Calgary's 10-year plan to end homelessness has run out of time
But officials say the city has made great strides since 2008
Amber Skye has been in and out of homelessness for about 12 years. She stays with friends when she can, and sleeps in shelters.
"These people on the streets, some of them are freezing," she says.
Calgary's lofty, 10-year plan to end homelessness had vowed that by today, people like Skye would be on the street or in a shelter for less than a week before finding a safe, affordable home.
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The goal is now out of reach — thousands of Calgarians are without a home — but officials with social agencies say the city has made great strides in the past decade.
"We stopped the growth," said Diana Krecsy, the chief executive of the Calgary Homeless Foundation. "We decreased the number of shelter stays. We increased services to all the different populations.
"But we have so much more work to do."
Krecsy said her group remains committed to the mission that when someone becomes homeless, "they get out quickly, in days and weeks, instead of months and years — and they stay out."
The foundation has also given itself until December to hit several other goals envisioned by the plan, including the ambition to find housing for 10,000 people in a decade. It would mean another 1,300 people would have a stable home by the end of the year.
"We are on track to make that," Krecsy said.
She's also confident the group will meet its 10-year goal of building 624 supportive housing units, which provide around-the-clock help for vulnerable tenants. The foundation will need another 100 of these specialized units in the next 11 months.
Looking at the gaps more generally, Krecsy said Calgary is still short about 15,000 affordable housing units, which offer subsidized rents to help residents get back on their feet.
According to her agency, Calgary had the fastest-growing population of homeless people in Canada from 1994 to 2008, when the plan was forged. There were fears more than 10,000 people would be homeless in the city on any given night by now.
According to the last count, completed in the fall of 2016, there were 3,200.
"We have very little affordable housing," Krecsy said. "We have more in-migration of families and we have more diverse families that need different types of housing. Our housing market isn't advancing fast enough with two-bedroom, three-bedroom and four-bedroom developments."
Abe Brown, executive director of Inn From the Cold, said most of the shelter's clients are young. Last year, the charity helped about 600 children.
'Families are trapped in homelessness'
"Families are trapped in homelessness, in shelters and in insecure housing, often because there's not something that's affordable and that's supported at the right size," Brown said.
"The impact of not having appropriate housing that's appropriately supported is the children end up in homelessness a lot longer than they should be, which really adds to their childhood trauma and their experience of toxic stress."
In December, Inn From the Cold opened an affordable housing project that offers three-bedroom apartments for families — something that's rare in Calgary.
Brown said the city needs much more.
"My hope at the end of this 10-year plan to end homelessness is that we don't all say, well we didn't quite hit it so therefore let's go onto another shiny object," he said.
For Skye, there's hope around the corner. She expects to move into stable housing by the first of the month.
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