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Family Homelessness INNformation Series: Episode 1

By 27 February 2018Community
Episode 1: Differences between Family & Adult Single Homelessness

Welcome to our Family Homelessness INNformation Series. We will be focusing our online content around different topics pertaining to family homelessness for the next six weeks. We want to educate and engage you, our supporters and community, on what is necessary to create a community where no child or family is homeless. Over the next 6 weeks we will be releasing weekly episode where we sit down with experts in homelessness to discuss issues pertaining to family homelessness.

The episodes are:

Episode 1: Differences between Family & Adult Single Homelessness;
Episode 2: Data and Research;
Episode 3: Trauma-Informed Care;
Episode 4: Economic Barriers and Solutions;
Episode 5: Social Inclusion and the Case for Adequate;
Episode 6: Affordable Family Housing.

Listen to Episode 1: Differences between Family & Adult Single Homelessness HERE. In this episode Kara Layher our Communications Specialist interviews Abe Brown, our Executive Director, and he discusses three major differences we see in family homelessness and singles homelessness.

We will explore research surrounding this week’s topic on our blog later this week!

The current state of family homelessness

In the wake of record-breaking numbers in 2017, we are continuing to experience increased numbers of children and families accessing our Emergency Family Shelter.

As Alberta’s only 24/7 no-barrier access emergency family shelter, we saw 944 unique family members in the shelter throughout 2017 compared to 876 in 2016.

“In January 2017 we were consistently under capacity, serving an average of 18 families throughout the month,” says Abe Brown, Executive Director. “Since the beginning of this year, we have served on average 29 families every night, our highest numbers reaching 34 families for a few days in the end of January. This is a huge issue in a shelter that is designed to serve maximum 27 families a night. For many of the families who come to us, due to the fact they have three or more children, finding appropriate housing is very challenging and this lengthens their stay in shelter.”

As we continue to look deeper into our data, it is clear that child and family homelessness is on the rise, and for all Calgarians, this constitutes a crisis. While great strides have been achieved in addressing adult single homelessness in Calgary, the needle has yet to be moved for children and families in similar crisis.

For example, in 2008, we served 259 families at the Emergency Family Shelter and that has grown to 283 in 2017, representing a 9% increase. During the same timeframe, overall homelessness has decreased on a per capita basis by 26% or comparatively, since 2008, homelessness in Calgary has decreased by 10.5%. In the 2008 Point-in-Time (PiT) Count of Homelessness, 197 families were counted as experiencing homelessness. The 2014 PiT Count found 209 families in homelessness. This is a 31% increase over the 2012 Count.

This is why we feel it is important to launch the Family Homelessness INNformation Series. So you, our greatest supporters can gain a more in-depth understanding of the family homeless-serving sector, the issues surrounding family homelessness and what we are doing to end family homelessness in our city.

Since 2016 we have brought the length of stay in shelter for a family down to an average of 37 days from 60 days. “It’s not all about length of stay,” adds Brown. “It’s about matching families to the right housing with the right resources. If you look at the housing being built within the homeless serving sector, the majority is targeted at single adults. Family size impacts size of housing needed and like singles, access to transit and employment are vital. For families, so too is proximity to schools and day care.”

In December we opened Journey House 2, a 10 unit, three-bedroom apartment building near the downtown core. Purchase and renovation of the property was made possible through Claire’s Campaign, generous donors and a mortgage from the Calgary Foundation. “Journey House 2 is a significant step forward towards our vision of a community where no child or family is homeless,” says Brown. “But it’s not enough. We must build more appropriately sized housing if we are to end child and family homelessness.”

In total, during 2017, the Inn served 944 unique family members in shelter, up from 876 in 2016. The Inn housed 49 families throughout the year, a slight increase from 2016 in which 45 families were housed.

About the families we serve

The families who arrive at our doors come to us because they have run out of alternatives. They can no longer stay with friends and family, they have no money or way to pay a damage deposit and in many instances, families are in need of social supports.

At intake, 33% of families say that they simply could not afford to pay the rent. It is estimated that in Calgary, there are over 15,000 households who earn less than $20,000 per year and are paying more than 50% of their income on rent every month[1]. These are the families most at risk of homelessness.

In the 2016 PiT Count of Homelessness 20% of all individuals counted identified as Indigenous, which is concerning as 3% of the overall population in Calgary is Indigenous[2].  About 60% of the families we see in shelter are Indigenous, significantly higher than the adult singles population referenced in the 2016 PiT Count. As well, 19% of the families we serve report coming to the shelter from a Reserve, seeking a better future for their children. Discrimination, racism, lack of education, lack of employment opportunities and housing affordability as well as intergenerational trauma and poverty all play a role in the high number of Indigenous families we serve.

Click HERE to view Inn from the Cold’s 2017 Year in Review and a breakdown of the families we served last year.

Stay tuned for a deep analysis of the topics discussed in this week’s episode which will be published on our blog later this week.

Listen to Episode 1: Differences between Family & Adult Single Homelessness HERE.


[1] 2015 Calgary’s Updated Plan to End Homelessness: People First in Housing First



Watch Episode 2 HERE.