On January 29, 2008, the City of Calgary launched a bold initiative to end homelessness in our community. Calgary’s 10 Year Plan To End Homelessness was founded on the aspirational goal of ending homelessness in our city in ten years. As a first of its kind in Canada, the original vision of Calgary’s 10 Year Plan was that all people facing homelessness in Calgary will have access to safe, decent and affordable housing as well as the resources and supports necessary to sustain that housing by the year 2018.

While Calgary did not achieve its ambitious goal of ending homelessness, over the past decade our community has had many successes.

Together we have: 

  • Added more than 2,100 programming spaces throughout Calgary, ensuring that individuals are not only housed, but are housed with the right supports;

  • Housed and supported more than 9,700 people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness in our city;

  • Created more than 550 units of permanent housing with supports;

  • Achieved a housing stability rate of 71% cumulatively, over the duration of the Plan - currently at a rate of 92%;

  • Stopped the growth of and reduced homelessness in our city. There are 32% fewer people, per capita, experiencing homelessness in our city today than in 2008;

  • Have made better use of public dollars, as indicated by a study of CHF-funded Housing First programs where researchers concluded that every $1 spent on Housing First is associated with $1.5 - $4 of savings to the public system;

  • Established a Coordinated System-of-Care that uses common intake processes and metrics;

  • Created a Community Systems Integration (CSI) Table that includes leaders from key public systems, government departments, and community funders;

  • A Client Action Committee, comprised of individuals with living or lived experience of homelessness, consults with the sector and provides experience and information that has been instrumental to our collective success and spearheaded several important initiatives; and

  • Launched Canada’s first comprehensive Homeless Management Information System.

Key Learnings

On this journey, we have learned a lot. 

We have learned that Housing First does not equal housing only, and that many people may require wrap around supports to help them be successful.  

We have discovered that the true causes of homelessness come from external macro factors, and that prevention must occur in the primary public systems and community-based supports. 

We have learned that while the goal of a true Absolute Zero end to homelessness remains our collective aspirational goal, we realize that this is not realistic in practice without significant changes within our primary public systems. 

It makes more sense for us to focus on achieving what is now known as Functional Zero - whereby efforts are concentrated on reaching a point where we will have the resources that allow us to measure the capacity, sustainability, and effectiveness of our system in real time. 

This, in turn, allows us to ensure that our focus is on re-connecting clients to the appropriate public systems and achieving a point where there are enough services, housing, and emergency shelter beds for everyone who needs them so that anyone who experiences homelessness does so only briefly, is rehoused quickly and successfully, and is unlikely to return to homelessness again. Calgary’s 10 Year Plan Collective Impact Report provides summation of the learnings and research accumulated over the past decade in our collective efforts to end homelessness in our city. 

What’s Next?

Based on the lessons and wisdom gleaned from over a decade of collective impact, collaboration and coordination, a forward looking strategic directives report has been created.

Our priority areas beyond 2018 are to drive alignment across system of care participants (public systems, homeless-serving agencies, the public, corporate Calgary) and enable coordination at the strategic and service delivery levels to achieve Functional Zero within our city. 

Together to Zero: 6 Strategic Directives 

  1. People First. This is about lived/living experience, our frontline staff and our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.

  2. A Home for Everyone. This is about Housing First, and a healthy  affordable and supportive housing continuum.

  3. Data & Knowledge. This is about data sharing, embedding research and real-time knowledge dissemination. It’s also about measurement that makes sense and drives outcomes. 

  4. Agile System Planning. This is about enhancements to our homeless-serving system of care, improving outcomes for clients and increased service coordination.

  5. Eco-System Integration. This is about homelessness prevention, and strategic integration with public and community systems of care.

  6. Strategic Investment & Empowering Calgarians. This is about funder coordination, community engagement and public education.

The Together To Zero Strategic Directives report can be found here.