The RESOLVE Campaign has made a measurable impact on homelessness in Calgary since its inception, as it inches closer to its goal of creating affordable rental housing with supports for 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians. Courtesy RESOLVE Campaign

RESOLVE affordable housing initiative approaches successful conclusion

What do I want, you ask so innocently. I want a HOME, as many of you have.

These lines come from a poem written by 67-year-old Anne Cartledge. “I use all capital letters when I write the word ‘home,’ because that’s how important it is,” she said.

Plagued with severe arthritis and fibromyalgia that left her unable to work, Cartledge first survived on AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) and, now, on her Old Age Security pension.

Though Cartledge describes herself as a “frugal shopper” and “good at the scrounge routine,” she also admits, “I am part of the circle that if I didn’t have subsidized housing, I’d be living on the street.”

Cartledge pays $562 a month for her one-bedroom apartment located in a building owned by Horizon Housing Society, a not-for-profit organization that provides affordable, supported housing to Calgarians.

If Cartledge were to pay market rent, she estimates her unit would cost around $1000, a figure she simply couldn’t afford.

Creating more affordable rental housing for people like Cartledge has been the aim of Calgary’s RESOLVE Campaign for the past decade. RESOLVE was the first initiative of its kind in Canada, involving nine social service agencies partnering and fundraising together with one goal in mind: “To create affordable rental housing, with supports, for up to 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians.”

“Giving someone an affordable home with wraparound support services, that’s the long-term solution to ending homelessness. That’s where people can begin to heal.” – Cheryl Hamelin, RESOLVE Campaign executive director

The campaign, which officially wraps up on March 31, is now in its final push to secure additional funds.

“We have raised $70 million so far. That translates to us being able to provide affordable rental housing for 1,750 people,” said RESOLVE Campaign executive director Cheryl Hamelin, admitting that number does fall short of the original 3,000-person target.

RESOLVE set out to build 21 buildings as part of the campaign, and is poised to come close to that goal.

“At present, we have money to build all the buildings we said we were going to, except for four,” said Hamelin.

Currently, the RESOLVE Campaign has resulted in five new buildings that are now open, one building purchase, four buildings under construction and seven projects at the “shovel-ready stage,” with the funding in place to break ground.

“We feel confident all the buildings will be built, but agencies will take on additional debt to pay them down,” said Hamelin. “We’ll be able to house those 3,000 people over the next few years.”

Alan Norris, president and CEO of Brookfield Residential and RESOLVE Campaign chair, says he considers the campaign a success because of the awareness RESOLVE has raised about homelessness in the city and the affordable housing stock it has added to the market.

“I do deem it a success,” he said. “I’m convinced we’ll get all the buildings built.”

As part of the RESOLVE Campaign, 11 homebuilders put up more than $15 million to erect 11 of the buildings – each with roughly 24-30 units.

“We found it was easier to build new construction than renovate existing buildings,” said Norris. “We came up with some great, innovative designs.”

Hamelin says the Campaign’s success can also be witnessed through the number of inquiries she and the RESOLVE team have fielded from other organizations across North America and Europe.

“People are looking to replicate the collaboration and how it was done. I believe this is the way of the future. There are so many shared benefits of agencies working together,” said Hamelin.

“Giving someone an affordable home with wraparound support services, that’s the long-term solution to ending homelessness. That’s where people can begin to heal.”

This housing-first model also makes good economic sense, Hamelin says, adding research has found it costs the community $34,000 less per homeless person per year to provide housing with supports.

“The key thing is a home, and it’s not just a place to store your stuff – it’s a place to store your life. I have many hobbies I do, from painting to digital art to writing poetry. If I didn’t have this home, I couldn’t do them. I’d just be sitting in a corner, and I’d slowly die in every respect,” said Cartledge.

“We all need a home.”