News / Calgary

Cold weather, flood fallout create 'huge problem' for Calgary housing

June's rush of water and November's fresh blast of winter have Calgary affordable housing advocates fearing the worst.

Rental vacancy citywide was already expected to plunge to near zero as many displaced flood victims were forced to move into temporary housing.

Now, with temperatures plunging and more than 20 centimetres of snow falling in some areas of the city over the weekend, Dr. John Rook, president and chief executive of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said he doesn't believe the housing market has recovered and there's a drastic need for creative solutions.

"There's a huge problem there — the flood continues to create that problem for us," Rook said. "I'm not sure what we're going to do at this point . . . we don't want anybody to die. It's pretty critical right now."

Rook said he was already hearing reports of shelters at capacity in the city.

At the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre, employees were forced to push aside cafeteria tables and chairs to open another floor's worth of shelter space, as more than 1,200 people were expected to crowd in Sunday evening.

"When the temperature dips below -10C we open our doors broadly and welcome anybody who needs a warm bed, anybody who needs a hot meal," said spokesperson Jordan Hamilton.

The province estimated last week that more than 1,350 people from High River, Calgary and Siksika First Nation were still being housed in temporary accommodations in the wake of the flood.

The fear, according to Rook, is that others may be biding their time on friend's couches or staying in hotels. If those accommodations disappear, he said some citizens could be in uncharted territory just as the temperatures plunge.

"There are people who've never experienced this before and we have to have strategies at every level — municipal, provincial and federal — to deal with unusual circumstances," Rook said.

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