Community housing programs help keep low-income residents from homelessness

Topics: Alberta, Community Health
September 04, 2012

Community housing programs help keep low-income residents from homelessness

Homelessness can be the result of a number of factors, but lack of affordable housing has exacerbated the issue and driven many residents of Calgary to seek shelter in the streets.

Just what makes housing affordable? The City of Calgary reports that housing should absorb no more than 30 per cent of one's gross annual household income. However, for countless vulnerable and cash-strapped people in need of a place to live, this can seem like an impossibility.

According to a recent study by the City of Calgary, affordable housing can be difficult for many people to obtain regardless of their work status. In September 2011, the Alberta minimum wage rose to $9.40 per hour.

Despite this improvement, the Alberta Department of Housing and Urban Affairs reports that the average cost of a two bedroom apartment in Calgary during 2011 averaged around $1,040 per month, making it unrealistic for full-time minimum wage earners to comfortably maintain a residence while providing for other basic necessities, like food.

This can create major issues for wage-earners, forcing many into a corrosive cycle of debt that robs them of the disposable income they need for food, utilities, transportation and medical expenses. During this difficult period, organizations like the Canadian Red Cross serve a much-needed purpose, helping low-income individuals, families and youngsters avoid homelessness and gain access to services.

Offered by the Canadian Red Cross, the Community Housing Support Program offers one-time financial assistance to families or individuals who are in need of affordable housing or having difficulty maintaining the dwelling.

In addition to gaining assistance for utilities or security deposits, the program may advocate on behalf of those in need if eviction or the threat of utilities being shut off is imminent. In 2011, more than 7,800 residents of Calgary sought aid through the program and more than 1,100 received financial assistance for housing-related expenses and other needs.

For younger people facing the threat of homelessness, the Youth Housing Assistance and Advocacy Program can be an excellent resource to help them transition into an independent housing facility. Available to young adults between the ages of 15 to 17 who are not eligible for child welfare, the program provides assistance and guidance on housing, finances and other vital issues that can be imperative for youngsters about to embark on independent living.

The program helps prepare participants for the rigors of living on their own by giving them the tools they need to become responsible and highly-driven adults. From significant concerns like tenant rights, landlord obligations and managing bills to planning for the future through setting realistic goals, the Canadian Red Cross instills young people with a sense of optimism and confidence in their own abilities.

To get involved, people should apply at their local Red Cross office or visit the website to learn more details about these great programs.