A SHEPHERD SPEAKS

Bishop Fred Henry

October 18, 2010

In 1967, Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, challenging us to help our neediest sisters and brothers to achieve full human development.

We have indeed made huge strides forward as we understand ever more clearly that poverty in the form of cruel need – the need for decent living, clean water, land for food, basic health care, appropriate education, participation in decisions which have the most impact on personal and community life – is a dominant fact in the life of so many people today. Not only has our understanding improved but so has our response to the need.

Roger and Leta have four children. After losing their home and being homeless for more than four months, Inn from the Cold helped them find permanent housing:

"When you lose your home and you're with your family, it's difficult. You can't just go knocking on family members' doors to take you in."

Thirteen per cent of Calgary rental households are families considered at high risk of homelessness due to low income and high rental costs.

In 2010-11, the Calgary Homeless Foundation is investing $5.5 million into family Housing First and homelessness prevention programs.

FINALLY A HOME

Bertha was homeless for about eight years. She found support through the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary and was helped into housing with support services through the CUPS Rapid Exist program.

"It just feels great to have a home to go to . . . where I can go to bed, sleep in and have a bath."

Aboriginal people made up 15 per cent of Calgary's 2008 homeless count. This is a disproportionately high number, as aboriginals represented two per cent of the general population in the 2006 census.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation is working with the aboriginal community to build aboriginal specific actions into an updated version of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Matthew and Rebecca became homeless at about age 16. They received support through the Boys and Girls Club, who helped them find jobs and maintain their own housing.

"Now I actually have a chance to go someplace with my life," they said.

Twenty per cent of Calgary's homeless are children and youth under age 24. Youth often find themselves stuck between being too old for the child welfare system, while still being too young to meet requirements for adult programs and support.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation is working with agencies to develop a 10 Year Plan to End Youth Homelessness.

Patricia was homeless for 27 years, after running away from a bad family situation as a youth. She received housing in September 2009 through the Alex Community Health Centre.

"Now I'm 'hopeful.' I'm very grateful and thankful. . . . It's a beautiful feeling."

People who are episodically homeless go in and out of homelessness, while people who are chronically homeless are homeless for a long time. Both groups tend to be heavy consumers of public services and systems.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation is prioritizing investments to address chronic and episodically homelessness and developing affordable housing for those with the great barriers to housing.

REPORT CARD

In addition to anecdotal stories of success, we can also quantify the progress that is being made. Two years into Calgary's 10-year plan it is important to note that:

1,500 plus people received housing and support.

275 families were re-housed, including families fleeing domestic violence.

Two family homelessness prevention programs were introduced.

More affordable housing was created in the first two years of the plan compared to the previous decade (2,165 units funded last year).

Housing First programs are having an impact, with 85 to 90 per cent of clients remaining housed.

Intake and re-housing processes with agencies are being coordinated.

The number of people using Alberta Housing and Urban Affairs funded emergency shelters in Calgary is declining, when comparing each month to the same month in the previous year.

STEP FORWARD

You can help. Learn more, connect, speak up, volunteer, donate - www.calgaryhomeless.com.

I look forward to a further clarification and deepening of the links between faith and social involvement on the part of both individuals and parishes.

There is a close relationship between holiness and work for justice. The Holy Spirit is leading us to understand that holiness today cannot be attained without a commitment to justice, without a human solidarity with the poor and the oppressed. The model of holiness for laity must integrate the social dimension of transforming the world according to the plan of God.