Calgary homeless population remains tops in Alberta, says new count

More people call Calgary’s streets home than any other city in Alberta, says a study of the province’s homeless.

While October’s Alberta-wide point-in-time count of the province’s 6,600 homeless found 3,555 living in Calgary, the advocacy group tasked with curtailing the city’s homeless problem said they’ve managed to keep the population static despite booming growth.

“Homeless people are coming to Calgary because people are coming to Calgary,” said Diana Krecsy, president and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

“Last year, net migration went up 30,000 — but we didn’t grow housing at that rate.”

Some 3,600 Calgarians lived on the streets when the foundation launched its 10-year homelessness reduction plan in 2008, a partnership between private and public stakeholders to enable people to leave the streets permanently.

That number dropped to 3,190 during the last count in 2012, but Calgary has continued to grow at a breakneck pace ever since.

Krecsy, who took park in October’s homeless count, said much of Calgary’s homeless problem can be attributed to a lack of available and attainable housing.

Of those surveyed, 18.4% of Calgary’s homeless were new to town, slightly higher than the provincial average of 18.1%.

“For the first half-hour, of all of the homeless people that I met, none of them were from Calgary,” she said.

“They were from rural areas in the province, they came from other provinces and from out east.”

Young people made up the bulk of these new arrivals, she said.

Of Calgary’s young homeless, 286 were between 13 and 24 years old.

As well, Natives continue to be over-represented on Calgary’s streets.

Despite only making up 3% of Calgary’s total population, Krecsy said First Nations members make up 21% of the city’s homeless.

The survey also identified 211 homeless families, contributing 378 children to Calgary’s homeless numbers.

The number of homeless seniors increased from 84 in 2012 to 122, many of whom were living in emergency shelters.

While Calgary hosted 54% of Alberta’s homeless, the survey found 34% live in Edmonton, 4% live in Fort McMurray, 3% in Grande Prairie, 2% in Reed Deer and Lethbridge with the remaining 1% in Medicine Hat.

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