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Calgary families ‘living on the brink’ due to rising costs

Click to play video: 'Calgarians continue to struggle with rising costs leading to rising demand at local shelter'
Calgarians continue to struggle with rising costs leading to rising demand at local shelter
The cost of living is creating significant challenges for many Calgarians struggling to pay their bills. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, that is also causing challenges for charities that help them – Jun 1, 2022

A growing number of Calgary families are “living on the brink” according to a local charity that has seen an influx of calls and requests for services.

Inn from the Cold (IFTC), a local emergency shelter, told Global News that what it is seeing in the city right now is “unprecedented.”

“Over the past year we’ve seen demand for our sheltering services double,” executive director Heather Morley said.

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“What we’re seeing is families with more children. Right now we have 19 families in our shelter and 51 are children.

“This is a very unique situation that we’ve never experienced before.”

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Morley pointed out the struggle for many of these families is very real, with most of their money going towards essentials.

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“A decade ago, families would tell us that they’re spending 50 per cent of their income on shelter, utilities and food,” she said. “What families are saying to us now is that 83 per cent of their income every month is just going to those basic necessities.”

Many are also using credit to pay for those necessities, leading to increased debt.

MNP Ltd, an insolvency and bankruptcy services and counselling company, told Global News debt levels in Alberta actually fell during the pandemic. Now, they’re back up.

Read more: Calgary renters say bidding wars and ‘gouging’ are leading to desperate measures

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“The amount of calls definitely has started to go up again (in) the last few months,” MNP senior VP Donna Carson said. “Formal (insolvency) filings have gone up.”

A recent survey by MNP also found 35 per cent of Albertans didn’t know how to get out of debt or where to turn for relief. And 47 per cent of those asked were embarrassed to seek help if and when they had to seek bankruptcy.

“It’s tough to make that call (for people struggling with debt). It’s embarrassing to make that call,” Carson conceded.

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“Life happens. It throws us curve balls that we didn’t plan for, but we can get through them.”

Carson suggested people sit down and plan their budget.

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“Step one is writing it down: ‘What’s my budget? Who do I owe money to? What’s the interest rate on that product? What’s the minimum on that (debt) product?'”

Watch: Credit experts warn Albertans to get ‘financial house in order’ before interest rates rise

If you can’t go it alone, she suggested get help from a licensed insolvency trustee.

Inn from the Cold, meanwhile, is finding it’s also needing help.

Not only has the current situation lead it to run out of rooms, it’s also running out of funding.

“We actually receive a very small portion of government funding to sustain our housing, our shelter, our programs,” Morley said. “So we rely on generosity of Calgarians to fund 70 per cent of our operating budget every year.”

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Morley added the money is critical, to keep Calgarians out of the cold.

“For many of us, we always feel that homelessness or housing instability is a problem that is someone else’s problem. But I think that, given this economy, too many people are living on the edge. They’re living on the brink.”

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