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Calgary transit safety issues linked to shelter crunch: report


A new study by Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC) links the complex relationship between social disorder on public transit and the lack of adequate shelter and treatment options for Calgary's homeless population.

No Place to Go, co-authored by researchers from the University of Calgary and Dr. Nick Falvo, a leading homelessness expert, examines data on social disorder at train stations, deaths from substance use and interviews with shelter clients, transit workers, police and outreach staff.

The report finds a staggering 186 per cent increase in unintentional acute deaths due to substance use from 2016 to 2023, with public spaces, including transit, becoming primary locations for these incidents.

Fear of being undiscovered during a medical emergency was cited as a contributing factor leading to open use of drugs on or near transit stations.

The study also revealed concerns about shelter safety, with a five-fold increase in encampment sleeping reported from 2018 to 2023.

VCC executive director Meaghon Reid says that, coupled with rising overdose deaths, is linked to trauma experienced by police, transit officers and outreach workers.

"There's no easy answer," said Reid. "While long-term solutions require systemic changes, access to stable housing is crucial to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place."

The report highlights the ineffectiveness of solely increasing police presence.

Instead, it recommends investments in emergency shelters, including upgrades for existing facilities, increased accessibility and the creation of daytime options.

Report co-author Lee Stevens says the study also shows a need for increased funding for treatment, harm reduction and medical respite care.

"Behind the statistics are people," said Stevens. "The experiences of those on the frontlines and those experiencing homelessness are vital for finding solutions."

Falvo, the lead researcher, emphasizes the immediate need for daytime spaces for homeless individuals.

"Even as we work towards long-term housing solutions, more daytime options are essential for everyone's safety and well-being," he said.

The study identifies five Calgary stations – Chinook, City Hall/Bow Valley College, Marlborough, Sunalta and Victoria Park – as hotspots for social disorder. Top Stories

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