Homelessness is never a choice. Poverty, an unforeseen life event, addiction or mental illness can steer people towards homelessness. When this happens it’s far less a choice and much more a powerful manifestation of circumstance that makes escaping it alone seem impossible.
Calgary has a robust network of agencies, dedicated professionals and volunteer groups that work every day to help lift people out of homelessness. Their efforts help guide those in need towards happier, healthier and more productive lives. When our energy is pooled together, and the public at large shares the collective vision for a city without homelessness, what once seemed impossible becomes a tangible reality.
For newcomers, homelessness is a very real risk when agencies best efforts are steered away from providing services to all and miss groups like refugee claimants, humanitarian claimants, or those simply trying to get on their feet to start a new life. Society can vilify and exclude them at times, with the resulting consequence being homelessness for society's vulnerable. Left unchecked, these most vulnerable can slip into a chronically homeless state. .
CFN's Homeless Diversion Project is dedicated to finding a new way to keep vulnerable newcomers away from homeless facilities. Using micro-loans to help newcomers get through difficult periods, coupled with a private sponsorship and case management models, newcomers are directed toward self-sustainability and away from shelter facilities.
The Homeless Diversion project was initially funded by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, then renewed given its success at ensuring clients were steered away from homelessness or needing to use homeless shelters. The original pilot project was only $25,000 devoted for rent and security deposits using a micro-loan program, a second amount was given resulting in another $16,000 in micro-loans. It funded 27 households and supported 61 clients at a cost of only $15 per person per day.
The Social Return on Investment compared to shelter facilities (to just house them), was a factor of 2.2 dollars saved for every dollar spent on the service. Compared to chronic homeless, the diversion project has a SROI of over 6.8 (this amount saved for every dollar spent on the program).
The idea was originally sparked by a small grant of $7,500 by the Foundation of Hope in 2018 to fund only a few micro-loans for LGBTQ+ refugee claimants in Canada. Not only did the claimants eventually become permanent citizens, their successes sparked the idea for a greater micro-loan program.
The program has been so successful that in response to the COVID-19 emergency, the Calgary Foundation funded the project, as an emergency income grant project, using $141,000 directed toward micro-grants. It served 149 clients and had even greater social return on investment. In this case, the project funded homes that fell between the cracks of receiving emergency relief programs and helped people who were at risk of being evicted from their homes or assisted those in shelter facilities find market housing.
Currently, the project is being considered for an additional extension. Unfortunately, the project is dependent on funding and can only offer grants and micro-loans when funds are available.
You can be a part of the project by giving at centrefornewcomers/give