Committee recommends $750k in cold weather response for Calgary's homeless

City administration is recommending Calgary City Council put emergency funds into supporting people experiencing homelessness this winter. 

Council to make final decision on funding later this month

A Calgarian walks past the Drop-In Centre. The city's community development committee is recommending funding for people experiencing homelessness this winter. (James Young/CBC)

City administration is recommending Calgary city council put emergency funds into supporting people experiencing homelessness this winter. 

The city's community development committee endorsed the plan Wednesday. If approved by council Dec. 20, the money would be given to the Calgary Homeless Foundation to distribute to outreach groups to hire more staff, create more spaces and buy warm clothing for homeless people who refuse to go to shelters.

City administration is recommending against setting up warming centres.

But Coun. Kourtney Penner said there are limitations on what services can be provided in a short time frame. 

"What was sort of brought forward today is some of the solutions around using existing shelter services," she said. 

Chaz Smith, founder of street outreach program Be the Change YYC, says many people refuse to stay in shelters due to fears for their health, being split from their companions, safety, or theft of their few belongings.

"We absolutely need warming centres identified using train platforms because we often already have individuals experiencing homelessness at particular platforms." 

He said the infrastructure is already there and could be expanded.`

Chaz Smith, founder of Be The Change YYC homeless outreach team, says many people refuse to stay in shelters. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Dana Lyons, co-founder of Street Sister Society, said there are many rough sleepers downtown and near Calgary's malls. 

"What it looks like on the front line is absolutely direness. There is an underlying and growing underlying problem with these vulnerable folks not accessing shelters," she said. 

She wants the city to have a risk mitigation system in place if the plan fails and people are not accessing services. 

"Already we're seeing failure in the system, even though there's great effort by these organizations, we're seeing this lack of trust."