Significant numbers of people and families in Calgary face financial challenges that put them at risk of homelessness. This study defines different levels of risk, in order to focus on people at high risk of slipping into homelessness. The authors assume, based on the findings of previous studies, that people faced with financial hardship make all possible budgetary changes to lower their cost of living and thereby retain housing. These changes include using food banks, relying on charities, eating less nutritious diets, living in more crowded conditions, moving to housing with lower rent and giving up any hope of maintaining what the designers of Canada’s poverty line define as a “modest and basic standard of living.” The highest risk category comprises those who have exhausted nearly all efforts to maintain their housing and are extremely vulnerable to even minor shocks to income or living costs.
Estimating the number of people and households in Calgary at high risk of homelessness relies on key assumptions about housing costs, family structure, food budget, and expenditure reduction. The authors show how their estimates of the number of housed people at high risk of homelessness varies by these assumptions. These calculations provide insight into the effects of rent increases and food inflation on the ability of people with very low income to maintain housing. In doing so, they also provide evidence of how relatively small adjustments to income, rent, and food prices can pull people from the brink of homelessness.