News / Calgary

Emergency shelter use on the decline in Calgary

Data shows fewer people living on the streets in our city

A study from the U of C School of Public Policy shows stays in emergency homeless shelters are dropping.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

A study from the U of C School of Public Policy shows stays in emergency homeless shelters are dropping.

The City of Calgary’s populations continues to grow, but new data suggests that homelessness is on the decline.

The University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy took a look at data regarding emergency shelter stays in the city dating back to January 2008.

While there are seasonal fluctuations throughout the year, the overall trend is downward, especially when compared to Calgary’s growing population.

One of the paper’s co-authors, Ron Kneebone, said from 1992 until until 2008, homelessness in Calgary was rising.

However in 2008, the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) began its 10-year Plan to End Homelessness in Calgary.

Kneebone credits many of the initiatives of that plan with turning the growing number around.

“This is a tough mission because Calgary – as we’ve shown in earlier studies – is the most expensive city in Canada for those with limited incomes,” he said.

He also noted the population grew 26 per cent in that time.

More than anything, he thinks the housing-first philosophy of the plan is what has made the biggest difference.

Housing first aims to get people into stable living quarters and then supports them with other issues they may have.

Diana Krecsy, president and CEO of the CHF, said it just makes more economic sense to provide a homeless person with housing first when possible.

"It actually costs more to keep a person in homelessness,” she said. The difference is it’s $34,000 a year to house someone. To keep them in the homeless system – it’s $55,000 per year.”

However Debbie Newman, CEO of the Calgary Drop In Centre, said the declining number doesn’t really address the full picture.

She still sees a huge need for services that help people get back on their feet, such as job traingin, as well as addiction and mental health supports.

“We need to constantly drive the conversation. We need to constanly have the dialogue with our sector and the province,” said Newman.

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