The Evolution of Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care
Before the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, agencies in Calgary never viewed themselves as a “homeless-serving system.” Instead, they saw themselves as single entities focused on their own goals.
This began to change with the implementation of the Plan in 2008. Although Calgary Homeless Foundation helped house 2600 people in 1000 program spaces during the early stages of the Plan, we discovered issues with this approach.
First, we realized that people with complex needs required long-term support, and not just houses.
We also learned that no one was monitoring the performance of programs and services or collecting data across the agencies. Agencies could not share information, forcing individuals experiencing homelessness to tell their story repeatedly and to relive their trauma without receiving the help they needed.
Furthermore, the Plan made assumptions about the numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness and the level of their needs, which did not align with experiences of agencies providing those services.
As a result, we began holding discussions with agencies about developing a framework for cooperation. These conversations set the groundwork for what we now call “system planning.”
Organizing the Homeless-Serving Sector: A Sophisticated Approach
As our understanding of the interconnectedness between service providers and funders increased, Calgary Homeless Foundation began to map out consistent program categories, as well as common measures of success and standards of care for agencies across the system.
We also formulated data sharing agreements and established the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a database to collect information about individuals accessing different agencies.
Today, the key elements of the System Planning Framework include:
A transparent process to identify system gaps and priorities for investment, engaging community partners and leveraging HMIS data and evidence-based research;
Program types across the homeless-serving system that use common definitions;
Referral processes and eligibility criteria for homeless-serving programs;
Appropriate program types aligned with priority populations;
Formalized eligibility criteria to support streamlined referral and matching of clients to services;
Performance expectations at the program and system levels (includes standards of care);
Common intake, assessment, referrals and service coordination, with reporting through HMIS; and
Technical assistance to support service providers and mainstream system partners in the areas of system planning, HMIS and standards of care.
With this system planning approach, we help create a cohesive system-of-care where programs and services are delivered in a purposeful and strategic manner to the people who need them, reducing overlap and system redundancies.
Calgary Homeless Foundation
Rocky Mountain Plaza
Suite 1500, 615 Macleod Trail SE
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2G 4T8