Highbanks provides subsidized, safe and affordable housing along with some other supports for 11 young families in Calgary. With funding from AREF, Highbanks is hiring real estate consultants to explore and develop creative partnerships with landlords, property owners, builders and developers. The aim is to work together to come up with creative ways to provide affordable housing for young single mothers, fill vacancies in market rental housing and build resiliency in the community.
“We are really excited to start thinking about how we might address the huge need. The money from AREF allows us to think in non-traditional ways about how we might be able to expand our reach,” says Krista Flint, the executive director at Highbanks. “We are really keen to break down the paradigm of ‘We need a capital campaign and we need to build something else,’ because there are so many wildly innovative models for spaces for social good and we’re really excited to lead that thinking in our sector.”
Highbanks helps young mothers and their children who are homeless, at risk of being homeless or leaving profoundly traumatic situations. “We provide a housing first model with a focus on education and everything we do is sensitive to the deep trauma most of our girls have experienced,” she says. The mothers, many of whom haven’t finished high school, are required to go to school full time. Over the last 15 years, many of the young women that Highbanks has helped have gone on to get post-secondary diplomas or degrees.
Highbanks puts on community events and provides workshops and classes on parenting, coping and stress strategies, financial literacy, nutrition and life skills. A registered social worker refers women to other agencies and supports. It costs about $35,000 a year to help each family— an investment which Highbanks estimates saves taxpayers about $650,000 in publically-funded social services costs.
“We work very closely with organizations concerned with homelessness in Calgary. At any given time, we have about 30 young moms on our waiting list seeking help,” Flint says. “About 97 per cent of the young women who leave us go on to pay market rent and in some wonderful cases, own their own home.