News Release: New study reveals critical insights into social disorder on transit in Calgary

Intersecting housing, affordability and addiction crises are impacting the safety of our city, but there are solutions   

28 May 2024

Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC), in collaboration with researchers from the University of Calgary and Dr. Nick Falvo, a leading expert in housing and homelessness, has released a study examining social disorder as it relates to public transit.  

No Place to Go examines more than 160 research papers; data on social disorder at train stations and deaths from substance use; and interviews shelter clients, transit workers, police officers, and community outreach staff to understand the factors contributing to social disorder. 

Key highlights of the research: 

  • In Calgary, there has been an 186% increase in unintentional acute deaths due to substance use from 2016 to 2023. 
  • Public spaces, including transit, have become the primary locations for unintentional opioid poisoning incidents. Individuals struggling with addiction often choose to use drugs in public because they believe there’s a better chance of being discovered if they experience a medical emergency. 
  • Some homeless shelters are perceived as unsafe by both police and transit peace officers who were interviewed. Encampment sleeping rose fivefold from 2018 to 2023 in Calgary. 
  • Police, transit officers and community workers are experiencing trauma on the frontlines from exposure to overdose deaths, which are becoming more and more commonplace. 
  • Despite their best efforts, police often struggle to connect individuals to medical care (addiction and mental health) when transporting them to hospitals due to a lack of treatment options. 
  • There is no relationship between adding more police and reducing crime. The research examined indicates more policing is a short-term solution at best. 
  • Five Calgary stations stand out as hotspots for social disorder: Chinook, City Hall/Bow Valley College, Marlborough, and Victoria Park. 

The report recommends investments in emergency shelter space in the form of design upgrades for existing facilities, more accessibility at all times rather than only at night, and the creation of daytime options. It also recommends investments in treatment, harm reduction and medical respite for people experiencing homelessness, as well as more coordinated street outreach, are needed. Well-funded affordable supportive housing programs for vulnerable people were also recommended for improving social disorder in public spaces. 


“As our communities grapple with intersecting crises related to housing, affordability, and addiction, this study sheds light on critical issues impacting public safety and the urgent need for solutions. While some solutions require time and systemic changes, it all begins with ensuring we have stable housing, so more and more people aren’t being pushed into homelessness.” 

- Meaghon Reid, Executive Director, VCC 

“All too often it’s all about the numbers, the statistics … but, behind the numbers are people. People serving on the frontlines like community outreach workers and police; and people who are struggling with homelessness. Their perspectives and quotes may be uncomfortable to read, but that’s how we learn and grow, and hopefully, make things better.”    

- Lee Stevens, Co-researcher 

"It’s clear, that people experiencing homelessness need places to go during the daytime. Even as we work towards long-term solutions like housing, more options are in everyone's best interest." 

- Dr. Nick Falvo, Lead Researcher 


About Vibrant Communities Calgary 

Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC) has been working for more than a decade advocating for long-term strategies that address the root causes of poverty in Calgary. VCC works collaboratively with stakeholders and partners to advance the Enough for All Poverty Reduction Strategy. For more information, visit or follow @vibrantcalgary on X and Threads