housing mega projects up for repair and replacement. Farr will pitch the idea at a March 21 planning meeting. One plot is a park, but it’s right across from Bayfront Park. The other is a community garden, but there’s space nearby. “Maybe everyone will say, ‘Let’s leave well enough alone,'” he said. But it’s worth looking into. Hundreds of people will have to temporarily move in the coming years as CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) repairs and replaces their units. At 500 MacNab St., there are 146 units. CHH will spend $6.5 million to renovate the building, but doesn’t know where people will live while it does that. Meanwhile, CHH will build a mix of housing types at the Jamesville townhouse complex. But even if it does the work in phases, dozens of families will need to find temporary housing. Farr’s suggestion involves two pieces of high-profile land. One parcel — 344 Bay St. N. — is at the mouth of Bayfront Park. The Strachan Street land is near the new West Harbour GO station. Farr also suggests looking into selling one or both of the small ball diamonds at Eastwood Park for housing or a public parkade, and using that money to help do $3 million in repairs to Eastwood Arena. There are only two community events booked at the ball diamonds this year, he said. And people will only use it on Tuesdays. “If that ball diamond was busy five nights a week, or even four nights a week, I probably wouldn’t even consider the ball diamond,” he said.
CHH doesn’t yet know when it will do the work on Jamesville and 500 MacNab.

Inuit housing shortage a public health emergency, Senate committee says
Nunarsiaq Online, Mar 02, 2017
By: Jim Bell

The housing shortages that plague the four regions of Inuit Nunangat represent a public health emergency that requires immediate federal government intervention, the Senate standing committee on Aboriginal affairs said in a report issued March 1. To fix it, they recommend the federal government develop a funding strategy for Inuit Nunangat to help regional housing agencies cope with declining social housing budgets and make better plans to cope with long-term housing needs. “The lack of decent and affordable housing continues to have serious public health repercussions throughout the Inuit territories,” the report said. The Senate Standing Commitee on Aboriginal Affairs is chaired by independent Liberal Senator Lillian Dyck while Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson serves as deputy chair. To research their report, the committee heard from numerous witnesses at hearings held between February and June 2016, and in April 2016, visited communities in Nunavut and Nunavik. They found the housing shortage is linked to multiple public health crises in the the Canadian Arctic such as tuberculosis, which occurs among Inuit at a rate that is 250 times greater than in Canada as a whole. It also contributes to higher rates of respiratory tract infections among Inuit children and chronic lung diseases connected to overcrowded and poorly ventilated buildings. And they also said overcrowded and inadequate housing is connected to more stress, anxiety and other mental health problems. Because home ownership and private rental housing is financially out of reach for many Inuit, social housing will continue to be a necessity, the committee found. “Given the ongoing financial and demographic pressures for social housing, adequate federal support is considered critical by many in order to help territorial and Inuit governments keep up with the escalating housing needs in their regions,” their report said. One of the most serious financial problems that Nunavut and the Northwest Territories face is declining revenue for social housing maintenance. That’s because, under an arrangement that dates to 1998, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is slowly reducing its operation and maintenance contributions to the two territories. By 2037, these CMHC contributions will have been reduced to zero, and the territorial governments must pay all social housing maintenance costs. This means the Nunavut and NWT housing corporations will be increasingly reluctant to build new social housing—because to do so will add to their already staggering annual maintenance budgets. “These operation and maintenance costs only grow as more homes are built. The Nunavut Housing Corp. said that operating and maintenance costs are so high that if the corporation were to successfully address the housing deficit in Nunavut by adding 3,000 units by 2037, its operating budget would have to double,” the report said. Another factor is rapid population growth, especially in Nunavik, where the Inuit population grew by 23 per cent between 2006 and 2011, more than double the Inuit population growth rate in Nunavut. And Nunavik likely suffers from some of the worst deprivations. “Nunavik has one of the highest rates of overcrowding in Canada, with 53 per cent of Nunavik families living in overcrowded homes in 2015,” the report said. That compares with an overall overcrowding rate of 38 per cent in Nunavut, although in some Nunavut communities, the overcrowding rate is as high as 72 per cent. Another problem is that land lease policies make it difficult for many people in Nunavik to become homeowners. “Land tenure regimes, where land is collectively owned, can also make it challenging to obtain mortgages and mortgage insurance,” the report said. Local landholding corporations, which control municipal lands in Nunavik under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, are allowed to lease lands to individuals for a maximum of only five years. Longer leasehold periods require the approval of a general assembly of the landholding corporation. At the same, Quebec law prevents the creation of mortgages on lands leased for less than 10 years and the CMHC will not ensure mortgages on lands unless the term of the mortgage is five years less than the term of the land lease. “The combination of these factors makes it almost impossible for an individual to acquire a house, unless he or she can dispense with mortgage insurance,” the report said. The result is that only 3.2 per cent of Nunavik Inuit live in their own homes, compared with 21.9 per cent in Nunavut and 72.4 per cent in Nunatsiavut. Yet another problem in Nunavik is that very few local Inuit ever qualify for staff housing when they are hired for government jobs. That’s because, under collective agreements with Quebec unions, those housing units are reserved almost exclusively for southerners hired from the South. “It creates a lot of racism, a lot of hate of white people, a lot of hate of people that come up to work… It really hurts when I can’t get housing and I know it’s empty,” Nunavik youth representative Olivia Ikey told the committee.
To fix the housing mess in Inuit Nunangat, the committee makes 14 recommendations.
These include the following, that:
• the CMHC should work with other federal departments, territorial and regional governments and Inuit organizations in the NWT, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut to develop adequate, predictable, stable and long-term funding for housing;
• the CMHC should look at delivering funding directly to Inuit organizations;
• the seven Nunavik communities where marine shippers must still pay marine navigation fees should be exempted from paying those fees to reduce the cost of shipping building materials
• the Treasury Board and Inuit governments should look at staff housing allocations to better include locally-hired people;
• the CMHC should look at more homeownership programs, plus housing co-ops, co-housing ownership, and buy-back programs;
• the CMHC should continue to fund Habitat for Humanity’s Indigenous Housing Program;
• the CMHC should look at new technologies for housing construction; and,
• the CMHC should ensure that greater numbers of young Inuit are trained in construction trades.

We were saddened and shocked to learn of the charges laid by Calgary Police Service against a CHF board member, Robin Wortman. We are deeply concerned for the well- being of the youth, who we believe have demonstrated courage in coming forward.

As the system planner for Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care, CHF has limited direct contact with clients. Our Board of directors is a Governance Board. As such, our volunteer board members serve in an advisory capacity on policy, financial oversight, fund development and government relations.

The priority of the Board and staff at CHF is the protection of vulnerable populations. Therefore, upon learning of the allegations, the Chairman of the Board  immediately called an emergency meeting of the Board. At that meeting, the decision was made to  immediately remove Mr. Wortman from the Board subject to final court disposition.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation trusts and has confidence in the leadership and due diligence of the Calgary Police Service and the Court to follow this investigation to its rightful conclusion.

To read the full report click here.

In October 2016, the Calgary Homeless Foundation, (with over one hundred volunteers and countless community partners), successfully completed its biennial Point-in-Time (PiT) Count. On a provincial basis, using the same data, Calgary’s count was 3,222. With the inclusion of health data which the rest of the province did not include, 3,430 people were counted as experiencing homelessness in Calgary, which represents approximately 1 in every 406 Calgarians. Based on the Provincial Count data, Calgary has achieved a decrease of 26% in homelessness since 2008 when Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness was launched.

In November of 2016, (immediately following the count), we released our preliminary report. This report only highlighted the data that matched the count methodology that was utilized by the other six cities across the province.

Released today, our final Calgary report contains data that was not included in this overall provincial count – specifically, data collected from Alberta Health Services and from people unable or unwilling to complete a survey, but still believed to be living without a home.

PiT Counts are critical for three main reasons:

First, there is no other avenue where we can measure the number of “Rough Sleepers”, that is, Calgarians who spend the night outside – on streets, in parks, in other green spaces. As such, there is a lack of information on this specific group of people, which makes it difficult for Calgary’s Homeless-serving System of Care to assist them.

Second, the PiT count is the only time we enumerate the number of people who spend the night in shelters or in short-term supportive housing and in known facilities and programs from an agency neutral perspective.

Third, there is no other time we quantify the number of individuals who are spending the night in institutions such as hospitals and jails, and who were recently homeless.

Undoubtedly, the PiT Count allows us to create an accurate snapshot of homelessness on any given night in Calgary, which provides us with a measurement of success while giving us an awareness of the work that is still ahead of us.

Findings Highlights

It’s clear now that Calgary’s Homeless-Serving system of Care has stopped the explosive growth in homelessness that we saw in the 90s and early 2000s and we see an undeniable reduction of 19% per capita since its peak in 2008 (26% based on exclusion of health data). Our City has gone from 3,555 individuals enumerated in October 2014 to 3,430 (3,222 per provincial Count) enumerated in October of 2016 during a period of overall positive in-migration coupled with a drastic economic downturn.

Who are our most vulnerable?

From Count-to-Count, we have seen only modest changes in the demographics of Calgarians experiencing homelessness. Overall, the age, ethnicity, and gender make-up remains steady. However, here are a few highlights of the changes we’ve found:

  • A decrease of 13% in the 25-44 age range
  • An increase of 8% in those over 45 years old who are experiencing homelessness
  • A nearly 15% decrease in the number of individuals spending the night in shelter
  • A nearly 13% increase in the number of individuals spending the night in transitional housing

Interestingly, we’ve also discovered that only 7% of survey respondents in Calgary indicated welfare or income assistance as an income source, compared to 29% of those surveyed in the other six cities across the province.

The October 2016 Point in Time Count clearly illustrates that a Housing First approach to ending homelessness works. We’ve had many successes, but we still have much work to do.

The information gathered in the PiT Count, (along with data previously gathered through past Point in Time Counts), allows us to make better and more informed decisions around system planning and the allocation of resources and funding, and enables the creation of more focused and effective programming. It enables Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care better serve our homeless population through the delivery of programs and services that are built to best serve those who are most vulnerable.

To read the full report click here.

‘I am more than my criminal record’: New Calgary campaign looks beyond job seekers’ pasts
CBC News, March 13, 2017             

A new campaign aims to reduce stigma for Calgarians with criminal records who are looking for jobs. The Calgary John Howard Society launched a public education initiative called “I Am More Than My Criminal Record” earlier this month. “This campaign is about showcasing these individuals’ lives and who they think they are and giving voice to them,” said Cristina Amaro Benzaquen, employment partnership specialist at the society, to the Calgary Eyeopener. Having a criminal record can be a barrier to employment, especially in Calgary’s competitive job market. “I remember one week in particular where I had a few employers hang up the phone on me. They were hiring, and I knew they were looking for candidates, and I had great candidates who met all the qualifications for the job. They didn’t want to hear from me,” Amaro Benzaquen said. “There is this big stigma that comes attached to having a criminal record.” Gordon Sand, the executive director of the Calgary John Howard Society, hopes the campaign lets potential employers know people make mistakes, but they are more than those mistakes.

‘I love my job’. Dan, who spoke to CBC News on the condition his surname not be disclosed, is one of the people who shared his story on the campaign’s website. Five years ago, on the same day his mother died, he found out his partner of 24 years had been cheating on him. “I lost the two most important people in my life,” he said. That caused major depression, he said, and he turned to drinking and drugs. He ended up incarcerated and was homeless upon his release. When Dan started searching for a job, he found it really tough because of his past. He said he was let go from one job after his employer found out he had a criminal record. “Just seeing that box on a [job] application just sends fear, shame, so many emotions,” he said. With the organization’s help, Dan was able to get a job working in retail. “I love my job. I couldn’t be happier. It’s given me something to get up for every morning,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m a burden anymore. I feel alive. I’m 11 out of 10 now. Life is good.”

$2 million announced for senior and affordable housing in Calgary with more expected
CBC News, March 16, 2017

The chair of the Calgary Housing Company is cheering new provincial money that will help plan new affordable and senior housing units, but his eyes are squarely focused on what could be in the provincial and federal budgets. The province announced $5.7 million on Wednesday to help with planning for 14 projects across Alberta, five of which are in Calgary and will receive $2.15 million. “We are expecting more, both in the provincial budget, but I think even more so in the federal budget next week,” said Ward 11 councillor and CHC chair Brian Pincott. “This is certainly something I’ve been working on for quite a while in my lobbying work in Ottawa with the federal government, to get that significant commitment in their infrastructure dollars for affordable housing.” The provincial budget will be announced on Thursday afternoon.

Planning and redevelopment

Pincott said the money announced on Wednesday is great news, allowing CHC as well as other affordable and senior housing providers to prepare for much needed projects. “Not only Calgary Housing, but I think a lot of the housing providers are looking at opportunities with stock as it ages and gets older, at how we can redevelop sites and make them considerably better,” he said.  Last year, $18 million flowed into the city from the provincial and federal governments to help refurbish older social housing complexes.

Housing crisis

Pincott said the housing situation in Calgary has been in crisis for some time, with close to 4,000 people on the city-owned company’s waitlist.  “So, we need new buildings, we need to expand what we’re doing, we need to make sure that we’re getting the supports for people in place,” he said.  “We’ve been ready. Calgary Housing Company, I think probably all the housing providers, have been ready. We are ready for the planning money, we are ready for the construction money. We need the other orders of government to be ready with us.” The money is part of the provincial government’s $1.2 billion Alberta Jobs Plan, which the government said will help renew or build more than 6,000 affordable housing units over the next five years.

To End Homelessness, Prevent It from Happening in the First Place
The Tyee, March 13, 2017
By: Stefania Seccia

It was some of the toughest weather he’d seen yet on the day Joe Roberts spoke to me, holding his phone in one hand while pushing his tricked-out shopping cart along the Trans-Canada Highway with the other. I heard truck horns blare as they passed him. Roberts was on day 281 of his ongoing walk across Canada, pushing his cart through heavy falling snow and whiteouts on a stretch of two-lane highway approaching Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The cart is a symbol of homelessness, and his cross-country trek a fundraiser for a project to keep youth from falling into it. He plans to reach Vancouver in late September. Roberts was pushing a real shopping cart in 1989. He was living then in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside after abandoning his family in Ontario. He struggled with a heroin addiction and mounting mental health issues. He collected cans and bottles to make ends meet. “I lived under the Georgia Viaduct,” he recalls. “I thought my life was over. Thanks to his determined mother and a sympathetic Vancouver police officer, Roberts was connected to support services and his life turned around. He went from being a high-school dropout to building a multimillion dollar website development company, Mindware Designs Communications, during the dot-com era. He credits his escape from the street to his mother and what happens when the system works. For many, it’s much easier to wind up homeless than it is to get a home back. That’s contributed to a social-service focus on rescuing those who are homeless already. That’s valuable work, as Roberts’ own story illustrates. But the focus on the already homeless tends to accept the condition as somehow inevitable and a perpetual problem for society. It doesn’t have to be, observers and social workers say. A more organized effort to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, they say, would lessen the pressure on the band-aid of emergency response.

Innovative communities are taking steps to head homelessness off at the door. They’re assessing young people especially for early indicators they may be at risk of homelessness, and providing them with adequate support before they become embedded in street life. It’s why Roberts is fundraising for the Ontario-based Upstream Project. The initiative hopes to introduce in Canada an approach to keeping youth from becoming homeless that’s already been successful in Australia. The Geelong Project is named after the Australian city not far from Melbourne where it began. Community support providers there came together to keep youth out of the emergency shelter system by identifying individuals at risk, and then co-ordinating their services to meet those individuals’ particular needs. Through early intervention, they hoped to prevent young people from ever becoming homelessness. The project uses a survey tool developed by Dr. David McKenzie: the Australian Index of Adolescent Development. It asks high school students questions about their home life, if they’ve moved out, their relationship with parents or family, and their sense of their personal safety. During its pilot phase in 2013, the Geelong Project identified and intervened with 95 young people and 43 of their family members. The distressed teenagers were connected to youth and family-focused case management. All subsequently remained in school and retained “safe sustainable accommodation,” according to a report on the pilot. In a study by researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University who surveyed several thousand high school students in the Geelong region, McKenzie’s Index questions were found “to detect a significant subpopulation of adolescent students suffering from emotional and family distress” whose unhappiness may otherwise have flown under the radar.

Raising the Roof, a Toronto-based national charity that aims to end homelessness, is among the organizations that want to import something similar to Canada. “If you had a flood in your basement, would you spend the next 10 years mopping up the water?” asks Elisa Traficante, the organization’s manager of community initiatives. “No, you would go upstairs and turn off the tap.” To begin to “turn off the tap” leading people to the street, Raising the Roof and four other groups have launched the Upstream Project — the initiative Roberts is raising money for somewhere north of Sault Ste. Marie by now. It will closely mirror the Geelong Project. Beginning this year, it will survey students in a number of high schools in Ontario’s Niagara and York regions with questions similar to those in Australia’s Index of Adolescent Development. Students identified as being at risk will be connected with appropriate support from other project partners like community-based 360° Kids in York, and the Raft in Niagara. Both provide education and support services in their respective regions. “We estimate that approximately five per cent of the student body will be identified as at-risk for homeless[ness] or school dropout,” Traficante says. The national non-profit Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is another sponsor sharing the $449,000 costs of the Upstream pilot project. Its director, Stephen Gaetz, says the organizations selected the two Ontario school regions because service providers there are deeply connected to their communities. Australia has long focused on homelessness prevention, Gaetz says, but it’s “a thought that still doesn’t really occur in Canada that often.” He hopes the pilot project will collect evidence that similar early interventions keep youth off the streets here. If it does, Gaetz plans to push the federal government to implement the model nationwide. “If we really want this to take hold in Canada, we need to get some facts on the ground and demonstrate that it works here,” he says. Schools are key to acquiring that proof, Gaetz argues, because youth often continue to show up at their desks after their shelter has become precarious. Melanie Redman, executive director of A Way Home, another national coalition to end youth homelessness, is sold on the Geelong/Upstream model, but cautions that it’s only one of many necessary interventions, emphasizing that there is no single “silver bullet” to sheltering everyone.

Identifying someone on the brink of homelessness in time to connect them to services is a strategy already being employed in Alberta. Calgary’s Homelessness Assets and Risk Screening Tool seeks to pinpoint people in precarious living situations so they can be connected to appropriate services and kept from ever ending up actually homeless. Unlike the Australian survey, Alberta’s asks more questions that try to suss out a person’s current housing situation and their concerns about it, while also assessing mental health and substance-use issues. It also includes questions targeted to various sub-groups, to try and determine what intervention would best suit that person. A pilot study of the Alberta tool in 2012 was administered to 740 Calgarians who were not seeking assistance at the time. It “provided a unique exploration of risks,” according to the report on the pilot. When researchers followed up with participants several months later, the tool had correctly assessed 81 per cent of those who had or had not become homeless. Alina Turner was on the team that developed the risk-screening tool. She has since helped Alberta cities like Medicine Hat reduce their homelessness numbers. She agrees with Gaetz that Canada’s homeless crisis is a by-product of failing to focus on prevention. Alberta’s tool was borne, she says, from “the idea that we needed to get a better sense of the risk factors that impact how we design interventions.” While the tool has been adopted in Calgary as part of a multi-model city strategy to end homelessness, it’s not yet as widely implemented as Turner would like to see. Her hope is to have service providers across the spectrum — even physicians and dentists — use it to screen their clients for people who may need help with shelter, but are not yet asking for it. She envisions those professionals referring patients to support services, as they do already for cancer screenings or mental health issues.

Tools like those developed in Alberta and Australia are designed to identify people for help before they face the street. But to provide that help, other services and support need to be both available and adequate to make a difference. One such critical support for preventing homelessness, Turner argues, is the welfare system. It is, after all, meant to provide the necessities of life to those without enough means of their own. Yet B.C.’s notoriously low welfare rate of $610 for an individual hasn’t risen in a decade. Not only is it one of the lowest in the country, but it pales in comparison to the average cost of living in the province — one of the highest in Canada, according to a recent Statistics Canada report. In 2015, the average B.C. household spent $2,178 on just shelter and food each month. In Vancouver, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,820. But even that inadequate welfare can be hard to get, according to both advocacy groups and those with experience in the system. Over the years, the process of applying has changed. Where once people could walk into an office and ask a person there for assistance, now a more centralized system favours contact by phone or internet. Fourteen Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation offices have closed since 2005. In some, critics say, welfare enrolment was handed over to Service BC staff who haven’t been trained in income-assistance legislation. Service hours at 11 of the remaining 82 offices have been reduced to three a day. Internet and phone services are available only in English. Those who phone often wait on hold for 45 minutes. All that makes simply applying for welfare a huge undertaking for people who don’t have a phone, don’t use the Internet, have limited funds to pay per-minute connection charges while they wait, or whose first language isn’t English, says Erin Pritchard, a lawyer with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre. She gets the constant calls to prove it — from those trying to navigate the system alone, and other advocates attempting to guide a client through an application. “We talk to people all the time who have essentially been blocked from accessing services that they’re legally entitled to, which is just so problematic,” Pritchard says. In 2015, the centre filed a complaint with Jay Chalke, B.C. ombudsperson, on behalf of nine other provincial organizations calling for dramatically improved access to welfare. The ombudsperson denied the complaint, says Pritchard, and problems persist. Indeed, she says, “it just seems to be getting progressively worse in terms of aligning with the needs and resources of people who rely on the system.” The ministry argues that people can still access services face-to-face, but claims its clients have shown a growing interest in online services. For its part, BC Housing insists that its Homeless Prevention Program is working. The agency declined to make a representative available for an interview, instead providing a list of provincial programs that address homelessness. Meanwhile, there are as many as 15,000 people facing homelessness in the province at any one time. The province says it funds about 1,520 portable monthly rent supplements, allocated to service-providers across the province. It claims to have connected 7,130 people to stable housing in 2015-16, through contracts with outreach and emergency service providers. But other reporting has found that there are catches to accessing those supports too. After escaping homelessness and making his money, Roberts left his web company in 2003 to become a motivational speaker. Now 50, he bills himself as the “Skid Row CEO.” He formed his Push for Change charity in 2011 in an effort to create sustainable change for youth, which prompted him to go back to pushing a shopping cart. Roberts says he has high hopes that the Upstream Project will deliver on preventing youth homelessness, because he’s an example of what can happen when the “system works.” “The thing that keeps me awake at night,” he says, “is how many great kids, or people, had that opportunity waiting to [be found] within themselves, but they don’t have the systems or resources to access. Getting in upstream, before someone hits the streets the first time, and giving that person that help, Roberts says, is “really what we’re advocating for.”

Alberta government announces more than $5.6M in funding for affordable housing planning
Global News, March 15, 2017
By: Quinn Ohler

The Alberta government announced planning funds Wednesday for 14 affordable housing projects throughout the province. The announcement totals just over $5.6 million. The NPD said it plans to build or renew more than 6,000 affordable housing units over the next five years. “I’m pleased to see this government move forward on housing projects that are much needed in the community,” Capital Region Housing CAO Greg Dewling said. “The demand for affordable housing has skyrocketed in the past few years.”

Of the 14 projects, five are in Edmonton and four are in Calgary.

The Seniors and Housing ministry says the planning dollars will assist the organizations in proceeding to the permit development stage, and includes funding for scope and cost definition and feasibility studies. Although the planning funds have been approved, that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to move on to the construction phase. There are currently more than 40 housing projects in the works across Alberta. The announcement is part of the Alberta Job’s Plan, part of the government’s 2016 budget. “Previous governments’ underfunding left a significant wait list for affordable housing and seniors’ lodges—it’s unacceptable,” Minister of Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson said in a news release. “That’s why our government is working to make life better by building new housing so Albertans have a safe and affordable place to call home.”

Housing projects approved for planning:

  • Clover Bar Lodge Replacement, Edmonton, Heartland Housing Foundation – $350,000
  • Del-Air Lodge, Manning, North Peace Housing Foundation – $100,000
  • Elbow Valley Seniors Community, Calgary, Silvera for Seniors – $750,000
  • Elmwood Terrace, Edmonton, Greater Edmonton Foundation – $780,000
  • George C. King Tower Replacement, Calgary, Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta – $300,000
  • Hillcrest Lodge, Barrhead, Barrhead & District Social Housing Association – $150,000
  • Second Social Housing Site, Calgary, Calgary Housing Company – $450,000
  • Linsford Gardens, Leduc, Leduc Foundation – $250,000
  • Piper Creek Lodge Replacement, Red Deer, Piper Creek Foundation – $250,000
  • Londonderry, Edmonton, Capital Region Housing Corporation – $600,000
  • Southview 3, Calgary, Calgary Housing Company – $500,000
  • Strathcona Place Redevelopment, Edmonton, Greater Edmonton Foundation – $330,000
  • Valley View Redevelopment, Calgary, Silvera for Seniors – $150,000
  • Youngstown, Edmonton, Capital Region Housing Corporation – $700,000

Calgary artists create virtual reality of homelessness with ‘1200 Roommates’ film
Global News, March 20,2017
By: Jill Croteau

A group of Calgary filmmakers and creative artists are experimenting with virtual reality, a one of a kind, 360-degree view of the world. The goal is to take audiences through an immersive experience of homelessness in the hopes it will trigger empathy in a way nothing else can. “You can put people in places they’ve never been to or will ever be able to go to.” Founder of Mammoth VR Matt Wright says the film, being showcased by the Calgary Drop-In Centre, is intended to give the viewers a very raw look at homelessness.

Even Wright himself was moved by the project from start to finish. “It changed my perspective of homelessness,” Wright said. “When I look at someone homeless, I think about their story and it rewired my brain to have more empathy.” The audio portion of the film is written and voiced by Talia Hume. The visuals in the piece were drawn by Mandy Stobo. A Calgary artist known for her “Bad Portraits,” she created all her paintings within the virtual reality world. “I’m a 2D artist who works on paper so when you’re in there you’re in the headset and in the matrix and there’s this endless white amazing room,” Stobo said.

She’s grateful to have been a part of it.

“Virtual reality is such high technology and it can create such empathy – it’s magic.”

The Calgary Drop-In Centre’s clients have been asked to watch it and experience the film. Former client Ruth Vickers said it resonated with her own journey. “I hope it (the film) makes people think: ‘What are these people and what are they there for? And what can I do to stop this misery?” Vickers said. “It’s not something we talk about, but this is where misery lives.” Jazmine Lintner, 27, is a university student who works with seniors at the Drop-In Centre and watched the film for the first time Tuesday. “I didn’t even consider before: this is their home but there is no quiet place surrounded by people,” Litner said. “You have 1,200 roommates; I have one and it’s tough. I can’t imagine.” The film 1200 Roommates is available for viewing on desktop and mobile devices.

Calgary Homeless Foundation hoping for innovation in federal housing budget
Metro News, March 21, 2017
By: Brodie Thomas

With major dollars expected for affordable housing in Wednesday’s federal budget, The Calgary Housing Foundation (CHF) is hoping some of that money will flow directly to the city, rather than the province Kevin McNichol, VP of strategy at CHF, said housing and supports are traditionally the responsibility of the provincial government, and federal dollars would have to flow through the province. But he also knows the current government is open to new ideas. “Our large urban centres have been fairly active with this federal government and the government seems fairly responsive, so I’d be curious to see how they would roll out this housing as a principle and as a whole,” he said. McNichol said when it comes to affordable housing, it might be better to get dollars to the municipalities, because problems vary from city to city. “There’s enough regional differences – and a lot of them are localized to the economies – that a blanket solution of just building affordable housing doesn’t translate the same in every community,” he said. Although he doesn’t really expect to see it in this budget, McNichol said housing funding that’s tied to individuals rather than projects is another solution he’d like to see.

Ron Kneebone, professor of economics at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, has studied the feasibility of boosting people’s incomes to address housing. “You can either make their housing cheaper or you can give them more income,” said Kneebone, adding that the latter option is cheaper.

He said even a small supplement of $100 per month can take someone in poverty from homelessness to market housing. That also creates a market incentive for landlords to build more affordable market housing on their own, according to Kneebone. He said it’s unlikely the federal government will give supplements to individuals in this way, because social assistance is a provincial responsibility.

Federal budget ‘largely good news’ for affordable housing, Green Line LRT construction, says Nenshi
CBC News, March 22, 2017
By: Dave Dormer

Calling the federal budget “largely good news” around affordable housing and transit, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Calgary should receive $1.15 billion in federal funding for the Green Line LRT as part of a $20.1 billion investment in transit over the next 11 years. The money will be doled out through a bilateral agreement with the province that will be based on ridership (70 per cent) and population (30 per cent). “And I have commitments as recently as today from the federal government that they will also fund their additional $400  [million] or $450 million that they promised for the Green Line,” said Nenshi, noting he spoke with federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi after the budget was presented in the House of Commons. “It means we actually have in a budget document the beginning of the commitment that was made during the last federal election … this means we’ll be able to move forward on the Green Line, and it also means it will be very, very important for us to sit down with the government of Alberta to get their one-third in place as well.”

Housing commitment

Nenshi said he was also pleased with what he called “a historic commitment to affordable housing” by the feds in Wednesday’s budget, part of $11.2 billion in funding over 11 years. “When the funds start flowing, we’ll be able to really make a difference to people,” he said. “There’s currently 4,000 [people] on the Calgary Housing Company waitlist, there are about 19,000 households in Calgary that are living in substandard housing right now.” Tim Richter, president of the Calgary-based Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said the money is badly needed and should be prioritized to assist the most vulnerable.

“For the first time in 25 years, the federal government is re-investing in housing and homelessness, with long-term funding, which is obviously going to be quite positive,” he said. “There are people in Calgary shelters and on our streets that could die from a lack of housing, so it’s important that this federal money — when we figure how it gets spent — is prioritized for those people.” The feds also earmarked money for innovation and training, which Nenshi hopes can be leveraged into new jobs. Calgary Economic Development is also working to attract high tech companies to the city in an effort to diversify the workforce.  “I don’t yet have the details on how that’s going to work, but the fact the federal government understands the need to build these clusters across the country, particularly in our big cities, and the importance of innovation as we reinvent our economy — that’s more important in Alberta than anywhere else, and it’s more important in Calgary than anywhere in Alberta.”

No time to waste, says Nenshi

The province will also receive an additional $6 million to deal with the ongoing opioid addiction crisis. Nenshi said that money needs to flow quickly. “There is some real money in there but we need to make it stick,” he said. “And that money has got to flow fast. We just don’t have any time to waste.”Earlier this month, city council went over its infrastructure wish list, which includes things like:

  • Airport Trail N.E.
  • Crowchild Trail short-term improvements.
  • Flood mitigation and resiliency measures.
  • Main Streets Phase 1.
  • Legacy Parks Phase 2, tier 3 projects.
  • River access improvements.
  • N.W. water and sanitary upgrades (Brentwood TOD, Stadium).
  • Corporate lifecycle.
  • Investment Optimization Fund.
  • Parks and pathway improvements (including Jack Long, Mills, Bridgeland, Montgomery).
  • Community infrastructure lifecycle.
  • Baines Bridge.
  • Construction of a pedestrian bridge at 14th Street and 90th Avenue S.W.
  • Various road improvements at Glenmore Trail and 68th Street. S.E., Deerfoot and 128 Ave. N.E. and 194th Ave. S.E.

Green Line cash, housing dollars: Nenshi not surprised by federal budget
Metro News, March 22, 2017
By: Helen Pike

Dollars for projects near and dear to the Calgary mayor’s heart get injunction of federal funds. Curious about what Calgary’s mayor takes from today’s federal budget announcements? Here’s his highlights, some of them ticking off the box on the city’s cash flow wish list, and some needing more time to flesh out nitty gritty details:

Green Line:

With a road map of funding over 11 years, it looks like there may be a chunk of the $20.6 billion in funding will ultimately land in Calgary’s lap. “We need to figure out what the financing on that looks like, and who is going to pay the interest payments on that money,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters.  “11 years is better than 30 years, and the city’s money is over 30 years. We can certainly work that through and I would hope a lot of that would be front-end loaded.” Funding that the provincial government gave in December will tide the city over, allowing work on the project to continue and council to vote on final alignments. The province is waiting on firm budget details before getting involved further.

Cut transit pass tax credit:

Because the feds decided this credit failed to get new people using transit, they’re ditching the tax credit that came with getting a transit pass. “There’s nothing wrong with putting more money into people’s pockets and helping people who are making the right choices,” said Nenshi. “That said, we know the number one driver of people taking transit is that it’s convenient and reliable.” But the transit-loving mayor let the blip of bad news roll right off his shoulder – the City of Calgary has something up their sleeve.  “We’ve got a very big set of plans in terms of addressing the transit shortfall, both on the service side and on encouraging people to ride,” he said. “We’ll be announcing those over the next weeks and months.”

Affordable housing:

For Calgary, Nenshi said this item is a big win. The feds plan to spend $11.2 billion dollars over 11 years and that could help the city get a number of shovel-ready projects on the go.

“One of the things we’ve really seen is that for these housing first strategies to work you have to have housing for people to go to,” said Nenshi. “Because we’ve had basically a moratorium on new funding to build housing from the federal and provincial government for some years now, it’s made it very difficult to meet those goals.” Once the money is flowing, Nenshi said the city can get going on several projects that are either shovel-ready or almost at that mark.

Opioid Crisis:

The government announced $6 million headed to Alberta to help battle the ongoing opioid crisis. “There is some real money in there but we need to figure out how to make that stick and that’s got to flow fast,” said Nenshi. “We just don’t have any time to waste.”In recent months the mayor has proposed that Calgary become a pilot bed for any innovative ways to help treat the crisis including finding suitable spaces for supervised consumption.

Innovation “superclusters”:

As Calgary moves towards becoming the new Silicon Valley, the feds announced a cash program that could help. Announced Thursday, $950 million is being allocated to a competitive program to get businesses to innovate in major city centres. “That’s more important in Alberta than anywhere else,” said Nenshi. “It’s more important in Calgary than anywhere else in Alberta, so we’re really, really happy to partner with the federal government on taking advantage of the state of the world today and making sure that we here in Calgary continue to attract big brains, big ideas, and big money in that area.”

A portable housing benefit could ease our homeless crisis
The Globe and Mail, March 20, 2017
By: Pedro Barata and Tim Richter

Pedro Barata of United Way Toronto & York Region chairs the National Housing Collaborative and Tim Richter is president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

A frustratingly familiar challenge is playing out for Canadian families across the country. Overheated markets are pricing home ownership out of reach for too many. Limited vacancy rates are squeezing rental supply. And people who are struggling to find shelter say it’s just too expensive. A common thread throughout all of these scenarios is cost. Affordability determines access. And one solution within our grasp is a national portable housing benefit. More than 1.5 million Canadian households are paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent – CMHC’s standard for affordability. Over half of these households are in extreme core-housing need (living in poverty and spending more than 50 per cent of income on housing). Worse still, every night more than 35,000 Canadians will be homeless as part of the more than 235,000 Canadians who experience homelessness at some point every year. These are people who are sleeping in shelters, on the street, couch surfing, or waiting unnecessarily in hospital or other temporary accommodation. Beyond the human toll, poverty and homelessness are a financial burden on all Canadians. A recent report funded by United Way Toronto & York Region found that in Toronto alone, poverty costs $5-billion annually. According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, homelessness costs Canadians over $7-billion a year. The good news is that poverty and homelessness are problems that can be solved. The federal government’s commitment to a National Housing Strategy and the upcoming budget is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a significant new investment in affordable housing. Over the past year, affordable housing advocates, national associations, researchers, foundations, municipalities, home builders and landlords have come together as a United Way-led National Housing Collaborative (NHC) to propose innovative, detailed and tangible steps the government can take. With the budget just days away, there is a historic opportunity for the government to make immediate progress on one of the NHC’s key proposals: a commitment to a portable housing benefit. This benefit is a subsidy paid directly to tenants who cannot afford rent.

Here are five reasons why the portable housing benefit is a smart idea:

  1. It is the most efficient way to help households in need and address homelessness. We need more supply and it is essential that investment in new units and repairs of existing affordable and social-housing stock are priorities in the budget. But new units will take years to build and Canada’s housing crisis is far too big to be fixed by construction alone. For renters in crisis, a portable subsidy makes housing affordable right away and gives them stability and choice.
  2. It will reduce homelessness. The vast majority of people who experience homelessness in Canada are homeless only because they cannot afford rent. A portable housing benefit would prevent homelessness for thousands of Canadians and take thousands more quickly off the street and out of shelters and house them in stable, long-term tenancies.
  3. It will reduce poverty. When people are able to afford their rent, they are most likely to succeed in securing better nutrition, education, child care and other things that contribute to health, quality of life and economic success.
  4. Its portability means it is tied to an individual, rather than a housing unit, giving people choice so they can move to a different neighbourhood, town or city, based on their career or personal needs. It is also essential in mitigating against rent inflation.
  5. It is already working. Five provinces offer a housing benefit, and Ontario is piloting a new program. A federal housing benefit would boost existing programs and provide much-needed support to all Canadians.

This government has already shown leadership on the Canada child benefit – which is helping to lift children out of poverty and giving a new generation of Canadians a more promising start. The 2017 budget offers the next opportunity to make a transformational change in the lives of Canadians. Urgent access to stable, affordable housing will allow families to focus their energies on making their lives, and all of Canada, more prosperous, inclusive and healthier.

Budget 2017 promises additional billions to Indigenous communities
APTN National News, March 22, 2017

The federal Liberal government unveiled a $305 billion federal budget Wednesday that will see hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments flow to Indigenous communities and peoples this fiscal year. Overall, the federal budget commits to providing $3.4 billion in new money over the next five years for First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and communities. This money is in addition to the $8.4 billion announced in last year’s federal budget which was also spread over five years. The two figures would bring total new federal investments targeting Indigenous peoples and communities to $14 billion by 2021-2022—two years after the next federal election. “Together, we will build stronger, more resilient communities and renew our nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Metis,” said Finance Minister Bill Morneau, in his budget speech to the House of Commons. “We will help break down employment barriers, with a focus on skills development, training and better education.” In his speech, Morneau claimed the new funding—which represents an increase of 27 per cent in spending between 2015-16 and 2021-2022—proves the Justin Trudeau Liberal government has erased the two per cent cap first imposed by the Liberals under Jean Chretien in 1996-1997 to control spending. “This represents an increase of 27 per cent, well in excess of the decades-old two per cent funding cap,” said Morneau. “And will contribute to a higher quality of life on reserves. All this, while setting Canada on a path toward true reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.” Morneau’s statement blurs the reality of the two per cent cap which limits how much funding Indigenous Affairs gets year-over-year. The new investments announced by the Liberal government are time specific—between five years to 11 years—and their permanence depends on the economic climate and the goodwill of government at the time. The previous Conservative government’s spending increases on the Indigenous file, which was also based budget to budget, routinely exceeded two per cent year-over-year. The Assembly of First Nations and the Trudeau government are currently negotiating a new fiscal arrangement to replace the two per cent cap with a larger escalator. The biggest piece of money in the Indigenous envelope—$1.15 billion over five years—targeted on-reserve infrastructure like housing, water treatment systems, health facilities and other similar projects. The money is part of a $4 billion package the Liberal budget said will be spread over 10 years. None of the new infrastructure money will be invested this year. A first instalment of $275 million will flow next year, with a matching amount to follow in 2019-2020, the next election year. The budget says a total of $600 million is slated to roll out in 2021 and 2022. The budget also promises $828 million over five years for First Nation and Inuit health, including $305 million for the non-insured health benefits program including $86 million to expand access to mental health services, $184 million for home and palliative care and $118 million for mental health programming. The new health funding also includes $83 million, over five years, to expand maternal and child health services for families with children under six years of age. The budget also sets aside $72 million for primary care, $50 million for chronic and infectious diseases and $15 million for a drug reduction strategy. The Liberal budget promises new money for northern and off-reserve housing, but the money is spread out over 11 years. The budget sets aside $300 million for northern housing with about $240 million going to Nunavut, $36 million to the Northwest Territories and $24 million to the Yukon. Budget 2017 additionally offers $225 million over 11 years in funding for housing providers that serve off-reserve Indigenous peoples. The funding is also earmarked to take over from the former Urban Native Housing Program. The budget also commits to continuing to fund Friendship Centres in urban areas with $118.5 million spread out over five years. The Liberal government, in support of plans to introduce legislation to protect and promote Indigenous languages, said it will invest $89.9 million over the next three years on the file. The budget earmarks $69 million of that total to enhance Indigenous language initiatives like learning materials, language classes, culture camps and archiving. Library and Archives Canada will receive $14.9 million through the same envelope to digitize existing Indigenous languages and cultural materials along with the development of an “Aboriginal Oral Testimonies Project” to document Indigenous heritage. The National Research Council will also receive $6 million to develop information technology aimed at preserving oral histories by converting speech to text, along with other interactive materials. On the justice front, the federal budget commits $56 million over five years to promote restorative justice, $65 million on rehabilitating and reintegrating Indigenous offenders and $82 million for policing services in First Nations communities. Budget 2017 also promises $250 million over five years for programs supporting Indigenous fisheries. While the budget provided no new funding for on-reserve K to 12 education beyond the $2.6 billion over five years promised in the last budget, it does set aside $90 million for First Nations post-secondary education. The federal budget also commits $24 million, on an ongoing basis, to resolve specific claims which deal with historical grievances over lost lands and mishandled trust fund monies.

185 Cast Their Vote at Calgary Drop-In Centre’s Polling Station, Supported by CHF’s Client Action Committee Members

Hand of a person casting a ballot at a polling station during voting.

Calgarians experiencing homelessness face many barriers in their lives, and many of those barriers prevent them from voting. These barriers were addressed during last month’s provincial election thanks to an on-site polling station hosted by the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (the DI), and support from Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Client Action Committee (CAC).

The CAC is a group of people who have experienced homelessness. They speak from profound experience when they advise CHF on the best ways forward. In their work to leverage the voice of lived experience, the CAC identified two major barriers to voting. These are: the lack of suitable identification (ID), and the location of the polling station.

By partnering with Calgary’s largest homeless shelter, the DI, and working with Elections Alberta, they were able to remove both barriers.

Elections Alberta addressed the ID barrier by offering an extensive list of authorized ID options that are relevant to people experiencing homelessness. Not only that, those still without appropriate identification were able to submit an attestation form with the help of shelter staff, that once completed, was used as proof of identity for the purpose of voting. In addition, placing a mobile polling station right in the DI eliminated the location barrier for many of Calgary’s homeless population.

In all, 185 people voted at the DI mobile polling station on April 16th—about 50 people more than at the last municipal election 18 months prior.

“As far as we know, the DI is the only shelter in Canada that has a mobile polling station,” said Michael Grant, a CHF System Planner who works closely with the CAC.

The CAC also removed another important barrier after finding out that people experiencing homelessness reported not being familiar with candidates and parties. The CAC invited all candidates in Calgary-Buffalo (the riding where the DI and most of Calgary’s shelters are located) to meet voters at the DI in the days leading up to the election. CAC members identified questions that clients could ask candidates, and they also encouraged both candidates and clients to engage with each other to talk about the issues that mattered to them.

The mobile polling station was promoted at other shelters in the city, through the distribution of an informational booklet, poster and website to encourage people experiencing homelessness to come to the DI and vote.