Hundreds of Calgary's homeless are expected to be off the streets and in a new home in the new year.
That's because of a $60 million commitment by the provincial government to agencies across Alberta.
On the streets for 30 years, Steven Barbour, a.k.a. French Fry, floated between the city’s shelters and parks, panhandling to get by.
Now in a home for over two years, Barbour says social support was the key to his success.
"I never want to be on the streets again. My house is really a house — my place is spotless."
Barbour says he tries to give back in any way he can. That includes helping out at The Alex, the agency that subsidizes his rent.
The community health centre is one of nine social service organizations in Calgary that will receive some of the provincial funding in the coming weeks.
Calgary-based programs will receive $12.5 million from the province, plus another $2 million from Alberta Health Services.
Funding for social supports
The money is expected to be used to find housing for at least 320 people, as well as funding life skills training, addiction counselling, mental health support and other supports.
John Rook, CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, says that after a lifetime of "sleeping rough," the chronically homeless need a lot more than a roof over their heads.
"You don't just put someone in an apartment and leave them there. You put someone in an apartment and wrap around them," says Rook.
"We are looking at the most chronic, as our first level of care, so the people who have been homeless for years, the rough sleepers, people with serious issues."
Building on success
The burst of funding comes after nearly four years of success in reducing homelessness in the city, says Rook. During that time some 6,000 people, including 1,200 families, have found homes.
"If you look at the numbers from, say, 1998 and 2008 there was a constant increase in shelter numbers. Since 2008 the numbers have flattened and that's success," says Rook.
Lisa Garrisen of The Alex says social agencies are grateful for the money. But with Calgary’s tight rental market and the stigma that comes with being homeless, she believes finding housing won't be easy.
"That's our struggle right now, is housing, we could actually help more people if we could get them into housing," says Garrisen.
For his part, Barbour says he knows more than a few who now want what he has — a place to call their own.
"It would help them a lot. Yeah, they'd be ecstatic."