Calgary committee unveils ambitious strategy to battle looming crisis





The Calgary Committee to End Homelessness revealed an 80-page document yesterday focused on prevention of the homeless cycle and putting housing first. The committee’s ambitious plan calls for an end to homelessness in the city within a decade.

An ambitious plan to combat a looming homeless crisis was made public yesterday, with the target of ending city homelessness within a decade.

The plan, delivered by the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness, encompasses five broad strategies focused on stopping homelessness before it begins, massive construction of affordable housing and reinforcing the non-profit organizations already serving the homeless population.

In the short term, the plan calls for ‘rapid, visible and meaningful change’ in prevention for the chronic homeless population. In the long term, the acquisition of land for the construction of 11,250 affordable housing units and the creation of 2,000 secondary suites and 2,500 affordable rental opportunities are goals set out by the group.

Steve Snyder, chair of the committee, said the fundamental priority of the committee was to put roofs over people’s heads — shadowing the successful Housing First program implemented in many cities across the United States.

“Once people are safe and secure, all of the support programs you have in place for (the homeless) are much more effective,” he said.

Snyder, CEO of TransAlta, said it was important to develop a plan that didn’t just fork out more money as more people succumbed to homelessness, adding that “we need to break that cycle.”

“I honestly believe if (the programs) are implemented they can actually work. By work, I mean we can actually end homelessness,” said Snyder.

Floyd Perras of the Mustard Seed called the document a “great first step,” excited about the opportunity to move forward in tackling a problem his organization has been managing for years.

Perras also pointed out the potential cost savings to taxpayers in the long haul, with a decrease in reliance on public facilities, such as hospitals and emergency and protective services, given the chore of responding to homeless problems.

Big burden

  • A study completed for the committee stated that homelessness in Calgary costs $322 million annually.

  • According to the committee, the rate of homelessness rose 650 per cent in the last decade in Calgary, with an estimated 15,000 people living without shelter in the city by 2018.