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Pop-Up Care Village seeks to address the needs of Calgary’s homeless community

The third-semi-annual Pop-Up Care Village was held at Olympic Plaza on Wednesday, marking the one-year anniversary of the care village format to address systematic poverty and homelessness in Calgary.

Over the past year, participation in the villages has grown by both vendors and attendees, with more than 500 people having been expected to attend the Sept. 27 event.

“Through feedback, we’ve really learned how to improve the programming, and which organizations to invite to meet the needs of those who are experiencing systemic vulnerabilities such as homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity,” said Hanna Woodward, event manager for the Calgary Pop-Up Care Village.

Bill Zheng, co-organizer for the village and one of the founders of social enterprise RadiCare Ventures, said that the growth of the care village format reflected the increased number of organizations wanting to provide services this year. It’s up to 50 from 27 a year ago.

“We started off with half of the Olympic Plaza, to now having three whole sides, the entirety of the Olympic Plaza, the Historic Fire Hall No. 1, and the [Cathedral Church of the Redeemer] parish hall,” Zheng said.

“We definitely didn’t expect this to be as popular, but we’re glad that we’re able to serve as an inter-sectoral collaborative platform.”

Among the services being offered in addition to haircuts and massages, included mobile health clinic checkups, STI testing and treatment, equitable dental care, and mental health supports.

Social service agencies and employers were also on hand to provide assistance to individuals.

Woodward said that the the Pop-Up Care Village was held to meet people where they are at, with the services they need in a centralized location where members of the homeless community are walking through already.

“A lot of people say that they learned about a lot more services that are available, because people who are unhoused might not have a phone or a laptop to access to [Google search] where they can find food, or Google where they can find housing check-ins,” she said.

“So being able to have these organizations here providing pamphlets, they’re not only receiving services that day, but it’s a more long term thing as well.”

Circular-support for Pop-Up Village

Reverend Chris Dowdeswell, Dean of Anglican Church Diocese of Calgary and the Rector of the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, said that their support of the Pop-Up Care Village came about as a result of directly seeing the need to address homelessness in the downtown.

“There’s a whole lot of folks that are living literally next door to us in the Olympic Plaza, sleeping on our doorstep at the Cathedral, and even overdosing on our front doorstep. We needed to think as a church of ways that we can be a support and reach out in love to these folks,” Dowdeswell said.

He said that they got involved with the Pop-Up Care Village, and with the social enterprise RadiCare which financially supports the village, through social entrepreneur Tyler Melnyk, who runs No Fixed Address.

“We want to do what we can to partner with any good work initiative in the downtown core,” said Dowdeswell.

He said that one-half of that support was as a parish community, but the other half—non-denominational in nature—was through the downtown focus group that is hosted at the cathedral that works to address downtown issues.

The cathedral has also begun supporting directly the social enterprise work of RadiCare through office space at the parish hall, and by employing the company to do cleanup work around their 1 Street SE location.

“Since we’ve started our partnership with them, we’ve had one of the folks that attend our church regularly, who lives at the Mustard Seed get employed by RadiCare,” Dowdeswell said.

“It’s a great model all around, and it’s not only helping folks to learn and to grow, it’s helping to provide stable employment to get their kind of feet underneath them as they seek a way out of homelessness. It provides this valuable service of property maintenance, as we struggle with instances of vandalism on a weekly basis downtown.”

Zheng said that model was one that they were using to support the Pop-Up Care Village in two ways. First, by providing funding directly from the business to support ongoing events, but secondly to be present at the Pop-Up Care Villages as a potential employer.

“We are really tying the two missions together. We support people who experienced systemic vulnerabilities by actually hiring them, giving them a source of income,” he said.