Charitable Choices: Jo Williams of Inn from the Cold

In a compelling interview, Jo Williams, the Founder of Inn from the Cold, shares insights into the organization’s mission to assist vulnerable families facing housing crises. With a legacy spanning over 25 years, Inn from the Cold serves as a crucial lifeline for families in need of stable housing. Jo outlines the organization’s core programs, including prevention and diversion, family shelter, and supportive housing, all aimed at addressing the pressing issue of family homelessness.

Inn from the Cold

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

For over 25 years, Inn from the Cold has been helping vulnerable families in times of crisis. As the largest organization in the Calgary region that is dedicated solely to families experiencing a housing crisis, we believe that every child and family should have a safe and stable place to call home. We provide three main programs: prevention and diversion, family shelter, and supportive housing.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Family homelessness is a critical and complex problem, where families with children are the fastest-growing population experiencing homelessness in Canada. The issue is particularly challenging because it impacts the well-being and development of children, who may face emotional, physical, and educational challenges due to their unstable housing situation. Our priority is to keep families in their existing homes and, when we can’t, to find them available housing as quickly as possible.

What made you want to get involved?

The city has seen a rapid increase in the cost of living, including rising rental rates, while wages have not kept pace with these increases. Many families live paycheck to paycheck, and any unexpected expenses or changes in circumstances, such as job loss, illness, or domestic violence, can lead to housing instability and homelessness.

Families and children experiencing homelessness face various challenges, including poor physical and mental health, limited education and employment opportunities, and increased risk of involvement with the child welfare system.

With a lack of research on family homelessness in Canada, more work must be done to address and understand the root causes of family homelessness and provide sustainable solutions for families in need.

What was the situation like when you started?

In 2023 we saw an 8 per cent increase over 2022, which means 1,500 families reached out to The Inn for assistance. With the continued rise in the cost of living, this number is expected to climb.

How has it changed since?

The persistent rise in demand for support at The Inn reflects the ongoing struggle individuals and families endure amid inflation and economic instability. This trend underscores the vital role organizations like The Inn play in providing essential aid and highlights the urgent need for sustained action to address the root causes of family homelessness.

What more needs to be done?

To address the escalating demand for support at The Inn and similar organizations, more efforts are needed to raise awareness about the issue of family homelessness and to educate the public, combating the stigma associated with it. By fostering greater understanding and empathy, we can create a more supportive environment for those experiencing financial distress, reducing barriers to accessing essential supports and services. Additionally, initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of economic instability and inequality are crucial in providing long-term solutions to alleviate the burden on vulnerable families and individuals.

Inn from the Cold

How can our readers help?

Inn from the Cold’s campaign, A Village Can, is a vital opportunity for the community to make a real difference in the fight against family homelessness. Funds raised go directly to supporting Calgary families experiencing the brunt of the housing crisis. This year’s goal is to raise 1 million dollars. Donations raised until June 9 will be matched dollar for dollar by a generous group of donors.

Do you have any events coming up?

A Village Can is Inn from the Cold’s annual matching campaign that runs for the entire month of May. More information at A Village Can

Where can we follow you?

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Linkedin

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Discovery House.


About Emilea Semancik 100 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: