Evolving program at Inn from the Cold is helping families avoid homelessness

March 19, 2021

Gloria’s life as she knew it was unraveling.

Her husband had passed away suddenly, a man she had met in high school and had married soon after graduation. While she was working more than 40 hours a week, she had a low-paying job for a commercial cleaning service in Calgary. Her income wasn’t enough to pay all the bills to keep her and her two teenaged boys in the family’s longtime home. And she was afraid that they’d lose their house and have nowhere to go.

She began making calls to find help and was referred to Inn from the Cold.

“She needed short-term help with her expenses as well as grief counseling,” says Lynda McCance, the Case Manager and Placement Coordinator for the homeless prevention and diversion program at Inn from the Cold.

“She also needed support planning a path to where she was settled in this new reality as sole parent of and provider for her two children.”

Working that plan required months of case management in Gloria’s case. While circumstances are unique for each family, families typically require less than three months of case management and some don’t need a case manager’s assistance at all. Some families simply need help with food or gas that month or help navigating the system to find available counselling, parenting support, and legal guidance.

“Our priority is to keep families in their existing homes and when we can’t, to find them alternate housing as quickly as possible,” says Nathaniel Miller, Director of Family Programs at Inn from the Cold. “We’re working with a number of partners so that we can continue to evolve the service; no family should be homeless before getting the help they need.”

This early intervention strategy takes concrete steps, on a case-by-case basis, to prevent families from having to experience homelessness.

“We know losing the family home is very stressful and traumatic for families and children especially,” says Executive Director Heather Morley. “So we’re undertaking a multi-year effort to transform Inn from the Cold into a responsive, reputable, and resilient organization that’s driven by what families need. Our work with prevention and diversion is just the beginning.”

Introduced in phases last year, the homeless prevention and diversion program at Inn from the Cold helps families to either stay in their existing home or to locate available permanent housing as quickly as possible. The delivery of this service is customized to meet each family’s unique circumstances and needs. It may include short-term financial support, landlord meditation, locating new permanent housing as needed, providing temporary emergency shelter if necessary, coordinated support from local social services and community partners, and case management for up to three months.

In 2020 the service handled 567 inquiries, with 82 per cent originating from the Calgary area. In the second half of last year, the service helped 10 families stay in their existing home or move into alternate housing.

Inn from the Cold is dedicated exclusively to families that are or may become homeless in the Calgary region. All families with an expectant mother or at least one child under 18 years of age is accepted.