It’s been a busy summer for shelters across Canada.
The Calgary Homeless Services Corporation says it’s already been inundated with calls from homeless families looking to make ends meet.
But the shelter has seen a surge in applications.
The agency’s new president, Laura Stahl, says the flood of new applications has come from people trying to stay afloat and finding themselves in dire financial straits.
“It’s a new way of life for people, and that’s a big challenge for us,” she said.
Stahl said that’s been especially true for people from the Lower Mainland and from the GTA, as well as those from the west end.
The vast majority of the agency’s funding comes from the province, which provides about 60 per cent of its annual operating budget.
But Stahl also said it was important to note that most of the money from the new federal grant is being used to assist people in the Greater Toronto Area, the West End, and parts of the North Shore.
The city of Calgary received a similar federal grant in the summer of 2016.
Stahls administration has taken steps to reduce homelessness.
She said that, in the past year, they’ve increased shelters in the downtown core and built a new shelter at the University of Calgary.
The first shelter was opened in January and has since been operational for more than a month.
The shelter was also expanded to offer housing for those who are homeless and those with chronic health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.
Staghls administration said they’ve also increased the number of transitional housing units available for low-income families.
It also launched a 24-hour emergency shelter for the homeless in June.
But there are still some questions that remain about how the funding will be spent.
In a letter to staff, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that in a city with an unemployment rate of 12 per cent, the city would need about $1.8 million to support an additional 40 shelter beds.
He said that figure was the lowest for any city in Canada, and the city was still waiting on a decision from the federal government on whether to extend the shelter program beyond the end of the year.
But he said that the city had made strides in the area of transitional shelter, which was the largest of any city with a homeless population.
Nenshays administration also announced that the City of Calgary has been awarded $1 million for a new homeless shelter in downtown Calgary.
It is expected to open in the spring.
“We’ve been working on our transitional shelter system for many years now, but there are some challenges,” said Stahl.
“Some people who have been living in our city for years and years are living with mental illness or substance abuse issues, or they have some mental health issues that are chronic, which means they’re at high risk of homelessness.”
She said the City has been looking into ways to improve the shelter, including creating more supportive housing.
In September, the City and the province announced a plan to build 10 new transitional housing options for people with mental health problems, homelessness and other conditions.
The funding was also earmarked for a separate transitional housing program for seniors, who are often more vulnerable to homelessness.
But Nenshin said that program would only be implemented after the new transitional shelter is operational.
Nenhi said the city has also been working to provide financial support for shelters in need, including a $1,200 annual funding increase for the Calgary Homeless Community Support Centre.
That program provides support and services for people experiencing homelessness in the city, including mental health, substance abuse, housing and support for other support needs.
“The City has a proven track record of providing housing to people in need,” he said.
But some councillors and advocates have expressed concern about whether the money will actually be used to provide affordable housing for the shelter.
They say that the funding is being spent on programs that have already been set up for people who need help.
“This is not a way to create a permanent shelter for homeless people.
This is a way for people to continue living in poverty and still live in the shelter,” said Coun.
Cash also said that there is a need to build more transitional housing for people like him, as opposed to building permanent shelter.
Cash, who has lived in the West Side for two decades, said that he’s concerned that there are no permanent supportive housing options available in the west side.
“There’s just not enough housing options,” he told CBC News.
“And the people who are most vulnerable in this situation are the people with chronic illness, like cancer or diabetes.
They’re at a higher risk of being homeless.”
He said he doesn’t want to see people living in shelters.
“I want to help people in their moment of need.
I don’t want people living here to go without the support of people,” he added.
Cash said that for him, he wants to see a permanent place for people living on the streets to live in,