Event helps homeless in Calgary get ID and shelter

By Morgan Haigler

Imagine for a moment that you are surviving without a home. You have no personal identification card and in turn, you can’t deposit money into a personal bank account. Help is coming.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation will host Project Homeless Connect for disadvantaged people Sept. 20.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Calgary Municipal Building atrium and will address the most important needs of homeless men, women and children. The foundation will offer free meals, haircuts, clothing, mental health care services, legal guidance, creative arts stations, addiction counselling services and housing opportunities.

“One of the biggest challenges people experiencing homelessness have is navigating the systems out there,” said Calgary Homeless Foundation president and CEO Tim Richter. “If you don’t have a home or you don’t have an address or you don’t have identification, then it’s really difficult to get help. What we’re trying to do is make it as easy as we can for people to access the help they need.”

According to the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness, 15,000 people will be homeless by 2016 because of changes to Calgary’s economic, social and public policies.

Mustard Seed communications specialist Courtney Fliss believes one of the biggest dilemmas of the homeless crisis is affordable housing and living expenses.

“Even over the past two years, you know, there have been over a thousand men and women who have been displaced because of urban renewal or condominium conversions,” said Fliss. “It’s expensive to live in the city, whether it’s renting an apartment or making a down payment on a home. It’s really important that we find affordable housing and build affordable housing for the homeless.”

Fliss advocated what the Mustard Seed– a non-profit, Christian humanitarian organization– does for those living in poverty. She said a combination of different training, counselling services and positive influences are necessary for a successful outcome.

“We believe all those things are very beneficial in helping someone resolve their life and get off the streets,” said Fliss. “We really believe that will be a huge asset in helping them just get back on their feet again and help them regain their independence.”

The Calgary Homeless Foun-dation poured about $60,000 into the all-day event, bringing together 50 service agencies and 150 volunteers to care for hundreds of homeless individuals in Calgary. Organizations such as the Salvation Army, Canadian Mental Health Association, Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary and the Central United Church will be there to lend their support.

Richter said the Calgary Home-less Foundation plans to organize three more Project Homeless Connect events this year and another four in the year to come. Last year, the event took place at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre where 650 homeless people were helped throughout the day.

“I’m hoping that Calgarians who participate and help out in Project Homeless Connect will begin to see another face of homelessness,” said Richter. “It’s easy for us to get trapped in the stereotypes and what I’m hoping is that people who are experiencing homelessness get to be seen as people and that when they come here, they’re treated with respect and dignity.”

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