At Calgary Homeless Foundation, we use research to build knowledge and understanding, creating change throughout the homeless-serving system of care so that people experiencing homelessness can receive the help they need.
The story of Mary Ann and Reg is one example of how our research has helped Calgary’s most vulnerable citizens.
The Story of Mary Ann and Reg
After sleeping in shelters for nearly twenty years, partners Mary Ann and Reg were told by employees at the Calgary Drop-In Centre they were finally going to be housed. On July 28, 2017, they moved into their new homes – permanent, neighbouring apartments built by Calgary Homeless Foundation and our community partners.
The new homes had an indelible effect on their lives. Mary Ann, who has epilepsy, discovered that her seizures stopped with her new housing. Reg described the place as a “godsend” and “the mansion on the hill,” and after twenty-one years with Mary Ann, he was able to die peacefully in his own home in March 2019. “I knew he was going to die, but he didn’t want to go to a hospital. He was happy here and he wanted to die here,” Mary Ann said.
Since 2017, Mary Ann and Reg, plus 107 other people who had been living in shelters for years, have been housed. This result was only possible because of our research.
How Our Research Makes Change Possible
Chronic shelter users like Mary Anna and Reg were housed, thanks to research that we conducted on data from the Calgary Drop-In Centre. Our research revealed that people were experiencing homeless for years, because they never met the criteria to access permanent housing.
As a result, we made major policy changes:
We allocated 50 per cent of housing spaces to chronic shelter users.
With our community partners, we launched the Chronic Shelter Users Pilot to develop a systematic way to house people who had been staying in shelters for five years or more, but who were never “acute” enough to be provided with supportive housing.
These policy changes meant that 109 people who had been chronically homeless at Calgary’s three biggest shelters for single adults were referred for permanent supportive housing over a six-month period in 2017. More than 100 people now have a safe place to call their own.
Calgary Homeless Foundation now incorporates the lessons from the research and the pilot into our regular process for prioritizing clients for housing programs and supports.
The Future of Applied Research at Calgary Homeless Foundation
We launched a series of applied research projects, thanks to a generous five-year donation from Jenny Belzberg and the Belzberg family.
Each of the projects, known collectively as the “Belzberg Research Projects,” focuses on a specific challenge confronting the homeless-serving system of care. You can access the Belzberg research reports here.
The Belzberg Research Projects demonstrate our commitment to making a positive impact on the community through knowledge and understanding.