In October 2016, the Calgary Homeless Foundation, (with over one hundred volunteers and countless community partners), successfully completed its biennial Point-in-Time (PiT) Count. On a provincial basis, using the same data, Calgary’s count was 3,222. With the inclusion of health data which the rest of the province did not include, 3,430 people were counted as experiencing homelessness in Calgary, which represents approximately 1 in every 406 Calgarians. Based on the Provincial Count data, Calgary has achieved a decrease of 26% in homelessness since 2008 when Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness was launched.
In November of 2016, (immediately following the count), we released our preliminary report. This report only highlighted the data that matched the count methodology that was utilized by the other six cities across the province.
Released today, our final Calgary report contains data that was not included in this overall provincial count – specifically, data collected from Alberta Health Services and from people unable or unwilling to complete a survey, but still believed to be living without a home.
PiT Counts are critical for three main reasons:
First, there is no other avenue where we can measure the number of “Rough Sleepers”, that is, Calgarians who spend the night outside – on streets, in parks, in other green spaces. As such, there is a lack of information on this specific group of people, which makes it difficult for Calgary’s Homeless-serving System of Care to assist them.
Second, the PiT count is the only time we enumerate the number of people who spend the night in shelters or in short-term supportive housing and in known facilities and programs from an agency neutral perspective.
Third, there is no other time we quantify the number of individuals who are spending the night in institutions such as hospitals and jails, and who were recently homeless.
Undoubtedly, the PiT Count allows us to create an accurate snapshot of homelessness on any given night in Calgary, which provides us with a measurement of success while giving us an awareness of the work that is still ahead of us.
It’s clear now that Calgary’s Homeless-Serving system of Care has stopped the explosive growth in homelessness that we saw in the 90s and early 2000s and we see an undeniable reduction of 19% per capita since its peak in 2008 (26% based on exclusion of health data). Our City has gone from 3,555 individuals enumerated in October 2014 to 3,430 (3,222 per provincial Count) enumerated in October of 2016 during a period of overall positive in-migration coupled with a drastic economic downturn.
Who are our most vulnerable?
From Count-to-Count, we have seen only modest changes in the demographics of Calgarians experiencing homelessness. Overall, the age, ethnicity, and gender make-up remains steady. However, here are a few highlights of the changes we’ve found:
- A decrease of 13% in the 25-44 age range
- An increase of 8% in those over 45 years old who are experiencing homelessness
- A nearly 15% decrease in the number of individuals spending the night in shelter
- A nearly 13% increase in the number of individuals spending the night in transitional housing
Interestingly, we’ve also discovered that only 7% of survey respondents in Calgary indicated welfare or income assistance as an income source, compared to 29% of those surveyed in the other six cities across the province.
The October 2016 Point in Time Count clearly illustrates that a Housing First approach to ending homelessness works. We’ve had many successes, but we still have much work to do.
The information gathered in the PiT Count, (along with data previously gathered through past Point in Time Counts), allows us to make better and more informed decisions around system planning and the allocation of resources and funding, and enables the creation of more focused and effective programming. It enables Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care better serve our homeless population through the delivery of programs and services that are built to best serve those who are most vulnerable.