The Client Action Committee (CAC) is a unique platform. It provides a space where members can build a sense of community and healing, while using their lived or living experiences of homelessness to guide the work of Calgary Homeless Foundation and the homeless-serving sector.
“The CAC saved my life,” says Diane. “I was able to sway changes to create a more livable, kinder world that I’d like to live in. I believe that it’s now my life work – this is why I’m living, and this is why I want to survive.”
As part of the CAC, members have developed and led several key projects, including:
The creation and implementation of the Homeless Charter of Rights (the “Charter”);
The creation and delivery of online and in-person training modules based around the Charter for agencies funded by Calgary Homeless Foundation and sector partners, including Alberta Health Services and the Calgary Police Service. Since 2017, CAC members have delivered the in-person training modules to 167 unique individuals.
The creation of the “Do you see me?” documentary about the discrimination faced by those experiencing homelessness, which led to the launch of the Charter.
Establishing a mock election with the help of the Calgary Drop In & Rehab Centre and Elections Canada, resulting in Canada’s first ever polling station to be placed in a shelter. The CAC is now part of ensuring a voting station is available at the Drop-In Centre for individuals experiencing homelessness to vote in elections for all levels of government.
Coordinating the Longest Night of the Year, a citywide memorial service for those who have lost their lives while in homelessness. Five memorials have been held since 2015.
Advocating for and obtaining confirmation that a permanent memorial for those who have passed away while experiencing homelessness will be erected in Calgary in 2020. CAC members have also raised over $7000 for the memorial on Go Fund Me.
In addition to these projects, CAC members were the first group of people with lived or living experience of homelessness to be accepted to walk in the Calgary Provide parade in 2018 and 2019.
They have presented at multiple provincial and national conferences, including 7 Cities in 2019; acted as ambassadors and fundraisers for Calgary’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, and served as consultants for a variety of experts in the homelessness sector.
The achievements of the CAC show how community and connection have the power to transform individual experiences of homelessness into meaningful change. It also demonstrates how making space for others is critical – to the individual and to the entire system of care.
“Community keeps you alive,” says Darren, a CAC member. “That’s what people rely on when they have nothing else. You’re fractured, you’re marginalized, but once you start engaging with a greater community then you can move on.”
Here’s what members of the CAC had to say
“The relationships I made during my experience of homelessness are the best friends that I had,” says Randy. “Even though I’ve exited that time in my life, they’re still my closest relationships. They provided me with the support that no agency ever could – they know how to help me best. I’ve slept inches away from them; we’ve looked for food together, we’ve shared everything.”
Members spoke about how the friendships and the responsibilities they had in the CAC pulled them from the edge of relapse. After all, regular meetings where people ask about your week means that you have to face your reality.
“I don’t want to disappoint them,” says Hayley. “I don’t want to come to that table on Thursday and tell them that I made a mistake and I don’t want them to worry. I owe it to them to stay healthy and safe. At the end of the day, you know that there’s people who care about you more than you care about yourself.”
Calgary Homeless Foundation
Rocky Mountain Plaza
Suite 1500, 615 Macleod Trail SE
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2G 4T8