A nylon flap and a zipper were all that separated Janet and her husband from the ruthless -32-degree Calgary winter. Janet’s husband had just been released from the hospital following a stroke and 10-day coma. His two-month hospital stay cost them their jobs and home. As a result, he was forced to finish recovering on the floor of a tent in a park.
They lived in the tent for a year and half, waking up at 5:00 a.m. every day, drenched from the icicles that melted through the flimsy fabric while they’d been sleeping. Their clothes would dry after 12 hours of collecting bottles, only to become soaked again overnight in the tent. They wore the same clothes day after day, in a constant cycle of wet, dry, wet, dry.
Janet’s husband would occasionally spend the night in a shelter while Janet stayed in the tent to look after their dog, who she could not bring to the shelter. Experiencing homelessness as a woman is especially dangerous. It is an extremely vulnerable position to be in.
They weren’t sure how much longer Janet’s husband could live without a home. Finally, after eight months on Calgary Alpha House Society’s waiting list, they were finally moved into a basement suite.
“Being able to cook instead of eating fast food in a tent really makes a difference. He’s so much healthier now,” she beams, adding that their case workers helped her get a job. “We have a door instead of a zipper. We got some of our dignity back.”
Janet says that getting the basement suite not only changed her life, but also probably saved her husband’s. “I don’t know if he’d still be alive today if we hadn’t found a home.”
There are over 3,000 Calgarians currently experiencing homelessness, with more than 14,000 households at extreme risk of becoming homeless. Alpha House is one of nine social services agencies that are working together as part of the RESOLVE Campaign to build affordable rental housing, with support services, for up to 3,000 homeless and vulnerable Calgarians.
RESOLVE follows the Housing First philosophy, a proven approach in addressing the root causes of homelessness—vulnerable people are provided with a home, first, and whatever support services they need to remain housed. The stability of a home gives vulnerable people, like Janet, the hand up they need to begin rebuilding their lives.
This stability also benefits the community by reducing costs to healthcare, police, emergency services, the justice system and corrections: over $55,000 a year can be the cost to our public systems to help a high-needs Calgarian experiencing homelessness (over $100,000 a year can be the cost for the highest users of the public system). This cost can be reduced by at least $34,000 a year when a person has appropriate housing and supports.
RESOLVE is in its final three months of fundraising and will end on March 31, 2018. But the need remains urgent, especially at this time of year, when shelters are often at capacity and vulnerable people are on the streets in the winter.
You can change the lives of vulnerable Calgarians – your neighbours – and make a lasting impact in the community. Visit www.resolvecampaign.com to learn more.