Photo credit: Calgary Drop-In Centre
In April 2020, a couple of weeks after the world turned upside down when the global pandemic was declared, the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre assumed the big responsibility of opening our spaces to serve as a temporary satellite location for the Calgary Drop-In Centre (the DI), an organization that provides care for adults experiencing homeless.
Seeing our Exhibition Hall, home of so many events and important moments, transformed into a satellite centre of the DI, had a profound meaning for all of us. We were provided with the unique opportunity to support our community in a different but very significant way.
During those months, we experienced their operations firsthand, met their wonderful team and volunteers, and learned more about the important role they play in our society. The DI is an organization that cares, that put people first, and has changed the lives of many Calgarians.
This is why for our next #GiveBackTuesday spotlight, we want to bring awareness to the current needs of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, and how we can all get involved and support the continuation of their vital programs.
The Calgary Drop-In Centre welcomes adults at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Working collaboratively, they provide access to a spectrum of care that supports each person’s transition to the most independent living possible, including emergency shelter, programs and services, and affordable and supported housing.
That range of care doesn't end once an individual has found their own independent living, as the DI remains committed to those who exit the cycle of homelessness in the hopes they never return to it. They also provide resources to help turn affordable housing into homes, including supplying the furnishings to make it feel truly like their own.
The DI is a housing-first principled organization, and it continues to provide supports to keep the return-to-shelter rate as low as possible. The Free Goods Program & Donation Centre is an important part in making this possible.
This initiative accepts donated items from the community and provides them to low and no-income Calgarians across the social services sector, including furniture, kitchenware, household items, clothing, computers, and much more.
As a true community partner, the DI also collaborates with other 105 organizations supporting those experiencing homelessness by providing them with warm clothing, food, tents, sleeping bags, and more.
It takes community to build community, and the Free Goods & Donation Centre is a hub in the sector to ensure that anyone seeking support has the best chance at finding it.
How operations have adapted through the pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic brought many challenges to the DI, but with perseverance and hard work, the Free Goods Program & Donation Centre was one of the only donation drop-off location in Calgary that stayed open during the early days of the pandemic.
To continue supporting their community, they had to adapt in many ways. The DI sourced shipping containers to quarantine donations, repurposed staff, and implemented new safety protocols for both people and donations. The application and scheduling process to access the program was moved online, which also allowed them to reduce wait times for applicants.
Another challenge arose when clients moved to homes and were able to attain their own furniture but were set back by the cost of moving their household items. That is why the DI now offers its own moving company to provide a low flat fee from their donation centre, made possible through the efforts of donors and community partners.
The current health restrictions have forced the DI to cancel their biggest fundraising event, the “Kindness Open” golf tournament.
Beyond the financial boost of approximately $100,000 for ending chronic homelessness in Calgary, the event also allowed for a great day in the community connecting people back to their mission.
Their team expressed that while they are constantly grateful for all of the incredible ways they have received support safely through COVID-19, there is something special about being out in the community and able to share the successes and see the smiles in-person.
The Orange Brunch gala, their annual volunteer recognition event, has also being cancelled. Sadly, the pandemic has reduced their volunteer hours from 11,575 hours per month down to 940 volunteer hours per month.
While they continue to fundraise in other online capacities, these two events have been postponed indefinitely, having a big an impact in the DI’s ability to raise funds and connect with the community.
How you can help
The DI’s greatest needs change throughout the year, depending on various factors such as weather and supply and demand.
Donations are always welcomed and appreciated, and can be brought to the Free Goods Program & Donations Centre, located at 3640 11a Street NE, and open seven days a week from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm except for statutory holidays.
Items that are always in high demand are furniture and commonly-used personal items including new underwear or new or gently-used towels, blankets, sleeping bags, razors, backpacks, steel-toed boots, and Tylenol/Advil.
Right now, as it is still cold, warm clothing such as winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots are needed the most. And during the summer, there is a greater requirement for sunscreen, summer hats, aloe vera, and sunglasses.
The DI has set up an Amazon wish list for anyone who wants to send items directly to the Free Goods Program & Donations Centre: www.calgarydropin.ca/amazon.
For more details about additional ways to support, visit www.calgarydropin.ca/give.