In 2015, Medicine Hat will become Canada's first community to end homelessness

Making good on our promise

In 2010, Medicine Hat launched its original Plan to End Homelessness by March 2015. 

Rather than extending the 2015 deadline, the Medicine Hat community challenged itself to do what it takes to end homelessness within the original timeframe and "make good on our promise". Holding our feet to the fire, the updated Plan to End Homelessness in Medicine Hat is ambitious, precise, accountable, reflective, and measurable.

Building on success

Four years into implementing the original Plan, considerable progress has been made:

  • In 2012-13, 849 individuals moved through the emergency shelter system, compared to 1,147 in 2008-09; this represents a 298 (26%) decrease.
  • The roll-out of a number of Housing First programs has resulted in 703 people being housed from 2009 to 2013, including 243 children.

The learnings gained through implementation along with the emerging trends brought by a shifting environment present both opportunities and challenges to realize the ambitious vision laid out in the initial Plan.

A systems approach

In Medicine Hat, as in most communities, Housing First was initially conceptualised as a programmatic intervention that aimed at rapidly rehousing individuals and supporting them to maintain housing stability. We have since learned that it is much more.

The shift to Housing First in Medicine Hat has been more fundamental than introducing specific programs.  We have looked to Housing First as a call to approaching homelessness differently in our community. Rather than simply introducing new programs, we have restructured our entire system's approach to homelessness following Housing First as a philosophy.

The transformation of Medicine Hat's approach to homelessness has required a reorientation towards ending homelessness and Housing First using a system planning approach. System planning is a method of organizing and delivering services, housing, and programs that coordinates diverse resources to ensure efforts align with ending homelessness goals. 

The refocused Plan

Moving forward, our refocused Plan will focus on:

  1. Full-scale implementation of the system planning approach.
  2. Adequate and appropriate programs and housing opportunities to achieve and sustain an end to  homelessness by March 2015.
  3. System integration and targeted prevention measures to stop flow into homelessness and maintain an end to homelessness.
  4. Data and research to improve and refine approach.
  5. Leadership to support the ending homelessness movement locally, in Alberta , Canada and internationally.

We will measure success against a number of milestones.

  1. Housing 290 homeless people, of which 240 would be chronically or episodically homeless.
  2. Ensuring that no more than 10% of those served by Housing First programs return to homelessness.
  3. Eliminate 50% of 2013 emergency shelter beds (a 30 bed reduction).
  4. Reduce the average length of stay in emergency shelters to 10 days.
  5. Decrease the flow into homelessness from jails and hospitals.

Click here to read the full "At Home in Medicine Hat: Our Plan to End Homelessness". 

Jaime Rogers is the Manager of the Homeless and Housing Development Department with the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society. She is also member of the Alberta Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the 7 Cities on Housing and Homelessness. Medicine Hat, Alberta has been recognized provincially and nationally for the significant strides that have been made towards ending homelessness. Ms. Rogers is charged with leading the implementation of Starting At Home in Medicine Hat – Our Five-Year Plan to End Homelessness, and A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in 10 Years. Ms. Rogers holds a Master of Social Work from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Calgary.

Dr. Alina Turner was the Vice President of Strategy at the Calgary Homeless Foundation, the organization leading the implementation of Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness until 2013 when she left to pursue consulting in the non-profit sector. Alina founded Turner Research & Strategy Inc. in 2013, a consulting company that provides research and strategy development support to advance social change. In this work, she supports communities with system planning, transitioning to Housing First, and ending homelessness, as well as research, strategic planning, program and organizational design. Alina is also engaged in strategic planning, policy development and academic research in the area of domestic violence, affordable housing, and immigration. Alina has a Doctoral degree at the University of Calgary focusing on migration and housing.

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The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.