The Calgary Homeless Foundation has appointed a new CEO who says collaboration is key to adapting to challenges brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic and eradicating homelessness.
Patricia Jones, who spent the last 27 years with
, stepped into the new role earlier this month taking the place of former president and CEO Diana Krecsy who served the organization for almost six years.
“I wanted to move to CHF (
) because I really do believe that any personal, familiar and societal transformations begin with and require a place to call home,” said Jones.
“It’s the foundation upon which healing can happen.”
She said the COVID-19 crisis has spotlighted the importance of housing for all as a life-changing and life-saving measure.
But the pandemic, in conjunction with an economic downturn, has also amplified issues connected to homelessness, such as mental health illnesses, addictions, stress and trauma.
There has been a 32 per cent reduction in homelessness since 2018, but there are still an estimated 3,000 Calgarians without a home.
Jones said the biggest challenge to ensuring they help the most vulnerable is organizational funding and a lack of affordable housing available in the city.
“There’s a deficit in Calgary,” she said. “The affordable housing need has remained constant at 18 per cent of Calgary’s households over five census cycles. And Calgary has 3.6 per cent of households supported by non-market or subsidized housing compared to six per cent nationwide.”
To reach the 2016 national average, Calgary would need to add approximately 15,000 new affordable housing units, she added.
The CHF is working with other agencies in the city to tackle this issue — one that Jones said is a focus of hers as she leans into her new position.
A plan created by the partnering organizations aims to deliver housing for upwards of 12,000 Calgarians by securing more than 5,400 homes by leveraging economic conditions favourable to real estate acquisition and construction.
This could mean retrofitting hotels or building new communities.
But it will rely heavily on collaboration between social agencies, multiple levels of government, volunteers and donors.
“To be one player in this system to support the most vulnerable is an honour and a privilege,” said Jones. “But it is not one person, not one organization, not one government, not one philanthropist. It has to be all of us together.”
She said an initiative like the Calgary
, used to house individuals facing homelessness who have tested positive for COVID-19, are symptomatic or have been in contact with a positive case, is a great example of the power of co-operation.
Community partners like The Alex, CHF, Alberta Health Services and CUPS Calgary played a role in creating and managing the isolation site.
Jones said more than 320 clients have stayed at the hotel, 57 of which were moved into housing with supports and 35 who reunited with their families or acquired independent housing.
The success of this innovative initiative, with partners across the sector, drives her passion for collaboration as she tackles challenges facing charities in this uncertain time.
“I’m inspired and a bit overwhelmed to be honest with the amazing work that’s been done, the collective action and the political will,” said Jones.
“There are no egos at the table. It’s about ensuring that we put a price on human dignity and the ability to have a place to (call home).”
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