Share the Street Public Education Program

The Cause

The Calgary Drop-In Centre (the DI) is more than an emergency shelter. For more than 60 years we have welcomed adults who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. We collaborate to provide access to a spectrum of care that supports each person’s transition to the most independent living possible. Our services include our emergency shelter, transitional, supported, and affordable housing, essential and health services, and other housing supports.

Our goal is for people to exit homelessness and find permanent housing that meets their individual needs. We aim to end and prevent chronic homelessness and alleviate the effects of poverty.

Share the Street, our proposed education program, aims to bridge the gap between the homeless population and housed people in the community so that housed, and unhoused people can live side by side as good neighbors. The program will help to dispel counterproductive myths, and misperceptions and pervasive stereotypes about homelessness, addiction, and mental illness.

This comprehensive public education initiative is for all Calgarians, and especially for people living and working in the city center. Program participants will increase their knowledge and awareness of the homeless population, increase their confidence to engage with these neighbors, enhance their knowledge about available programs and services so that they feel comfortable contacting the appropriate helping agency when needed, and learn to de-stigmatize homelessness. A more knowledgeable, less-biased community, that feels safe and equipped with the knowledge and tools to engage with the homeless population, and to engage in conversation about these issues, will inevitably lead to more significant support for the city’s most vulnerable people. An inspired and engaged community will become part of a mutual goal to end homelessness.

Our program will provide bi-weekly workshops that are both educational and a safe space to share experiences. Topics will include homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental health, the opiate crisis, and the homeless-serving sector. Workshops will be run by a Program Facilitator.

The requested funds will be used to hire and train a 0.3 FTE Program Facilitator to prepare program content, facilitate the program, and run the bi-weekly workshops. The funds will also be used to purchase a laptop, IT licensing, and a cell phone for this new staff member. The remaining funds will be used to market the program to the public.

Who Will it Benefit?

Both the general Calgary community and those experiencing homelessness in Calgary will benefit from this program.

The Share the Street program will provide participants with information about Calgary’s homeless population, increase their confidence to engage with these neighbors, and enhance their knowledge about available programs and services so that they feel comfortable contacting the appropriate helping agency when needed. Additionally, it will provide an opportunity for people to ask questions about homelessness and street culture to professionals in the homeless-serving sector.

By empowering people, we will strengthen our communities. A strong community means it is compassionate, diverse, and adequately equipped to meet its needs. The Share the Street program will empower Calgarians in three ways, 1) help communicate the homeless-serving sector’s research and key messaging about homelessness, 2) create more public awareness and provide information about the scope and causes of homelessness in Calgary and information about the sector and the shared desired outcomes required to achieve functional zero homelessness, and 3) address stigma and empower Calgarians to think differently about addictions, mental health, and homelessness.

Share the Street is an interactive program that provides a safe space for people to discuss concerns, fears, and anxieties. In doing so, it is an educational strategy to decrease stigma and discrimination among the population that we serve.

This public education program will run a workshop every 2 weeks and is expected to reach 300-400 community members within the 11-month period of this grant. It is our hope that these community members will spread their newfound education and attitude to others, which would have an additional significant indirect impact.

Approximately 1,935 people experience homelessness in Calgary on any given night. For these adults, youth and families, homelessness is not a choice, and each person experiences it differently.

Annually, approximately 4,400 unique individuals experiencing homelessness access our various services and there are even more individuals experiencing homelessness who access the services of other agencies across the city. Each of these individuals has the potential to be helped by this program by way of improved interactions with community members who have been educated by this program.