Homelessness in Alberta: The Demand for Spaces in Alberta’s Homeless Shelters


  • Ronald D. Kneebone University of Calgary
  • J.C. Herbert Emery University of Calgary
  • Oksana Grynishak University of Calgary




Homelessness in Alberta is overwhelmingly concentrated in Calgary and Edmonton, with almost two-thirds of total provincial shelter usage in the former. Calgary also experiences much greater fluctuations in shelter use. Three interconnected economic factors — the supply of rental accommodations, the state of the labour market and the inward flow of jobseekers — go a long way toward explaining both Calgary’s unusually large share of Alberta’s homeless as well as the swings in shelter use. Calgary has proportionately less than half as many rental units as Edmonton and this gap is widening. Simultaneously, Calgary, more than any other Canadian city, attracts a significant share of migrants during times of economic growth increasing demand for affordable housing and then shelter space when the availability of housing approaches zero. The recent fall in shelter use in Calgary (and so Alberta) may therefore prove temporary should a recovering economy attract more arrivals and so drive up shelter use again. The provincial government’s recent efforts to increase the stock of affordable housing are appropriate but greater progress could be made if it devised ways to enlist the energy and efficiency of the private sector to expand Calgary’s rental market.






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