Tag Archives: collective impact

I heart home: ending homelessness


In her opening remarks, the Honourable Teresa Woo-Paw, MLA for Calgary-Northern Hills and Associate Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, identified three words that are deadly to social change.

Can’t. Never. Impossible.

Ending homelessness deserves better than our negativity.

It deserves our best.

Those three words need to be changed, to reframed, be transformed to ensure we never lose sight of our goal of ending homelessness. It’s important for everyone.

Yesterday, 450 people came together to hear and talk and explore our best.

Yesterday, when Calgary’s Updated Plan to End Homelessness was launched, 450 people stood up and said, count me in.

We can do this.

We will always hold the vision, together.

When we work together, everything is possible.

At the launch, we shared the ‘what’ that community identified to make it happen through a year and a half of consultations and over 800 comments from community on what they saw, believed, knew needed to be done.

Diana Krecsy, President and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, the backbone agency charged with ensuring the Plan continues to move forward and realize its vision, stated in her review of how we got here to this moment today, “In 2008 we believed in the vision. In 2011 we understood a lot more about homelessness in Calgary than we had when we began. Today, we know. We know what’s working and what’s not. And we know we have to do this together, as a community.”

In 2008 (when the plan was launched) there wasn’t a lot of coordination between agencies, or a lot of information sharing. In fact, there was no shared database of who’s who in the system of care, who was receiving service from what agency and where the duplications existed. Today, there is a common information system (Homeless Management Information System). There is coordination and collaboration throughout the system of care.

In 2011, there was a deep understanding of the complexities of homelessness and the need for supports when housing someone directly from the streets. And, there was a deeper understanding of what it was going to take to get the job done.

In 2015, everyone knows it can be done — as long as we work together. As long as we share the vision. As long as we each do our part to make it happen. Not just those working in the sector, but every Calgarian along with government on all levels, faith groups, community associations, individual Calgarians. Everyone.

Yesterday, we presented the Updated Plan and what still needs to be done to end homelessness.

Now, it’s time to get down to the ‘how’.

How am I going to contribute?

How am I going to make a difference?

How am I going to add my voice to the vision of ending homelessness?

There are hundreds of ways each of us can contribute. Whether we live in Calgary or another city somewhere in Canada or anywhere in the world, we can, and we must, do whatever it takes to ensure we remove the less out of homeless so that everyone can find their way home.

As part of the launch, we introduced the idea of “I Heart Home”. In the case of Calgary, “I heart home YYC”. But it could be any centre, any town, anywhere.

No one can argue with home. The value of having one. The need of knowing you’ve got one to come home to. The desire to ensure your children have one. The desire to help your neighbours have one too.

In launching the Updated Plan, we embedded our collective need to understand what home means to each of us at the centre of our work.

So, here’s your invitation. Watch the video, I Heart Home YYC, and, take a video/photo of you, calling out, I heart home because…. and add your voice. And then, share on your social media platforms. Twitter. Instagram. Youtube. Blog..

You’ve be making a difference and you’ll be joining the movement.  Thank you!


The Bird of Time is on the wing

It’s official.

I’m tired.  🙂

Yesterday, AG, my communications team-mate mentioned that he wasn’t sure if it was all the prep work on the Summit next Tuesday, but he sure wasn’t sleeping very well.

I laughed.

Neither am I, I replied.

My mind, full of details not to be forgotten, ideas germinating and sparking new thoughts on how best to present the Updated Plan to End Homelessness to ignite collective impact, doesn’t want to turn off.

Which means, like AG, short bursts of sleep interrupted by wakefulness streaming with ideas.

This morning, as I lay in bed considering the thought of getting up, my critter snuck in and whispered, “You’re too tired to get up. Sleep awhile more. Day has not yet broken.”

But it had. Light slipped through the open spaces between the slats of the blinds, I could see the outline of shapes in our bedroom. There was light out there and it was calling me to rise and shine.

It was time to get up. In fact, it was past my normal time of getting up.

And the critter hissed, “You’re too tired. Don’t do it.”


“Ouch!” he exclaimed at the suddenness of my gesture to stomp him out. “You hit me!”

“And I’ll hit you again,” I told him, my voice steeled with determination. “I am getting up. I am not going to let the thought of how tired I am keep me from leaping into my day and setting the world on fire!”

So there.

Take that you pesky critter!

And he lay silently in a sobbing mass, soaking in a pool of self-pity.

Yup. Definitely tired.

But not down.

There is still much to be done and I am later than normal in getting to it!

Gotta run!

The day has begun and there’s adventure afoot.

Sure, I am tired but AG and I have agreed next Wednesday is a day for total, complete rest. Neither he nor I will cross the threshold of the office.

Until then, mission not so impossible is waiting to be turned into the possibility of every Calgarian standing up and stating, unequivocally, “Count me in. I want to do my part to end homelessness in Calgary. I will….”

And then they will state the thing or things they are willing to do to be part of getting it done.

From supporting the idea of affordable housing in their community, to writing letters to the government to ensure funding for essential social programs is not cut to volunteering or donating, every Calgarian has a role to play.

Our job is to ignite their passion to create a Calgary that is great for everyone.

And just thinking about it revs me up and excites me to get to into my day!

Gotta go.

There’s lots to do and to quote my father whose copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, I treasure, “The bird of time is on the wing and the bird has but a little way to flutter.”


Moving past our buts to possibilities — ending homelessness

We are five days away from the Great Big Summit and there is still lots to do.

And it’s getting done.

Yesterday, after one final read through the Plan by a team-member, we pressed send and shipped it off to the designer to tighten up the layout.

I went through my list.

Agenda. Done. Except for tightening up the wording on the last item.

Speakers. Confirmed.

Speaker notes. Sent.

Key Messages. Drafted.

Q&A. Drafted.

Keynote Speaker. Organized.

At a Glance. In review, ready for print tomorrow.

Posters. Order today.

Attendee packages. Final copy ready for printing.

Website. Design approved. Ready for final copy today and tomorrow.

Video. Final shoots today. Edit over weekend.

And the list goes on.

In one month, we have managed to pull together the pieces of what we hope to be an inspiring event on Tuesday. An event that will galvanize community around the vision of ending homelessness, and spark collective impact in getting the job done.

Together we are stronger.

Last night, just before leaving the office, I stepped into the CEOs office to check on the change I’d made on the agenda. “I don’t think I’ve quite got the wording right,” I told her.

She looked at what I’d written and replied, “Hmmm. Let me think on it tonight. Maybe something will come to me.”

“Thanks. I just can’t quite hit on how to phrase this one,” I replied.

And she laughed and said, “Good thing is, you don’t have to do it alone.”

I let my need to find the perfect turn of phrase go.

I’m part of a team.

That’s the beauty of collaboration. Cooperation. Community.

Ending homelessness is a shared vision. It improves the lives of everyone. Not just those living beneath its burdens, but all of us in community.

The other day I received an email from a property manager asking how to deal with ‘vagrants’ hanging around a strip mall they’ve just taken over managing.

In my email response, I did not use the word vagrant and chose instead to educate with words that described homelessness as a societal condition affecting human beings. I also gave her the telephone number of the police district office and suggested she speak with the Community Resource Officer.

I could do that because I know I am not alone.

Ending homelessness is a collective responsibility.

It takes all of us.

Here in Calgary, our police service has taken a proactive approach to working with communities to help mitigate the impact of those who struggle with homelessness in their community and those living with the experience of homelessness in their communities. They don’t take an us versus them perspective. They work inclusively with agencies, communities, businesses, faith groups and individuals to find mutually supportive solutions.

Sure, as I write that someone is bound to say, “Yes but…”

And then rhyme off an incident they witnessed where maybe, compassion and inclusivity were not the key operational terms of reference.


But the fact is, just as I am not alone, and the CHF is not alone in ending homelessness, and the person experiencing it is not alone in ending homelessness, neither is the police service. They too rely on each of us, on businesses, individual citizens, communities, everyone to do their part.

And part of what we  all need to do is recognize our role as a collective. There is power in our shared vision of ensuring homelessness does not continue to destroy lives and undermine community. As long as we get our ‘buts’ out of its possibilities, we can do it.

There are many possibilities in ending homelessness.

The question isn’t ‘Can we?’ The questions is “What can I do?”

The possibilities are limitless when we share in the power of our collective impact and move beyond the reasons why we can’t.

We’re launching the update to the Plan to End Homelessness on Tuesday.

It’s not CHF’s Plan. It’s not my Plan or her Plan or his. It’s ours.

You can play a role. Come to the Great Big Summit on Tuesday and find out what you can do to make a difference.

Everyone is invited. There’s no cost to attend. But there is one if you don’t. And that is the one that costs the most. Your voice will not be part of the agenda. Your difference will not be felt. And we will not have the same collective impact without you.