Housing Help Wanted

Finding housing in Calgary’s postflood rental market is proving a difficult task for an organization that helps locate housing for those involved in the criminal justice system.

Bryan Sali, housing locator for the Calgary John Howard Society, is one of those who sifts through the city’s dwindling numbers of vacancies in an attempt to find suitable housing for his clients.

According to Sali, the floods have only served to magnify the issue of affordable rental housing in the city.

“Right now it’s very difficult,” he said Sali. “It was hard before to find affordable places that were healthy and safe, but now since the flood it’s been even more difficult.”

Prior to the flooding, Sali said he was close to renting at least two properties that eventually were rented to families of the property owners after the floods. In April, a report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation placed Calgary’s rental vacancy rate at 1.2 per cent. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has commented the city’s vacancy rate could come close to zero as a result of the number of people forced to find new accommodation due to flooding.

Assisting individuals who’ve had interactions with the criminal justice system and are experiencing chronic homelessness, locating suitable housing is just one aspect of the work done by the Calgary John Howard Society. The charitable organization also provides a host of “intensive” rehabilitative and reintegrative services to released prisoners, including basic job search skills and life skills.

As the first client to find housing with through Sali and the John Howard Society, Netty said she’s been able to get a fresh start.

“I think this program is great. People need this. People get out and criminals and offenders aren’t given a chance. Everyone deserves another chance if they are willing to work and look for a place. This program is there to help those people in those situations. I think it’s amazing.”

While Sali said he’s upfront with landlords, explaining the program and the situation that his clients are in, he does admit there’s a certain level of apprehension and “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) attitude that must be dealt with.

“I find most landlords are quite willing to help and wanting to help, they’re more concerned with their neighbours’ NIMBY-ism than their own. I think when you get down to it the neighbours are quite willing to help as well,” he said.

The Calgary John Howard Society Adult Housing Reintegration Program (AHRP) is an initiative funded by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, who recently teamed with Calgary’s Residential Rental Association (CRRA) to match private landlords with social service agencies trying to find housing for their homeless clients. The goal is to make 500 units available over the next year through the newly formed Community Partnership Housing Program.

According to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, those living on the streets with the highest needs can cost taxpayers $100,000 or more per year, two to three times the cost of providing housing and support.

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