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Calgary approves new cash to address homeless warming

Calgary city council approved $750,000 in emergency funding to help keep Calgary’s homeless citizens warm.

Councillors were provided an outline of goals for the cash during Monday’s combined meeting of council.  The funding will be given to the Calgary Homeless Foundation to increase the number of easy to access spaces, provide basic winter supplies and reduce barriers for clients.

The item was brought up earlier in December after a homeless encampment was dismantled outside the Calgary Drop-In Centre. It came to committee shortly after that.

The plan is to potentially expand hours of operation at different shelters, increase services and outreach programs and reach beyond the downtown.  

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she thinks the city may have realized they didn’t have a point person on this file and now the city has filled the convener role.

 “It’s very similar to what we did with the mental health and addiction strategy,” she said.

“The city realizes that sometimes we don’t have the expertise, but we do have the ability to bring the different organizations together.”

The Calgary Homeless Foundation said the funding would allow them to improve access to the shelter system.

“As the guide to fighting homelessness in our city, we are very pleased to see this funding from The City of Calgary for expanded resources. We are uniquely positioned to help coordinate a safe, effective and humane strategy to serve better individuals experiencing homelessness during our cold winter months,” said Patricia Jones, CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

“Designing and implementing a plan with shelters, social agencies, community organizations and the City of Calgary will ensure that these additional resources produce the best possible impact and outcome for the homeless population we serve.”

Councillors looking beyond one year

Coun. Courtney Walcott said with the recent cold weather it’s underscored the need for immediate attention to this item. He wanted to ensure that as a part of this, they will look at ways for the work to continue beyond this winter.

“My hope is that some of this funding, it’s going to set up programs that will exist year-over-year that will continue beyond just this particular moment, to always be aware that there are blind spots and there are gaps in our systems,” Walcott said.

Coun. Kourtney Penner had introduced an amendment to the main motion to ensure the inter-agency cooperation continued. Funding the work was also to be considered as a part of the 2023 to 2026 budget.

Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans, who moved the item, asked what got the city and its partners into this situation.

“It’s not as if we haven’t had these winter conditions in the past and what makes this year different?” Pootmans asked.

One of the primary issues is COVID, administration said. Capacity at shelters was impacted, as was the ability for larger outreach teams to be deployed.

A report on the work done is expected back in Q3 of 2022.