10 year plan 10 year plan to end homelessness acadia place agency alpha house society art in homeless community art smith bill c-400 bishop henry calgary homeless canadian alliance to end homelessness chf clock collaborative art collaborative fund-raising campaign collaborative policing community community action committee ending homelessness faith homeless homelessness homeless services homeless stories housing first john rook mark horvath mayor nenshi phc point-in-time count project homeless connect propsect human services research resolve social enterprise spring clean-up stephen gaetz students students make a difference susan scott this is my city tim richter volunteer volunteers w.o. mitchell elementary school
On January 18, 2012, I had the chance to be part of Calgary's first homeless count since 2008. Approximately 200 people volunteered, including: Calgary Police Service, City of Calgary Bylaw officers, non-profit agency outreach teams, parking authority staff, and Calgary Stampede and the University of Calgary employees.
It was well below -30 C this night. Temperatures so cold, spending even minutes outside without the right clothing tempted frostbite. Yet, some “rough sleepers” choose to sleep outside no matter what the conditions are, rather than take refuge in a shelter.
This night, 3,190 people were counted as homeless, most of whom were staying in shelters. This suggests an 11.4% decrease in the homeless population since the last count in 2008. You can read the full report here.
It was the job of volunteers like myself to scour Calgary's parks and downtown streets, searching every alley, parking lot, nook and cranny in our designated areas, to find the "hard core" individuals sleeping outside.
I was teamed up with a two bylaw officers and our assigned area was a community just outside downtown. Equipped with a backpack full of blankets, gloves and cigarettes, we head out on the search to hopefully find and offer assistance to rough sleepers.
My group found one individual who was homeless, though he chose not to talk with us about housing and support options. In total, 64 rough sleepers were found this night.
One thing I learned from this experience was that homelessness doesn't always fit a particular mold. You can't always base a person's situation on their experience, and asking "are you homeless" to individuals who look "poor" or "needy" could be offensive.
Our team figured our best bet was to ask people if they had a place to stay tonight. Even when we worded the question this way, it ended in us receiving some offended looks.
The point-in- time count was an extremely rewarding experience that I will never forget. And it seems that other volunteers feel the same way. Here are a few quotes from other volunteers.
“I was amazed at how many volunteers were there and the variety of backgrounds represented. It touched my heart to know that many people care about the homeless!”
"My group found one individual who did have a tent outside, but was staying warm in a downtown Tim Horton's. Being clean shaven and well-spoken, with a warm jacket, he didn't fit the stereotype of 'homeless.' He was very interested in possible housing options in Calgary, and we were able to connect him with service providers. It was a great way to end our evening!"
"Seeing the number of Calgarians who were willing to do unpaid work to assist our fellow Calgarians who are less fortunate, it was very inspiring."
“Meeting others who were concerned about homelessness, realizing the number of associations, organizations and agencies involved in the effort. Great networking opportunity, while helping out for a good cause.”
If you would like to see how the President and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Tim Richter’s night went, watch the video below.