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An estimated 3,500 Calgarians are homeless.
Katy Anderson/the Gauntlet

Calgarians tackle less glamorous issues

11th annual Homeless Awareness Week discusses city's homless

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There are nearly 3,500 Calgarians living without a home.

To raise awareness of this issue, the City of Calgary announced it's 11th annual Homeless Awareness Week Fri., Sept. 15

"It potentially will sensitize more people to the needs and necessary strategy to further house people," said alderman Joe Ceci. "It's an education vehicle for people that are not in the know to realize there is a problem."

Homeless Awareness Week was founded in 1994 by a group of Calgary agencies concerned about homelessness. Since then, the Homeless Awareness Calgary Committee has grown into a year-round organization, working with non-profit and government agencies with the goal of encouraging community action on homelessness.

"I have no illusions, this will not put up housing but it needs to be on the radar, or it will be forgotten," said HACC chair Carrie Neilson. "I'm seeing families in unprecedented numbers. You've got moms, babies, grannies. Nobody is immune to this."

Events included an art display in the City Hall atrium, and education presentations by both the Liberal and NDP parties held in partnership with HACC. HACC is also organizing a chance for Calgarians to experience what homelessness is like on Fri., Sept. 22, by arranging night tours of downtown Calgary with someone who has experienced it first hand.

"Homelessness is a critical issue; some of the parts are policy issues," said Neilson. "Policy cannot be changed until there is a critical mass behind us. Ask questions of people who are making decisions."

Neilson stressed that although homelessness is a problem of both the municipal and provincial governments, they can only act on what citizens tell them is needed.

"Currently, our increase in homelessness over the last two years has been 30 per cent," said United Way director of poverty reduction initiatives Chris MacFarlane. "There are 58,000 people in this city looking for affordable housing. At a community level this is a social issue."

With the price of Calgary's real estate at all time highs there has been an increase in the number of working poor in the city. Homlessness is not just an issue that affects the unemployed, explained MacFarlane.

"As prosperous as we are, is it okay that we have this many people homeless?" she asked. "We can take this on, and we can lead the country if that's what we decide we want to do."

For more info on the homelessness night tour visit the website at www.homlessawareness.ca

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