City administration is recommending Calgary city council seek joint funding with the province for future extreme weather responses for those experiencing homelessness.
The plan was endorsed by the city’s community development committee on Tuesday. If approved by council, city administration will be looking into a coordinated response with the government of Alberta in future years.
It may also mean there will be no additional funding for community outreach programs this year.
This is in stark contrast to the one-time $750,000 funding that was given to the Calgary Homeless Foundation last December to help expand shelter space available in the city and provide winter essentials.
But Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said community organizations aren’t completely unfunded this year.
The Calgary Homeless Foundation will still receive $2.6 million for long-term strategic work and short-term response work. The money will come from the city’s Community Safety Investment Framework, the remainder of the initial $750,000 investment and some funding from Alberta Health Services and United Way.
The money should fund the foundation for the next four years, Penner said.
“We know that the problem is complex and it is unfortunately growing. The response that we need is bigger than what we can provide as a city,” the councillor told reporters on Wednesday.
“The province needs to be a partner because this is part of their purview and part of their legislative responsibilities.”
Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said while the program last year was successful, it is important to connect Calgarians experiencing homelessness with support and resources.
“The program was successful. We were able to provide shelter, warming shelters and basic needs,” Wong said.
“We want to be sure that, when we’re providing services, that the people doing outreach are recognized as the front line and they know what the people need.
“We need to give (the outreach team) the tools and resources they need to take the people to the support they need instead of giving a list of prescriptive resources.”
Patricia Jones, chief executive officer of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said the foundation is working with agencies and other outreach groups to develop this year’s extreme weather response.
In an interview with Global News, Jones said the Calgary Homeless Foundation is better equipped to respond to extreme winter weather because of ongoing relationships and trust-building.
“It’s about creating warm spaces, and those spaces will be connected to other services like housing, shelter and medical services… We continue to partner with our community agencies to provide the basic winter essentials,” Jones said.
“We will be working with other funders, other levels of government and other philanthropic organizations to help us provide that to people.
It is also important not to marginalize Calgarians experiencing homelessness, even if the issues are challenging and complicated.
“We will work together with the community because people experiencing homelessness isn’t just my issue or the government’s issue, it’s everybody’s issue,” Jones said.
“We know it’s cold in Calgary, and we have existing relationships that we’ve been building throughout the year so we won’t be in the position we were last year.
“If (Calgarians) see somebody in our community in trouble or is cold, please be human with them and direct them to the supports that are there.”
In an emailed statement on Wednesday, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Luan said the Alberta government invests millions of dollars to operate supportive housing units and build affordable housing across the province.
Luan also said the government is committed to making rent and housing more affordable for Albertans, pointing to the province’s 10-year affordable housing strategy and Rent Supplement Program.
“We will continue to work to explore all options to ensure vulnerable people are protected and can get the help they need,” Luan said.
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