Homelessness in Calgary dips 19% in last decade, point-in-time count suggests

Calgary continues to be the epicentre of homelessness in Alberta, but the Calgary Homeless Foundation says progress is being made.

Calgary still accounts for more than half of the homeless population in the province

The Calgary Homeless Foundation says there are 300 fewer homeless people in the city than there were in 2016. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Calgary continues to be the epicentre of homelessness in Alberta, but the Calgary Homeless Foundation says progress is being made.

Results of the 2018 Point-in-Time Homeless Count released Thursday reveal that there were 5,735 homeless people during the April 11 event.

"People who are on the street. People sleeping in maybe parks or outside of the city in uninhabitable places," said the foundation's executive director Diana Krecsy.

"And we collect data from the health system and the justice system to say, on this given night, these are people in this province who are considered without a fixed address and homeless."

The count was conducted in seven Alberta cities.

Calgary's count totalled 2,911. That's down by more than 300 people since the 2016 count.

Krecsy says that represents an overall drop of 19 per cent since the start of the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness in 2008.

Diana Krescy, executive director of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, says homelessness has stopped growing in the city. (Dave Will/CBC)

"We have new adaptive systems and programs in play that are getting people identified faster and out of homelessness faster," she said.

"We've added on housing units, so the plan is actually working and it's a hard piece of work. It's a marathon and 10 years was a sprint, so we need to keep going with what we're doing."

Despite the positive trend, Krecsy says 51 per cent of all of the homeless population in Alberta is in Calgary.

According to the count:

  • 39 per cent of homeless Albertans are middle aged (45 to 64).
  • 37 per cent are working age (25 to 44).
  • 8 per cent are young adults (18 to 24).
  • 11 per cent are children.
  • Five per cent are seniors.

But the foundation notes, prior to 2008, the city was seeing a biennial increase in homelessness of 35 per cent. Since that year, more than 9,300 people have been found homes.

The vast majority of homeless Albertans — 72 per cent — are men, the report says.

The count found that 85 per cent of Alberta's homeless population are in the major metropolitan areas, while the other 15 per cent were found in the Wood Buffalo region, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Medicine Hat.

About 49 per cent of the homeless population have at least provisional accommodation and 47 per cent are in emergency shelters, the count found. About three per cent have no shelter.

Indigenous people accounted for a disproportionate 26 per cent of the homeless population in Alberta, given that they represent just seven per cent of the population as a whole, the foundation says.

Of those surveyed, 62 per cent said they had been without homes for at least 180 cumulative days — what the foundation considers chronic homelessness.