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Recognizing the fluid nature of homelessness, where each experience is inherently unique, is fundamental to our mission at Inn from the Cold, where we empower independence and foster resilience for children and families by providing shelter, housing, and comprehensive supports that honour diverse cultural perspectives and unique life experiences.

Below, we cover five commonly encountered myths related to family homelessness, aiming to debunk them through a trauma-informed lens.

MYTH: “Family homelessness is not an issue in our city.”

In Calgary, it’s essential to recognize that family homelessness is a prevalent issue, with many families struggling to secure stable housing or afford basic necessities. The misconception that homelessness is a minor concern in our city overlooks the multifaceted challenges faced by families, often resulting from economic hardships, domestic violence, or unexpected life events.

In fact, during the 2022/23 period, 1,357 families reached out to The Inn for assistance, marking an 83% increase over the previous year, and with the rise in the cost of living, we only expect this number to go up in the next coming year.

MYTH: “Family homelessness is a result of personal failure.”

Many people believe homelessness is the result of personal failure. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no single cause for experiencing homelessness, the causes of family homelessness are varied and complex. These experiences often arise from systemic issues like poverty, discrimination and economic changes, combined with personal circumstances. The circumstances that can contribute to family homelessness can include unexpected significant expenses, sudden injury, serious illness, family violence or breakdown, relationship difficulties, untreated trauma, underemployment, financial losses, and addictions.

Indigenous and visible minority families experience significant systematic barriers, including racial and cultural discrimination, that heighten their risk of experiencing homelessness. In light of this, The Inn strives to apply a culturally diverse lens and Indigenous worldview to the supports we provide.

MYTH: “Families experiencing homelessness are just trying to take advantage of social services.”

It’s essential to acknowledge that families facing homelessness frequently encounter systemic barriers, exacerbating the risk of homelessness. Limited access to affordable housing, economic disparities, and gaps in mental health services contribute to the complex web of factors that can put families into unstable situations.

You can help by advocating for affordable housing initiatives, employment opportunities, and improved access to mental health resources. This collective effort can make a significant impact in getting families housed.

In fact, on average, it costs $87,000 per year to support a person using hospitals, mail, courts, and emergency services because they don’t have a home. But once that person has a home, the cost of their housing and supports decrease to approximately $30,500 per year, representing a 65% reduction.

MYTH: “Parents experiencing homelessness are unfit to care for their children.”

Many parents experiencing homelessness exhibit remarkable resilience as they navigate challenging circumstances to prioritize their children’s well-being. It’s crucial to grasp that families may encounter such situations due to unforeseen life events rather than assuming parents are unfit to care for their children when unexpected things occur.

Understanding the complexities of their situations fosters empathy and encourages proactive solutions aimed at addressing the root causes of homelessness while supporting families in rebuilding their lives with dignity and opportunity.

MYTH: “Families who are getting supports won’t be financially responsible.”

Many families needing assistance face systemic barriers such as limited access to stable employment, affordable housing, and comprehensive social services. It is essential to understand that individuals within these families often diligently work to navigate complex circumstances. Providing ongoing supports paired with empowerment can assist families in building financial responsibility and resilience.

As we strive to break the stigma surrounding family homelessness, it becomes evident that understanding the nuanced realities is essential for fostering compassion and driving meaningful change. The myths we’ve explored here underscore the critical need to recognize the fluid nature of homelessness, transcending simplistic assumptions.

In Calgary and beyond, families grappling with housing insecurity navigate a myriad of challenges rooted in systemic issues, economic hardships, and unforeseen life events. It is incumbent upon us to dispel misconceptions, advocating for affordable housing initiatives, employment opportunities, and improved access to mental health resources. By acknowledging the resilience of parents and children facing homelessness and working collectively to address its root causes, we can create a society where dignity and opportunity prevail, dismantling the myths that perpetuate the stigma surrounding this complex issue.

Together, let us pave the way for empathy, understanding, and lasting solutions that ensure no family is left without a place to call home.