It’s always good when Members of Parliament invest their time and energy to learn first-hand what Calgary is doing to end homelessness. On Saturday, July 12th, Tom Mulcair, Leader of Canada’s New Democrats and the Official Opposition, took a tour of three housing first locations owned by the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

Karen Crowther, Executive Director of Keys to Recovery, provided Mr. Mulcair an overview of the work her agency does to end homelessness for individuals leaving addictions treatment who, without Keys, would be released from a recovery program back to homelessness. “It’s hard to maintain your hard-won sobriety in a shelter environment,” said Ms Crowther. “There are so many opportunities to slip, which is why it’s so important we provide housing and supports.”

Karen shared their findings of the impact of housing on 9 of their clients after one year of being housed. Keys determined that based on the decrease in hospital stays, shelter costs, EMS, Fire and police interactions as well as incarcerations and ER visits, $810,445 in savings were realized. Without housing and Keys interventions, the nine individuals studied accounted for $1,023,618 in systems useage costs versus $213,173 after one year of housing.

Kelly, a long term resident with Keys, shared his story of addiction which began at the age of 9 and ended when he finally got housing with Keys 2 years ago.

From the Keys managed apartment building in Cliff Bungalow, Mr. Mulcair and his aide, George Smith, toured two Alpha House locations, The Madison, a 15 unit apartment building for Veterans with lived experience of homelessness, and Sunalta, a 33 unit single room occupancy low-barrier apartment building for singles. When asked what Mr. Mulcair can do to support the work over ending homelessness, Kathy Christiansen, Executive Director of Alpha House was quick to reply, “I have two words. Affordable Housing. We need a national strategy because without the housing, we can’t move people out of homelessness. It is critical.”

Mr. Mulcair promised to take the message back to Ottawa, not just about the need for Affordable Housing but also around the amazing work CHF and its agency partners are doing to end homelessness here in Calgary. With six years of experience, data and research, we are leaders in Canada.