At the October 2016 Board/CEO Connectivity Breakfast, over 60 Board Chairs and CEOs of member agencies from Calgary’s homeless-serving sector prioritized 3 Things they were committed to achieving by the end of 2018, when Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness sunsets.

The Plan, launched in 2008, has provided a framework and focus for our efforts as a community to drive transformational change across the homeless-serving system of care, and towards ending homelessness in Calgary.

Over the past 8+ years of activating the guidelines established in the original plan and the updates from 2011 and the most recent: Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness: People First in Housing First update of 2015, we have continually focused on creating better results for those experiencing homelessness and those working hard to alleviate its impact on peoples lives and our city.

We’ve achieved a great deal. Some highlights are:

  • Over 8,000 people housed.
    • The sector consistently achieves a +90% retention rate for people housed.
    • People in housing access public and emergency services less often creating more efficiencies and better health and well-being outcomes across the system.
  • Over 450 housing units built specifically for the sector.
  • The RESOLVE Campaign continues to create pathways to housing for 3,000 Calgarians at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
    • 9 agencies are collaborating with philanthropic Calgarians to raise $120 million to build housing
  • Coordinated Access and Assessment provides coordinated tool for the system of care that creates ease of access to supports and housing for people entering Caglary’s homeless-serving system of care.
  • The Homeless Management Information System is Canada’s most comprehensive database on homelessness.
    • HMIS contains over 35,000 data entries and has been cited in over 30 research articles
    • HMIS provides a deep and broad picture of homelessness in our city as well as an understanding of its contributing factors and gaps in system planning
  • SORCe, initiated by Calgary Police Service, is a one stop centre for those seeking information and help to end homelessness in their lives
    • 15+ agencies provide storefront access to one-stop needs assessment and supports for vulnerable Calgarians

We’ve accomplished a great deal.

Together, we can do more.

I Heart Home: 3 Things is about the ‘more’ we can do together to end homelessness in our city.

These are the 3 Things community has agreed are vital to ending homelessness.

House more People

People first in Housing First
House 10,000 people by December 31 2018 (2008 – 2016 + 8,000 housed)

Build more Futures
Build over 600 new purpose built dedicated permanent supportive housing units to the system of care by 2018. (450+ since 2008 have been built or are on track to be built)

Save more Lives

Have a high-performing system of care that is integrated with ‘big system’s to provide efficiencies and effectiveness across the sector to better serve those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Over the coming weeks, the I Heart Home YYC website will be updated to reflect community’s focus on its 3 Things goals and activities. Launch of the updated website is early May, 2017 — stay tuned for more info.

In the meantime, the following two videos tell more of the story. Please feel free to grab the feed and post on your own website or share via your social media.


What is Home?

Together, we can do more!



Every other year Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) hosts a two-day event to assess, share and celebrate Alberta’s most innovative homelessness research.

The 4th Biennial Homelessness Research Symposium event will bring together researchers, service providers, government officials, and front-line agencies in the homeless-serving community to discover ways to transform homelessness research and transform it into action. This year the event will be held at Fort Calgary on April 19 and 20th.

Keynote speakers include Kahente Horn-Miller Ph.D. from Carleton University, and MP for Calgary Centre and Minister of Veterans Affairs  Kent Hehr. Presenters will be providing concrete ideas on how to turn research into action that results in improving the lives of individuals and families experiencing homelessness, while also contributing innovate ideas on ending homelessness.

Accelerating efficiencies and effectiveness within Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care is a key tenent of Calgary’s Plan to end Homelessness. The Research Symposium is a critical element of CHF’s  role as System Planner for Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care as it increases our understanding of the power of research and data to inform decision-making and enhance practices and integration throughout the System of Care.  As well, research and development is one of CHF’s four strategic pillars it is important that we are staying up to date with best practices to improve the system of care.

As data quality improves, communities around the province continue to explore new ways to research and enhance our effectivenes and outcomes throughout the System of Care, while also gaining new insights into program performance and individual outcomes. This year’s Research Symposium will showcase recent local research and translate it into improved practice, identify gaps in knowledge, and discuss possible directions for future research. There is a wealth of knowledge within the sector that continues to inform our best practices and to grow through events such as this.  Our knowledge and understanding of homelessness, its contributing factors and impact are enhanced when we identify what questions to ask and how best to research finding answers. the Research Symposium is a foundational event that continues to inform new programs and program models – in essence, providing a map to transform research into action.

CHF is excited to be hosting the 4th Biennial Homelessness Research Symposium, as shared knowledge allows for collective action to be taken. The Research Symposium is a centrepoint of community’s need for a knowledge-hub that serves as both a forum for knowledge sharing and forum for networking that results in the creation of new research and working partnerships.

“It’s really exciting when the researchers tell the rest of us what they’ve been working on. It’s equally important when community then tells researchers what they think of the research,” commented CHF’s Director of Research and Data, Nick Falvo. “By collaborating with fellow researchers and learning about the latest data we are ensuring that the homeless-serving system of care is doing its best work to achieve the common goal of ending homelessness and creating stronger communities.”

The event is SOLD OUT, however we will be live-streaming it on Facebook! Join us on Facebook, Wednesday, April 19 and April 20th for exciting developments on Research to Action.

Stay tuned, in the upcoming weeks there will be a summary of the event along with the presenations available for download.  If you are interested in being notified of when the summary is available, please submit your contact information in the form below.

[contact-form-7 id=”6640″ title=”Contact form 1″]

The need for mental health supports

By Janice Chan

Janice Chan is a System Planner at CHF

Alberta’s Health Funding Agreement March 10th announcement of an additional $1.3 billion over the next 10 years, including $586 million in support of mental health initiatives is good news for Albertans.  Given that this funding falls short of the 5.2% increase the Alberta Government requested of Ottawa[1], the Alberta government will need to be prudent with its spending to make the greatest impact in a cost-effective manner.

Greatest Impact

People experiencing mental illness are at greater risk of homelessness and the experience of homelessness, “in turn, amplifies poor mental health.”[2]  We know this to be true in Calgary.  Ganesh et al. (2013) screened clients at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre for common psychiatric disorders and found 92.8% experienced one or more psychiatric illness and 60% had been undiagnosed and (or) untreated for their illness.[3]  Furthermore, according to CHF’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) data collected between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014, 48% of clients in CHF’s housing programs experience mental illness.  Given the pressing need to address mental illness amongst people experiencing homelessness, we believe this critical investment would have a substantial impact on Calgary’s most vulnerable people.

Cost Savings

The At Home/Chez Soi study demonstrated that, for people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness, there are substantial savings associated with the provision of housing with supports. The final report demonstrated that for the 10% of participants who were using the most services upon enrolment, every $1 invested in housing and professional support during the course of the study resulted in average savings of just over $2. And across all study participants, every $1 invested in housing and professional support resulted in $0.75 in savings on health, justice-related and social services.[4]  The 2016 State of Homelessness in Canada report estimates that homelessness costs Canadians over $7 billion per year.  Investing in critical social services, like mental health supports for Calgary’s most vulnerable can provide much needed cost savings to the public purse.


What’s Needed

CHF’s 2017 budget submissions to federal and provincial governments, have asked for $8 million to help meet critical local funding needs to support vulnerable tenants in 166 new affordable housing units, scheduled to be built through the RESOLVE Campaign.  Funding for the full capital costs of these buildings is in place, however, program funding required to support tenants living in these buildings has not been confirmed. Long-term funding for adequate supports must be secured for people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness to remain stably housed.

Bradley et al. (2016) concluded that money invested in health should not be limited to spending on health care, but also in social services and public health.[5] We hope that the recent additional mental health funding will be used not only to support health care, but also social services to help stabilize Calgary’s most vulnerable in housing through collaboration between Alberta Health and Community and Social Services.  Calgary’s Bridgeland and Ophelia Support Program, cost-shared by the two ministries, demonstrates the benefits of collaboration to provide stable housing and mental health services for people with severe and persistent mental illness and experiencing homelessness.  Not only will this investment make a substantial impact, but also provides cost-savings in health and justice public expenditures.

CHF welcomes the opportunity to further consult with the provincial government as it develops “a detailed plan on how these funds will be spent, over and above existing programs,” with the hope that it will include support to people experiencing mental illness and homelessness.

[1] Kaufmann, B. (2017) ‘Alberta says it hoped for more in $1.3-billion health funding deal with Ottawa’, Calgary Herald, Available from:, [29 Mar.2017].

[2] Homeless Hub. (n.d.) Mental Health, [online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

[3] Ganesh, A., Campbell, D., Hurley, J., Patten, S. (2013) ‘High Positive Psychiatric Screening Rates in an Urban Homeless Population’, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 58(6), 353-360.

[4] Goering, P., Veldhuizen, S., Watson, A., Adair, C., Kopp, B., Latimer, E., Nelson, G., MacNaughton, E., Streiner, D., & Aubry, T. (2014) National At Home/Chez Soi Final Report. Calgary: Mental Health Commission of Canada.

[5] Bradley, E., Canavan, M., Talbert-Slagle, K., Ndumele, C., Taylor, L., and Curry, L. (2016) ‘Variation in Health Outcomes: The Role of Spending on Social Services, Public Health and Health Care, 2000-09’, Health Affairs, 35(5), 760-768.

The third Connectivity Breakfast Community Action: Target 2018 was held on October 10th, 2016 at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre. In total, 37 organizations within the homeless-serving sector and associated sectors were represented by 63 Executive Directors, Board Chairs and designates. While the topic of conversation is different at each breakfast, the goal always remains the same: bringing organizations within the homeless-serving sector together with public systems providers and other providers of services to the sector to continue to further integration across the homeless-serving system of care and strengthen collaboration and our collective impact towards ending homelessness in Calgary.

(Debbie Newman, Executive Director of the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre, gives an update on the Calgary Recovery Services Task Force)

This breakfast highlighted the work of the Calgary Recovery Services Task Force, a collective of 26 Calgary agencies and government partners measuring and addressing the need for vulnerable populations. The main focus was to provide a high level picture of all we’ve achieved as community since launching Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness in 2008. Kevin McNichol, VP Strategy at the Calgary Homeless Foundation, provided an overview of 10 things we, as a community, can accomplish by the end of 2018. Of those 10 things, participants were asked to prioritize their top 7 and then, as a cohort at each table, determine the top 3.

The final report from this Connectivity Breakfast will be released in December 2016 and the next breakfast will be held in the fall of 2017.

Awhile ago, we developed a short video about ending homelessness.

Our purpose was very clear — we wanted to inspire, motivate and engage community to think about homelessness not as the story of an individual who has made ‘bad’ choices, but as a societal issue that we have the capacity and power to change — when we work together.

When I was meeting with the production company to discuss talent for the video, as in– who should be ‘the voice” — I suggested a young man I’d met at a concert produced by the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre.

Jordan Williams is a talented, compassionate and passionate young musician. He infuses everything he does with the stories and experiences he’s gathered as a young Aboriginal man who has faced homelessness, discrimination and other hard times and allowed the circumstances of his life to forge  him into a kinder, more caring and thoughtful human being.

Jordan Williams shared his voice with us so we could create a video that awoke people to the possibility that they can play a role in ending homelessness. Thank you Jordan for your heartfelt and enthusiastic commitment.

Thanks also to the crew at Foundry Communications for guiding this project into reality. To Paul Long for writing an awesome script and to the team at Six Degrees Music & Production for the awesome sound work — and for creating a space for everyone to feel right at home in the studio!

Want to play your part in ending homelessness?  Here are some ideas on how to get involved.

Volunteer. Emergency shelters are always looking for people to serve meals, sort donations, help clean. Check out Propellus (Volunteer Calgary)– or a similar organization in your area, to find out ways to volunteer, or, contact an agency directly.

Donate. The work we do cannot happen without your support. Please consider CHF as part of your giving plans.

Create — it’s easy to create/host an event that will raise funds for an organization. At the Calgary Homeless Foundation we have the Dinner Party — invite a group of friends for dinner and make a difference. We provide an entire toolkit on how to get the dinner on the table while inspiring your friends to dig into good companionship, conversation, great food and the art of making a difference.

Be a Social Media activist — like our Facebook page (as well as other agencies you know are making a difference in ending homelessness). Share our posts on your social media so your network can connect with our network and… make magic (aka change) happen.

Heed the call–visit the Calgary Homeless Foundation Facebook page, watch the short video Homelessness Doesn’t Stand a Chance, click on Like, and SHARE! (you’ll have to scroll down three or four posts to find the video — it’s pinned so will always be near the top)

And be prepared — there’s a whole lot of gratitude and thankfulness coming your way!

Thank you!

Louise Gallagher, Director, Communications


Bylaw Community Peace Officers Share Knowledge on Encampment Sites — Written by Madison Smith, CHF Project Coordinator

The skies were clear the morning Bylaw Community Police Officers, Jody St. Pierre and Melanie Thomas graciously opened their vehicle doors for two “observers” to take a look into their daily encounters with homeless encampment sites and individuals who call the sites home. St. Pierre and Thomas make up the only bylaw team which canvass the entire City of Calgary and go by the name Partner Agency Liaison (PAL).

At 7:45 am, I was filling out liability waivers and eyeing the interesting black vest I would soon be sporting with the word OBSERVER clearly printed on the front and back. I had yet to know what exactly I was observing, but I knew I was in good hands. Nick Falvo, director of research and data at the Calgary Homeless Foundation, also accompanied us as an observer on this ‘ride along’.

Homeless encampments are often a result of individuals ‘falling through society’s cracks’. That phrase itself can sound rather cliché, but there are many cracks to fall through when people lack resiliency and access to resources to help them weather life’s ups and downs like our current economic times in Alberta.

Encampments are only one demeanor of the larger set of aspects that contribute to homelessness, street life, and social disorder. The transient nature of individuals pitching tents and tarps often raise issues in the environment, and surrounding community. Homeless encampments encompass diverse forms: tent cities; groups living under bridges, sleeping in parks, C-train stations, along CP Rail tracks, etc.

After a prolonged journey through Calgary’s thick morning traffic, the four of us arrived on the outskirts of an industrial neighbourhood in an overgrown pastoral field. We parked on a gravel road, Melanie Thomas noted the bike laying the grass parallel to the road. “I think Jake* is home!” she said as we followed the path. There was an abandoned and boarded up shed around the corner, and a small grouping of trees and bushes across the way. As we climbed through the branches we arrived at Jake’s ‘home’ which consisted of a large tent with three tarps draped around and above the area. There were bungee cords, plastic table and chairs, a recycling bin, and scrap metal in crates filling the entire camp site. St. Pierre and Thomas presented friendly greetings to Jake, consistent with the compassion I witnessed the PAL team greet all of their known high-functioning campers. Their philosophy and compassionate response is based on a belief that they offer ’a help-up, not a hand-out’.

They asked Jake how his day was going, and informed him that he needs to take down his home due to complaints received by Calgary Police Services. The land he was on did not belong to him. He was trespassing. The support and push for Jake to seek affordable housing options through the Downtown Outreach And Prevention (DOAP) Encampment Team were re-introduced, and he was reminded winter is coming. They handed him a card with resources he could call to help him find housing programs.

Jake was friendly, but politely declined the offer. He had preconceived notions that someone else would be in charge of his life if he was eligible for a housing program. He also only had a bike, and downtown appointments were a challenge to attend. Jake moves his camp regularly, with each move requiring over 30 trips back and forth via his bike. St. Pierre, Thomas, and Jake, mutually decide on a week for everything to be cleaned up. Before leaving, St. Pierre and Thomas asked if Jake needed anything, socks, supplies, coffee? Jake appreciated the thought, but said he was okay. As we left him it struck me that it probably would not be long before the PAL team came across Jake again. I knew they would continue to give him more encouragement to contact outreach teams.

The morning continued with visiting more known camp sites, and even discovering a few unknown. The PAL team saw each individual as a human being in a temporary homeless condition, and treated them with dignity and respect. Likewise, the individuals responded well to the refreshing encouragement to seek support and housing options. I tried to put myself in their shoes, imagining packing all my belongings/house and given just days to disperse and find a new shelter of some sort. The daunting nightmare for me was reality to most of the people we encountered.

Most individuals encountered have exhausted all resources available to them or their conditions (drug use, alcoholism, criminal record) hinder them from accessing available resources (shelters, for example). Others may have chosen the lifestyle because they tell themselves it frees them from competing in a consumerist society, or because it is better than previous living arrangements. However, most residents of homeless encampments say they would rather live in a more conventional routine with their own room and a job.

Homeless encampments impact the entire community. The individuals are subject to unhealthy encampment conditions, such as garbage, hoarding, diseases, and environmental hazards. Encampments also present victimization of the chronically homeless, many sleep with anxious panic that they will be in danger of theft or harm. Concerning the larger community, surrounding businesses fear criminal activity, threat to business viability, illegitimate use of public spaces, and lastly, but most importantly – the cost to society.

There are many costs associated with encampments with the financial burden taxpayers face to perform remedial efforts and the fear of crime most often cited as the most compelling challenges. Ultimately, it is the disheartening crumbling of these vulnerable people in our society and the loss of human potential that costs us the most.

Tuesday, August 30th, was memorable, educational, and extremely eye-opening. I want to thank Jody St. Pierre and Melanie Thomas for their admirable efforts to consistently push for success stories in every individual’s case. I am thankful they shared their knowledge and time with us. I am richer for the experience.

*Not his real name.

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

This past June, Colborne’s Forces, a community program launched by Calgary Flames forward Joe Colborne in November 2014, produced its first Benefit Concert to support Alberta veterans. Portions of the money raised went to benefit the unique needs of past members of Canada’s Armed Forces and to support military museums around the province. This is not the first time Colborne has shown support for our troops, and is known to purchase season tickets for members to attend every Flames’ home game, and ensures they get a chance to meet the team afterwards.

“I have always had a deep respect for the work that the Canadian Armed Forces do to protect our country and I am humbled to be able to give back to them through this program, Colborne’s Forces. They sacrifice so much for our freedom and I can’t thank them enough for their honour and commitment to our country” – Joe Colborne

A portion of the funds raised went to support The Madison, a 15 unit apartment building in the Beltline District of Calgary. Owned by the Calgary Community Land Trust, the Madison is operated by Alpha House Society Calgary through program funding from the Calgary Homeless Foundation. The Madison provides formerly homeless veterans receive housing and support 24/7 and an opportunity to reclaim their lives, dignity and respect after homelessness.

On August 23, the Calgary Homeless Foundation gratefully received a cheque for $2,500 from Joe Colborne on behalf of Colborne’s Forces for the benefit of The Madison and its residents.

Thank you to Joe Colborne and Colborne’s Forces, volunteers, planners and supporters who came together to make this event possible, and for ultimately helping Calgary veterans find a life beyond homelessness.



It’ll be a dinner extravaganza with meaning and a touch of intrigue. We want to take you back to the rise of jazz and swing, sinuous dress and art deco in our brand new fundraiser: Calgary Homeless Foundation Pop Up Party.

The fun launches this October 15th.

We’ll have some live entertainment, a dinner that nods to 1940’s supper clubs, handcrafted cocktails and fashion that charms. However, our lips are sealed on the location until the night before!

We want you to be there in support of bringing Calgarians home before the snow hits. Since the launch of Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness in 2008, almost 8,000 people in Calgary have been housed with supports. They are thriving in our communities and Calgarians have played a role in making that happen. Be a part of the mission of housing more people by putting yourself on the guest list.

So brush up on your swing moves, lower your hemlines and rummage up some elbow-length gloves; dream about ending homelessness in Calgary, and imagine a new place to eat dinner.

Click HERE for tickets and info.

And remember. It’s a secret where you’ll be dining!  We promise. You will be surprised!

First Annual Canadian Homelessness Data Sharing Initiative

 By:  Nick Falvo

On May 4, 2016, approximately 40 people attended the First Annual Canadian Homelessness Data Sharing Initiative, sponsored in Calgary by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.  Those attending included government officials, researchers and students.  Here are 10 things to know about the event.

  1.  The Data Sharing Initiative was jointly organized by the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) and the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. A major goal was to bring together persons with access to various forms of homelessness data for a one-day event for the first time.  Both CHF and SPP provided cash and in-kind support to make this inaugural event happen.
  2.  When researchers want to access data on homeless persons in Canada, there isn’t a single point of access. Rather, data is both collected and accessed in a variety of ways.   When it comes to data collected about persons experiencing homelessness, there are three main types of data to understand.  First, there is administrative data (such as the data presented at the May 4 event by officials from Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto); this is collected on an ongoing basis by front-line professionals and often used by social workers.  Second, there is data gathered from Point-in-Time (PiT) counts (such as the data presented at the event from Montreal).  Third, there is survey data collected by researchers (such as the data presented at the event on Managed Alcohol Programs, and data presented at the event that was gathered from a study on homelessness in Northern Ontario).  The May 4 data-sharing event included discussions about all three types of data.
  3.  Canada’s federal government has data on homeless persons from roughly half of the country’s homeless shelters. This includes data gathered via the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) software; it also includes data gathered via data sharing agreements (which it has with the City of Toronto, the Province of Alberta, and BC Housing).  The federal government then uses this data for policy development, measurement and program evaluation.  The federal government uses some of the data for its Community Progress Indicators Reports, which it shares with its 61 Designated Communities. (Most of these reports aren’t publicly available, but the one for St. John’s can be found here.)    The federal government uses some of the data for public documents (e.g. the National Shelter Study). 
  4.  All municipally-funded Toronto homeless shelters are required to use the Shelter Management Information System (SMIS) database system. This is a web-based software that tells administrators when people enter homeless shelters and when they leave.  It must be used by all 60 of Toronto’s city-funded homeless shelters.  Among other things, it helps   administrators tell where there are empty beds.  It also helps front-line staff to manage beds in their own programs.  And it helps staff in Toronto’s central access services to refer people in need to available beds.  In the future, city officials hope to use the SMIS system to assess how much ‘social work’ support a person will likely need once they’re referred to housing; they also hope to use the system to track how people do after they’re referred from emergency shelters to housing. (It’s also thanks to the SMIS system that municipal officials in Toronto know that, on a typical night, there are more than 4,000 persons staying in Toronto shelters, and that in a typical year, more than 17,000 persons sleep in a Toronto shelter for at least once night.)  More information on Toronto’s SMIS system can be found here.
  5.  The City of Montreal has no centrally-coordinated database system for homeless shelters. However, the three main men’s shelters are using HIFIS, and other individual shelters in Montreal do keep data on their clients.  But those data are not coordinated or kept by one central body.  Likewise, Montreal-based programs that receive funding from the Homeless Partnering Strategy all keep data (which they have to provide to the federal government), though not necessarily using HIFIS.  Readers should be mindful that the homeless file in Quebec is first and foremost a provincial file; municipalities play only a minor formal role in program administration (e.g. the municipal government provides some funding to various social programs—such as day centres—that serve homeless persons).  All of Montreal’s homeless shelters are private, non-profit entities; in general, 60-70% of their budgets come from private sources (and those private funders have very few stipulations in terms of what kind of data must be kept).  Montreal did conduct its first PiT Count last year, and municipal officials have access to the dataset.  What’s more, in the summer of 2015, the City of Montreal commissioned a more detailed survey of homeless people; it was administered by four teams of paid professionals.  (Officials with both the City of Montreal and the Douglas Institute have access to data from both of these studies).
  6.  Ottawa homeless shelters have an open system. Ottawa homeless shelters must use the HIFIS system as a condition of receiving funding from the City of Ottawa; and the centralized database is hosted by the City of Ottawa.  It is an open system in that staff at one shelter can see client records elsewhere in their respective sector—that is, staff in a men’s shelter can see information gathered on one of their clients by another men’s shelter.[1] Data, once collected, is shared on request by municipal staff with a variety of external actors, including University of Ottawa researchers and the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa.  (Note: municipal staff only release aggregate data—that is, no personally identifiable information.)  This open system has been in existence for almost 10 years.  Ottawa has never conducted a PiT Count.
  7.  Throughout Canada, there are many examples of data repositories in the natural sciences and some in the social sciences, but very few in social policy. A trusted digital repository is another term for a certified digital archive (and an archive is a place you can deposit data for the long term, where it will be managed across space and time, and where it’s backed up and has a sustainable financial plan and technology transition plan).  One example in the natural sciences is the repository created for International Polar Year (IPY) data archives.  Another example with social science data is the Irish Qualitative Research Data (IQDA) archive.  With homelessness data, since there’s no central place to deposit them, such a data repository to consolidate data resources from all sectors and levels of government would be helpful.  In addition to the actual data, the repository would include information on who collected the data, methodological guides and a data dictionary with definitions; and these would all be kept together.  This could allow for a one stop shop of shared data—some data could be kept private, with restricted access for researchers only and other datasets could be open data.  For such an initiative to get started, someone would have to do the collecting, data, curating and cataloguing of the data.  They’d also have to contact sources of the data.  Librarians and archivists are experts in this area; they would need to be very involved in the early phases of the project.  Such an initiative would require resources (i.e. time, expertise and money) but in the long run could provide the sector with data for national, provincial and local planning.
  8.  Canada’s major funding body for social sciences research has started mandating data management plans. Indeed, the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) will soon start mandating data management plans.  They will also start mandating the preservation of data.  This will apply to research projects collecting large amounts of data; but it will not apply to municipal governments simply collecting administrative data, as these are not SSHRC funded research projects.  When research proposals go to SSHRC, SSHRC will expect to see money budgeted for data management; SSHRC will also ask researchers for data management plans.  Other national funding bodies may follow suit.
  9.  The one-day event allowed for some invaluable networking. Canada is a big country, and there are staff in major cities who administer homelessness data who have never met their counterparts in other cities.  This event helped us to overcome some of those silos.  For example, one provincial official discussed HIFIS with a federal official during the event, and exploratory conversations have since begun about the possibility of that province introducing the HIFIS system into its homelessness sector. 
  10.  The Data Sharing Initiative will become an annual event.


  The author wishes to thank the following individuals for invaluable assistance with this blog post:  Britany Ardelli, Steven Bulgin, Francesco Falvo, Louise Gallagher, Darcy Halber, Ron Kneebone, Eric Latimer, Tracey Lauriault, James McGregor, Kevin McNichol, Laural Raine, Aaron Segaert, Madison Smith and Shelley Vanbuskirk.  Any errors lie with the author.

[1] Ottawa’s homeless shelter system has four sectors:  men’s, women’s, family and youth.  Family shelter staff are allowed to see client data in all of the sectors because family shelters are the ‘overflow sector’ (meaning they sometimes take in clients from the other sectors).


Below are links to the minutes of the full day’s event, as well as the slide presentations.  Next year’s event will also be held in Calgary. 

MINUTES  May 4, 2016 Colloquium

The DI Data

Homeward Trust Edmonton Dataset

The At Home / Chez Soi Demonstration Project  Tim Aubry, PhD., C.Psych

The Health and Housing in Transition (HHiT) Study Tim Aubry, PhD., C. Psych. 

2016 Coordinated PiT Count – Overview and Data, HPS Dr. Patrick Hunter, Policy Analyst, HPS, ESDC

Dataset Description  HPS 2016 Coordinated Point-in-Time Count 

Data Description, The Mustard Seed Calgary   John Rook, PhD, Samantha Sexsmith

Patterns and Determinants of Housing Utilization and “Graduation” in Calgary  Ali Jadidzadeh, PhD and Nick Falvo, PhD

Homelessness in Northeastern Ontario Carol Kauppi, PhD   |   Activities

Montreal’s First PiT Homeless Count and Subsequent Survey  Eric Latimer, PhD

I Count MTL 2015 (Report)

Homelessness Data Discussion  Tracey Lauriault

Using Data for Evidence-Based Service Planning   Laural Raine, City of Toronto

Homelessness as a public issue  Aaron Segaert

Managed Alcohol Programs (MAPS): Implementation and Effectiveness  Bernie Pauly RN, PhD, Tim Stockwell PhD, Clifton Chow, MA, Kate Vallance MA, Ashley Wettlaufer, MA



A Call for Feedback

To identify gaps in affordability and accessibility of housing in the province, the Government of Alberta is asking Albertans to provide feedback that will assist in the development of a Provincial Affordable Housing Strategy.

Every Albertan is encouraged to respond to the survey. Your input will help inform the development of the Strategy and will make a difference.

The survey provides the opportunity to respond as individuals and as organizations. We encourage everyone to respond, and to ensure you submit an organizational response too.

At the back of the survey are three non-multiple choice questions pertaining to what you/your organization see as the issues related to affordable housing, what’s working well in the affordable housing system and what you could change. CHF has answered these questions through the lens of our role as System Planner for the homeless-serving sector. Our responses include:

Issues specific to homeless serving sector

  • Lack of access to affordable housing impedes progress on addressing the specialized needs of Calgary’s most vulnerable who need permanent housing with supports.
  • Lack of matching program dollars to capital dollars creates uncertainty in ability to provide long-term, sustained supports that result in housing retention.
  • Gaps in rental costs and income support puts increased pressure on not-for-profits and clients.

Working well

  • The focus on the need for housing strategies on the municipal, provincial and federal level.
  • Recent funding announcements by the provincial and federal governments to address the gaps in affordable housing.
  • Government endorsement of plans to end homelessness and address poverty, as well as the implementation of integrative social policies to better serve vulnerable Albertans.


  • Address adequate and appropriate supply of permanent housing with supports for specialized and vulnerable populations served by the homeless sector.
  • Increase income assistance to assist those exiting homelessness and to support the 15,600 Calgarian households at risk of homelessness and in extreme core housing need.
  • Address client choice through housing allowance rather than unit subsidies.
  • Allow non-market housing providers to set realistic rents to fund capital reserves to maintain properties independent of government funding; this allows providers to create value and potential leverage from their stock.
  • Develop meaningful incentive programs to encourage private sector development of new rental stock.
  • Make land available for housing projects for specialized populations and transfer ownership of government assets to qualified not-for-profit housing providers so that assets may be leveraged and managed more effectively and efficiently to enhance the sector’s ability to meet current and future demand.

We are pleased that the provincial government has taken this opportunity to engage Albertans in this important conversation. Please take 10 minutes to fill out the survey, share this with your social networks and encourage everyone to include their voice in the conversation.  The survey can be found HERE.  The online survey is open to the public until July 3, 2016.

Together, we will end homelessness in Calgary.


Minister of Housing and Seniors, Lori Sigurdson provides an overview of the Strategy and the engagement process.