From a forum on homelessness in Calgary to review and discuss homelessness in the city, an Ad-Hoc Steering Committee was developed to focus on homelessness. An Aboriginal subcommittee evolved into “Open Doors for Aboriginal People” and was given the responsibility for investigating and evaluating the experiences of Aboriginal homeless peoples.
The Street Speaks Survey (1996) which was conducted by previously homeless individuals with currently homeless populations documented the experiences, barriers and concerns of Aboriginal people, as well as outlined recommendations for solutions.
Through the work of Open Doors for Aboriginal People several recurring themes were identified that impacted homelessness for Aboriginal peoples in Calgary.
- Marginalization due to the historical impact of colonization and assimilation policies
- Acts of racism and discrimination
- Loss of cultural identity and language
- Poverty and the impacts of economic instability
- Dependency related to colonial paternalism.
- Compromised health
- Affects of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual wellness
- Lack of affordable and sustainable housing
- Addiction and mental health
- Social isolation and urbanization
- Lack of adequate support and resources due to migration from reserves
Through the issues identified, the subcommittee sought solutions through the development of the following strategies:
- Increasing addiction treatment beds
- Specialized shelter facilities
- Outreach and Housing Ad
In November 1999, interested Aboriginal community members and service providers held a meeting to begin forming a community based response to Calgary’s Aboriginal homelessness, under the auspices of the Calgary Homeless Foundation. The Opening Doors for Aboriginal People at this time evolved into The Aboriginal Standing Committee on Housing and Homelessness (ASCHH) and became formally recognized by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and Human Resources Development of Canada as the community entity that is best positioned and prepared to address the issues of Aboriginal homelessness in Calgary. ASCHH has been the Community Advisory Board (CAB) providing recommendations for Aboriginal funding under federal funding streams.
The Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative (CUAI), which also began in 1999 through the wisdom of Elders who formed “Removing Barriers – A Listening Circle” that guided the work of CUAI regarding issues related to urban Aboriginal people. A parallel of work was being completed by CUAI’s housing domain and the Aboriginal Standing Committee on Housing and Homelessness, therefore the housing domain was merged under ASCHH to avoid duplications and increase collaboration.
Implementation of the Aboriginal Community Liaison assisted Co-Chairs with the duties of the committee to enhance leveraging and stakeholder engagement. The Aboriginal Community Liaison is a paid position and continues to be funded through the support of the Calgary Homeless Foundation with federal and provincial funding.
The first ASCHH Strategic Plan was developed to contribute to strengthening the committee with the guidance and direction of concrete goals. Terms of reference, governance, and member expectations were established.
The Strategic Plan was updated in 2011 at Nakoda Lodge on Stoney First Nation to review what the committee has achieved and review direction for the committee over a three year span. One of the main strategic goals was to develop an Aboriginal plan to end homelessness.
The committee spent 18 months researching and developing The Plan to End Aboriginal Homelessness, in which contractor Suzanne Macleod was hired to write the plan. On December 4, 2012, ASCHH launched the Plan formerly at the McDougal Centre. Since this time, the Plan has contributed to the strength of work completed by the committee.
In 2013, ASCHH a subcommittee was established to begin addressing 5 recommendations of the Plan as a starting point. The subcommittee began to research potential options to expand awareness on Aboriginal Homelessness and Housing issues. Out of the strategies two main focuses emerged out of the recommendations 1) Aboriginal Street Survivor – Experiential Day of Homelessness, and 2) Managed Alcohol Program – research and literature review to be conducted.
The ASCHH revised the Terms of Reference and reviewed governance and updated the 2011 Strategic Plan.
The Homelessness Partnering Strategy revised processes for federal funding which required further collaboration between the Community Advisory Board (CAB) and Community Entity (CHF) to establish priorities for the 2014-2019 funding cycle through the development of A Community Plan.
ASCHH conducted community forums to establish feedback from not only the committee, but the urban Indigenous community. The Community Plan was completed in 2014 and approved in July of the same year. Updates are conducted annually.
With changes to the leadership of the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), Diana Krecsy provided support to ASCHH in recognizing the work of the Plan to End Aboriginal Homelessness as the City’s Aboriginal Plan. The CHF implemented this direction formerly into their 2015 update on the City’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.
A partnership with the University of Victoria (Bernie Pauly) to commence a two year research project on Aboriginal Map Programs was established along with other national partners. Additionally a partnership with University of Lethbridge (Yale Belanger) was developed to identify Aboriginal Nimbyism in Calgary.
Managed Alcohol Program – Literature Review was completed and finalized for publication. This work will contribute to the development of an Indigenous Managed Alcohol Program in Calgary.