Last Thursday, several Calgary agencies banded together to launch a Homeless Charter of Rights. It’s the first of its kind in Canada.
People experiencing homelessness in Calgary face many unique challenges and barriers. A Homeless Charter of Rights is an important step in addressing the discrimination that they experience in our city. The next step, according to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, is more work strengthening relationships between “health, law enforcement, service providers, as well as the community at large.” The goal is to encourage people to speak up when they see discrimination in action, and empower people dealing with homelessness to recognize when their rights are compromised.
At the Centre, we strive to treat every woman with dignity and respect. Our approach starts by recognizing that women are experts in their own lives, and they know best what they need. We also recognize that systemic barriers often prevent women from living the lives they want. These barriers are compounded for women experiencing homelessness, poverty, or chronic health issues.
In Canada, we know that 29% of households are living paycheque-to-paycheque, or are one crisis away from potentially losing their housing. At the Women’s Centre, we know that 60% of women visiting identify as dealing with poverty. Many of our regular visitors are sleeping on the streets, in cars, or at a local shelter. Others are experiencing hidden homelessness, which includes individuals who are staying with friends or family, sleeping on a couch or spare bed temporarily. Many women fall into this category, and are underrepresented in homeless counts.
Last year, we provided women with food, personal care items and/or bus tickets 8,945 times. Putting together an emergency food hamper for someone experiencing homeless is a unique challenge in itself – most non-perishables (pasta, rice, canned goods) require cooking on a stove or in an oven.
People experiencing homelessness have the right to be treated the same as any other person by government and public services. They have the right to be treated fairly in the legal system. They have the right to not lose or miss out on services because they do not have identification, not to be charged or threatened for using a public space, not to be searched or questioned without legal reason.
We’re hanging up the Charter here at the Centre. If you’d like to read the full Homeless Charter of Rights, click here.