New support centre in Calgary gives homeless people access to multiple services under one roof

Jason Nixon, Alberta's minister of seniors, community and social services, has announced a new navigation and support centre for homeless Calgarians. (Peter Evans/CBC - image credit)

Shelter information, ID card printing as well as mental health and addition support are among some of the services that will be available for homeless Calgarians when a new support centre opens in the city's downtown core later this year.

The navigation and support centre, the second of its kind in the province, is intended to ease the pressures front-line and emergency workers face, the province said when announcing it on Wednesday.

It's a joint project between the Alberta government, the City of Calgary and several community organizations, including Alpha House, the Calgary Drop-In Centre and others.

This comes after the success of a similar centre that opened in Edmonton earlier this year to address ongoing issues with encampments in that city.

"When this process started in early January, there were 700-plus encampments in the city of Edmonton, people were losing their lives," Jason Nixon, Alberta's minister of seniors, community and social services said.

"There has been a significant difference in the city, it's much more safe … we've been able to get the individuals from those encampments to compassionate, real services."

According to the province, Edmonton's centre has seen more than 1,850 people walk through its doors. Over 5,000 referrals and direct connections to services have been made and there have been approximately 1,000 referrals to housing programs and connections to shelter services.

"By fostering collaboration across government departments ... and community departments, we can achieve not only better social outcomes but also greater financial returns," said Patricia Jones, president and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

"We look forward to the centre's positive impact on the lives of our most vulnerable citizens."

With the success of the centre in Edmonton, Nixon said he's optimistic that it will achieve the same outcome in Calgary, adding that this model could be adopted in provinces across Canada.

"We also have an opportunity to be able to teach as an example to the rest of the country," Nixon said.