Art Smith—politician, decorated war veteran, and businessman—was a Calgary icon, known for his charisma and visionary contributions to the community, including the creation of Calgary Homeless Foundation.
Born and raised in Calgary, Art served as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, he returned to the city to work in the oil patch and later joined politics, serving as city alderman, Alberta MLA, and three-time member of Parliament.
In 1998, Calgary was experiencing an economic boom and people from all over Canada poured into the city to find work. Accommodation became scarce and many people’s wages could not cover their damage deposits, leaving them without a home.
When Art learned about the problem from a radio interview with the Salvation Army, he knew he could do something to change Calgary’s story.
On March 25, 1998, Art called a meeting. Before prominent members of Calgary’s business community and a committee chaired by city and provincial politicians that had been studying the issue of homelessness, Art declared the creation of a new organization called Calgary Homeless Foundation.
“Art was a ‘doer’,” says John Currie, who attended the meeting and later served as the organization’s CEO, board chair and vice-chair. “When Art got an idea, it was transitioned into action very quickly.” Thanks to Art, Calgary Homeless Foundation became the first formal effort in Calgary to address the problem of homelessness.
Over the next decade, Art continued to steer the work of Calgary Homeless Foundation. He strengthened the organization’s partnerships with the private sector, government, the faith community, and agencies to ensure that individuals experiencing homelessness received the best support. Despite his battle with cancer, he also helped launch Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in 2008.
Six months after the launch of the 10 Year Plan, on June 30, 2008, Art Smith died at the age of 89. He was survived by his wife, Betty Ann, who supported him tirelessly in his endeavors, and by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As a parting gift to Calgary Homeless Foundation, he asked friends and family members to dedicate memorial tributes to the organization.
“It’s very difficult to do something about [the problem of homelessness] as an individual, but Art created a vehicle […] that allowed people to participate,” says Jim Stanford, former CEO of Petro-Canada.
Today, Calgary Homeless Foundation is recognized beyond Calgary and the borders of Canada for its work on homelessness. Art’s legacy and his vision continue to thrive and to change people’s lives, helping everyone find their way home.