Calgary

University of Calgary releases surprising study on homeless shelter use

A comprehensive study done by the University of Calgary's School of Public policy is shedding new light on who's staying in Calgary homeless shelters.

85 per cent of shelter users only stay one or two nights and then leave

The last count pegged Calgary's homeless population at 3,500 people. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A comprehensive study done by the University of Calgary's School of Public policy is shedding new light on who's staying in Calgary homeless shelters.

According to researchers, 33,000 people used the Calgary Drop-In Centre over a five-year period. But the surprising number is the number of nights they are staying.

"Most of those people, 86 per cent, only using it one, two nights and then disappear," said the study's author, Ron Kneebone.

Kneebone says only 500-800 people are using shelters on a chronic basis. Chronic users stayed a total of 928 days over the five-year study period. 

"The big lesson we can get out of this is if we can find permanent supportive housing for a fairly small number of people, chronic users, we can free up one-third of the shelter spaces in Calgary," Kneebone said.

Louise Gallagher with at the Calgary Homeless Foundation says the numbers will help shape their 10-year plan to end homelessness in the city.

"And what they really tell us, is that they much continue the thrust on affordable housing, on ensuring people don't get trapped in homelessness," Gallagher said.

The authors of the study speculate the majority of users may be temporarily out of work or trying to avoid domestic violence.

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