Homelessness down just 1% as 2018 goal to eradicate it looms

Exactly eight years since the Calgary Homeless Foundation pledged to end homelessness by 2018, the number of people living on the streets has only dropped by about one per cent

Calgary's population boom made getting people off the streets more challenging

Kevin McNichol, of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, says the goal of ending homelessness by 2018 was audacious in hindsight, but important progress has been made. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Exactly eight years since the Calgary Homeless Foundation pledged to end homelessness by 2018, the number of people living on the streets has only dropped by about one per cent.

Part of the problem is that thousands of people moved to Calgary during that period, and some of them ended up homeless, Kevin McNichol, the foundation's vice-president of strategy, said on Friday's Eyeopener.

"We had an audacious goal. We've learned from over the last eight years how audacious that goal really is and are now faced with the reality that by 2018 we have a long way to go to achieve the outcome," he said.

McNichol says he's still optimistic the challenge can be met, but he says it will take all levels of government directing some of the promised infrastructure spending toward affordable housing.

"Can we achieve ending homelessness by 2018? It's possible. I think the better question is, do we have the leadership and fortitude to make it happen?" he said.

McNichol says roughly $150 million has been invested in combating homelessness in Calgary since the 10-year goal was announced. The foundation has housed about 7,000 people and 2,700 units of affordable housing have been created.

"I would say we still have another 3,200 that still have to be housed," he said. "We have to address the affordable housing gap."

McNichol says the assistance offered to homeless people in Calgary has become much more sophisticated over the years.

"So when we do house an individual and provide them supports, they're more likely to stay housed and become healthier and more stable. So those are the successes that we've had," he said.

"In a place as resource wealthy as we are as a country, this doesn't have to exist."

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