On the first day of spring, many of us are thinking about fresh starts, house cleaning and ideas for the garden that is yet to sprout. For many however, it is just another day when they have to face challenges that impact their ability to have a home to clean; a meal on the table; or options for a fresh start.

Earlier this week the Calgary Herald ran an article about the University of Calgary’s research on numbers and trends of individuals without homes in our city. For those of us who know some of these individuals; speak to them in the early morning as they head out onto the street; or are blessed with the opportunity to share their stories, it was a reminder of the work yet to do.

The report pointed to the reality that, of the 33,000 individuals who stayed in homeless shelters in the city over a five year period, more than one per cent were considered “chronic” users. This was clear last November with 38 of the women accessing the YWCA Winter Emergency Response program were returning for the third year in a row to this seasonal overnight shelter.

That means 38 women spent the previous spring and summer season, not in their own homes, but on the street or in another shelter. That means 38 women who were not able to access housing or the supports they need to transition to a healthier life.

In this expensive and fast paced city, it is difficult for some to enjoy the security and opportunities that we often take for granted. Many of these individuals are women, who by virtue of that fact alone are uniquely vulnerable and more often impacted by changes in their employment, relationship and health status.

And the big question we all struggle with is…how can I change this by myself? The answer is you can’t. But you can join with others and together have an impact. If the issue of homelessness is a concern for you then find ways to get involved in solutions; speak out about affordable housing issues; learn about the realities of homelessness; and if you are so inclined, register and fundraise to participate in the YWCA KEEP A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS. Together we can work towards everyone having a home to spring clean, and a healthier future.