We held the Point in Time Count of homelessness in our city last night. 90 volunteers and Calgary Homeless Foundation staff met at 8pm to team up and hit the streets and parks and alleyways to take a count of people experiencing homelessness. At the same time, over 80 agency facilities and institutions provided their data of people they were sheltering with ‘no fixed address’ so that we could get an accurate view of homelessness. For the first time, six other cities in the province joined Calgary on this first ever pan-Alberta count of homelessness.
We don’t have a tally of the numbers yet, but we are concerned. Alberta’s vibrant economy, Calgary’s recognized leadership in the sector and its pro-active and compassionate response to homelessness mean people come to our city everyday looking for work, housing and support. There’s work. There’s support. There’s just not a lot of affordable housing.
Before I met up with the team at the City Hall Atrium where the volunteers were mustering, I gave a talk about the United Way of Calgary and Area and the benefits and imperative of giving back. The event was hosted by Rock Energy, a junior oil and gas exploration company here in Calgary. This is the second year, Rock President, Allen Bey and his team have held the event and given the 100+ people present and the $54,000 and still rising donated when I left, it was a huge success.
Rock’s idea for creating an opportunity for their team and business suppliers and partners to join together and build community is brilliant.
Hold it in one of the swankiest clubs in town. Have great food. Ample libations with taxi chits for everyone to get home safely. Set up gambling tables around the room and provide everyone $100,000 in play money to gamble with. The price of entry? A donation to the United Way. And, before the fun begins, have a guest speaker from the United Way to bring home the message, we are all in this together.
That’s where I came in. I was the guest speaker.
As I began my talk I told the crowd about where I was going after I left the event. To the Point in Time Count of homelessness. From the Petroleum Club to the streets. It’s not a long walk, but it can be devastating.
And that’s why everyone was gathered together. To make the walk off the streets easier. To ensure that those who were taking it didn’t get lost in homelessness and despair. And, to ensure the United Way has the resources it needs to be catalysts of social change that will truly create a great city for everyone.
It was also a great evening to connect. To enjoy eachother’s company. To have fun. And, to give back. And in the giving back, connect to a greater sense of purpose in our community and be part of building a city that supports people in times of need and identifies what needs to change to ensure no one falls through the cracks on the road of life.
In Allen Bey’s opening remarks he stated that giving back to community is an essential part of living a life of purpose. And we all want to do that.
For the volunteers who came out to support the Point in Time count, giving back is in their DNA. There were police and bylaw officers who donated their time. There were mothers and fathers with their daughters and sons, social sector workers, agency partners all of whom gave up their night to come out and lend a hand so that we could understand the shifts and dynamics of homelessness in our city.
Giving back is easy. All it takes is a commitment to do something, anything that makes a difference, and then, go do it. But here’s the secret, to really get the benefits of giving back, you have to keep stretching your compassion muscles. You have to keep the giving back drive active.
The act can be as small as sharing a smile with a stranger on the street, holding the door open for someone behind you, paying for the next person’s coffee in the drive through at Tim Horton’s to donating time and money to a cause that inspires you. You can sit on the board of a charity whose mission aligns with your purpose or simply sign up to volunteer to serve a meal at an emergency shelter.
Again, the secret is to keep doing it.
Yes, one off donations of time, talents and treasures are important. But to truly feel the deep and lasting benefits of giving, it’s best to keep the heart open and the mind inspired by acts of daily grace.