Yes that does sound contradictory. Unfortunately it is also true. The high global cost of Oil and Gas has provided a tremendous boost to industry in Alberta, the newspapers are full of employment opportunities. There is a job for anyone that is willing to work.

This has resulted in a migration of workers from the less economically robust parts of Canada, and the US.

One unfortunate result of this prosperity is that housing prices have skyrocketed over the past year. There has much reported in the press about how the housing market is slowing in much of Canada and the US, that is absolutely not the case here in Alberta.

We have created a situation where there just are not enough to go around. Rental prices have increased so much that workers at the lower end of the pay scale just cannot afford them.

With winter arriving early in this part of the world, and overnight temperatures dipping down below -20C (-3F), where do these people go to?

The answer is the homeless shelters. All of the facilities here in Calgary are bursting at the seams and we are only just beginning winter. Things can only get worse.

The Calgary Drop-In Centre prides its self on providing assistance to anyone that needs it, the problem is, when the floors and corridors are full, where to you put that extra person? When it is -20C, to turn that person away may well result in him or her suffering from frostbite, or an even more terminal condition.

This influx of workers and the lack of affordable housing is going to make this winter even more challenging than last winter. The Calgary Drop-in Centre is opening a temporary shelter in an old commercial centre, another organization The Mustard Seed is also opening a temporary facility that will provide up to 300 additional beds. Unfortunately this is still not enough. Even worse, these new facilities are temporary. This is just a Band Aid to a very serious problem.

What is the solution? Obviously more affordable housing would be a good start. Unfortunately that takes time, and from an economic viewpoint I am sure the construction companies would rather be catering to the higher end of the market where the profits are larger.

Simon Barrett

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