Homelessness count for Alberta reveals most live in Calgary

A new snapshot study of homelessness in Alberta reveals that more than half of that population lives in Calgary.

Point-in-time count found 6,600 people homeless in 7 largest communities, including 3,531 in Calgary

The Calgary Homeless Foundation says Calgary's efforts to combat homelessness are paying off even in the face of heavy migration and scarce affordable housing. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

A new snapshot study of homelessness in Alberta reveals that more than half of that population lives in Calgary.

Results of the Alberta Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness, released on Friday, found 6,600 people were homeless on the nights of separate counts conducted last month in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie and in the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo.

About 54 per cent of the people enumerated as homeless were in Calgary, 34 per cent in Edmonton. The remaining 12 per cent were distributed among the five smaller centres.

  • Medicine Hat: one per cent.
  • Grande Prairie: three per cent.
  • Red Deer: two per cent.
  • Lethbridge: two per cent.
  • Wood Buffalo: four per cent.

"We are bar none the urban epicentre of homelessness and people experiencing this in the province," said Calgary Homeless Foundation CEO Diana Krecsy.

The snapshot represents a 16 per cent reduction in homelessness since provincial homelessness counts were held at different times of the year in 2008 in all those centres, except Medicine Hat and  Red Deer, which didn’t do counts that year, according to the foundation.

Calgary's homeless

In Calgary, the rate of homeless has only dropped two per cent since 2008. But that still represents good progress given how much the city has grown, said Krecsy.

The point-in-time count includes people “sleeping rough” — in parks or on the street — as well as those residing in emergency shelters, jails or hospitals.

Out of the 3,531 people counted as homeless in Calgary, half were in emergency shelters, 36 per cent were in a short-term housing facility, five per cent were outside and nine per cent were in hospitals or jails.

  • 74 per cent of Calgary’s homeless population is male.
  • 20 per cent identified as aboriginal.
  • 364 youth were counted.
  • 211 families with 329 children were counted. 

​Krescy said legalizing secondary suites would help efforts to to combat homelessness in Calgary. She also encouraged Calgarians to be more open-minded about affordable housing projects in their communities. 

"Homelessness are regular people. It's a state of where they are at, normal people. There is this myth that it is always a drug-addicted homeless person that is going to cause crime. This is not the case. We have seniors, we have women and children fleeing violence, we have families."