With the number of Calgary’s homeless staying relatively flat compared to record-high count eight years ago, officials say ending the problem is much more realistic. “We are pleased to have stopped the growth, that is a good thing,” said Andrea Ranson, vice-president of communications and fund development with the Calgary Homeless Foundation.
The count on Jan. 15 found 3,533 people living homeless in Calgary, which is a tad lower than historical levels recorded in 2008 when the tally was 3,601. The homeless foundation conducted two counts in 2012, tallying 3,576 last August and 3,190 in January. The city launched in 2008 an ambitious target of eliminating homelessness in Calgary in 10 years.
Ranson said when the new data is blended with the information from the Drop-In Centre, they found out that 84% of people go in and out of homelessness very quickly. “We feel that if we focus on people who are stuck in the system, potentially the plan is achievable.” However, Ranson noted that eliminating the problem doesn’t mean there will be zero homeless person in Calgary by 2018.
“The goal of the 10-year plan is to build homeless-serving system where we can help the people and they get in and out of homelessness faster.” Gerrard Oishi, interim president and CEO of the foundation, said the data they’re are getting from this count, shelters and programs shows Calgary’s homeless-serving system is working. “It just needs to be scaled for size.” he said. “As Calgary’s population grows, so do many public systems such as schools, hospitals and transit systems. “Given this reality and the affordable housing crisis, that there are fewer people homeless than in 2008 is remarkable.”
When the city launched it’s 10-year plan it adopted the “housing first” principle, which focuses on finding permanent home for people. Housing first acknowledges the role of shelters in the system, but as a means of providing short-term emergency housing. The foundation estimated that it has found permanent home for 5,000 people since the plan began, which has brought down the overall number of homeless in Calgary. The foundation will compare this year’s count with previous years figures and determine trends, before it release a final report in the spring.