Community Connections | Inclusion, Children And Youth
Living Standards | Poverty, Food, Housing, Early Childhood Development, Education And Learning
Wellness | Mental Health, Physical Health, Safety

Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS)

Through integrated health care, education and housing services, CUPS empowers individuals and families to overcome the challenges of poverty and reach their full potential. CUPS works with over 10,000 low-income Calgarians each year.

Our Story

Why We Exist

Lisa* came to CUPS desperate, determined and 5 months pregnant. She was living at an addictions recovery facility, which she would have to leave once her child was born. Her family had disowned her and she was avoiding her friends as they were all associated with a lifestyle she was fighting to leave behind. Time was passing quickly, where would she and her newborn go?

Lisa had struggled with drug and alcohol addictions for almost 10 years. As a young teenager, she had been sexually assaulted, an event that had consequences into her adult life. By 20, she was in a highly dysfunctional and abusive relationship. She stayed in it for almost 7 years, turning to drugs and alcohol to cope. The relationship ended and other abusive relationships took its place. By then, Lisa was entrenched in a pattern of addiction and crisis followed by sobriety and relapse.

“I got lost somewhere along the way. I was a mess.”

Finding out that she was pregnant jarred Lisa out of her patterns. She quit drinking and using as soon as she found that she was pregnant. When the baby’s father wouldn’t commit to doing the same and was not supportive, she left him and lost her apartment. She also lost one of her two minimum wage jobs due to medical complications with her pregnancy. Clean and sober, her life remained filled with uncertainty and struggle, but she was determined to get her act together before her child was born.

“I was desperate. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. CUPS worked a miracle for me. I felt blessed that day.”

CUPS Housing found subsidized housing for Lisa through a partner agency. At CUPS Family Development Centre, Lisa signed up for an intensive parenting program. When she found out about CUPS voluntary drug testing program for pre-natal women at the Women’s Health Clinic, she moved her medical care to CUPS. Lisa had no idea how these positive choices were going to impact her in the very near future.

“If you can believe it, I was so excited about the drug testing. It would help keep me accountable.”

Lisa was housed 2 months before her baby was due. With no family contact and still avoiding former friends, she was very isolated. For many addicts, isolation is enough to trigger a relapse, but Lisa remained determined.

“It was easier being alone than even having one person around who wasn’t a positive influence. I kept so busy working, being in pain, being tired.”

Towards the end of her pregnancy, Lisa worked hard to reconnect with her parents; this was another choice that she didn’t yet know the full consequences of. Initially, they were very wary and not impressed with her unexpected pregnancy, but they opened themselves to her and their unborn grandchild.

Soon after, Lisa delivered a healthy baby. At the hospital, she had packed her things, her newborn was in a car seat ready to go and her parents were waiting to drive them home. She was told that a social worker was coming to see her, a normal procedure she thought, but the meeting kept being delayed. When the social worker finally arrived, Lisa was happy to see her and to be that much closer to going home, until she was informed that the woman worked for Child and Family Services and was there to apprehend her child.

“I went to hospital in labour. I was doing all the right things. I’d been clean and sober for almost 8 months. Then they showed up to take my baby away.”

Lisa was stunned. She had not been expecting Child and Family Services involvement, much less for her baby to be apprehended. She was told that she had been flagged due to the baby’s father’s suspected criminal activity and she was told facts about his past that she had been completely unaware of.

Three hours of intensive interviewing of Lisa and her parents followed. Lisa relayed what she had undertaken: getting clean and sober as soon as she discovered that she was pregnant, leaving the unsupportive father, getting into a addictions recovery facility, finding safe and suitable housing for herself and her child, working with CUPS, undergoing voluntary drug testing throughout her pregnancy, registering to attend CUPS parenting program, re-establishing a relationship with her parents and working to regain their trust, and no longer associating with anyone involved in her previous lifestyle. It was agreed that she would also begin counselling and join a relapse prevention group.

Finally, Lisa and her baby got to go home, but not to their home. An order had been placed; Lisa and her baby would have to stay with her parents.

“I was really working hard to get my life together. I had done it all by myself, and then my parents had to step up yet again to help me out. I did it all on my own, but the only way I could keep my child was to rely on my parents.”

Following confirmation of Lisa’s claims and drug test results and further interviewing, Lisa retained guardianship of her child, but was mandated to stay with her parents for the next 6 months.

“I said to myself, you know what, you put yourself here whichever way you look at it. Even though I was doing well now, look at my past. My child was with me, not gone, not with somebody else. So I couldn’t really complain. There was no reason for me to complain. I can’t just sit there and be mad at the world. It all starts with me.”

The 6 months passed without incident and Lisa and her baby were allowed to leave her parents’ house and finally move into her apartment. Lisa completed 8 months of counselling with a focus on cognitive therapy, which she found very helpful. Her relationship with her parents continued to strengthen. She finished with her relapse group and joined a trauma group. She graduated from CUPS’ Nurturing Parenting Program and feels that the program taught and supported her a great deal in her role as a new mother.

“I’ve made a lot of changes, a lot more than I ever did before. You have to be really serious about making changes, 150% committed. You have to change everything. I’ve heard that a million times before, from past addicts, from agencies, from people. Now I know it’s true.”

Lisa applied for CUPS Lorraine Melchior Bursary Fund and returned to school to upgrade with the intention of then attending university. Knowing that she would either need to return to work or go to school, Lisa wisely put her child on a nursery school waiting list last year. Lisa has completely changed her life and defined a new future for herself. CUPS Bursary Fund will assist with child care costs and groceries for the next year or so. After that, Lisa will probably be fully incorporated into mainstream society and no longer require CUPS’ assistance.

Lisa arrived at CUPS highly motivated. She was ready to engage with any programs that would support her desire to change her life. With CUPS’ support, Lisa has achieved her goal and is well on her way to realizing her potential as an individual, a daughter and a mother. As a supporter of CUPS, you are also responsible for changing Lisa and her child’s lives for the better. In supporting CUPS, you have made a new and brighter future possible for Lisa and her child. We thank you for the crucial difference you have made.

Our Impact

What We Do

CUPS helps vulnerable and marginalized individuals and families in Calgary overcome poverty. CUPS was founded in 1989 as a grassroots response to inner-city poverty by medical professionals and faith-based groups. Today, CUPS is a vibrant, multifaceted, and innovative organization offering evidence-based programs and services spanning health, education, and housing. CUPS serves over 7,000 low-income Calgarians each year.

CUPS PHILOSOPHY: Engage. Motivate. Achieve

Engage: CUPS seeks to provide engaging programs and services for impoverished Calgarians that are relevant and useful to improving their lives. Engagement is a key factor in achieving lasting personal change and growth.

Motivate: It’s CUPS’ role to provide tools and supports for people who are engaged. Whether they are seeking to overcome generational patterns, lifestyle based traumas or health issues, we are responsible for helping people change when they are ready.

Achieve: Success is helping people move forward, so they can become part of a healthy community, be independent and contribute to society.

REPORT to the COMMUNITY: 2015-2016

The year ending March 2016 has been a challenging year for all Calgarians and we have certainly seen the evidence of this at our doors. We saw 1,000 more individuals (9,300 in total) when compared to the previous year.

  • Evidence supports prevention as being more cost effective and better serving for long-term change. The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University are guiding much of our work, providing clear and current scientific evidence that is applied to our programs. The focus on prevention has certainly produced more long-term outcomes and a greater impact for our participants, enabling us to be involved in international initiatives such as Change in Mind and Ready4 Routines.
  • Partnerships are a critical part of how we work and we could not be successful without them. We are “Alberta Strong” and extremely appreciative of our colleagues, volunteers, donors and ambassadors for helping us create such a collaborative Calgary community.
  • 9,364 Participants Served; 166 Staff, 480 Volunteers, 50+ Partners and 3,500 Donors
  • 703 households:  110 Key Case Management, 390 Community Development, 203 Graduated Rent Subsidy


CUPS HISTORY: Since 1989, CUPS has been helping people overcome the challenges of poverty and attain brighter futures. Here’s how we began:

1980’s | Several downtown churches meet to develop an ecumenical project to provide referral services and basic medical care to those arriving at their doors in search of help.

1989-1994 | The Canadian Bible Society building on 7th Avenue SW was leased to house the Calgary Urban Project Society and CUPS is offically founded. Referral services and health care were provided entirely by volunteers, including Christian doctors and doctors from the University of Calgary. CUPS purchases a former bar on 7th Avenue that will provide a convenient location for the population served.

1996-1997 | CUPS launches its Community Outreach program with support from the City of Calgary. The CUPS Family Centre is created to help the increasing number of low-income families who were requesting CUPS’ services. Calgary Street Talk is born. This monthly newspaper tells the story of poverty in Calgary and the world. The CUPS Family Centre is created to help the increasing number of low-income families who were requesting CUPS’ services. Calgary Street Talk is born. This monthly newspaper tells the story of poverty in Calgary and the world.

2002-2010 | To address the root causes of poverty, CUPS continues to expand its range of services and converts another former bar on 11th Avenue into the One World Child Development Centre. CUPS launches the Rapid Exit program to provide affordable housing during Calgary’s economic boom. CUPS discontinues Calgary Street Talk. The success of the CUPS One World Child Development Centre leads to the launch of its Social Emotional Early Development (SEED) program.

2012 | CUPS main site relocates to 1001 10 Ave SW. The new space is three times larger than CUPS previous building and two thirds of the building is used for CUPS programs. This allows for a 30% increase in programs and services, including the addition of the Pre-Natal to Three Child Development Centre (based on CUPS’ SEED program) for at-risk families expecting children or with children up to 35 months. CUPS housing program, Rapid Exit, is able to leave its satellite office and becomes three separate housing programs: Key Case Management, Graduated Rent Subsidy and Community Development.


Our Programs

How We Do It

To increase our impact, we’ve aligned our strength areas to meet the unique needs of Calgary’s marginalized and have identified three areas where success was most critical to those we serve: Health, Education, and Housing.

Health: There is an undeniable link between poverty and poor health. For those living in poverty, factors such as trauma, homelessness, lack of food security and low health literacy levels compound and contribute to health issues. With nearly 25 years of experience, CUPS health services go beyond basic care to help Calgary’s most vulnerable individuals and families overcome the barriers to their well-being.

Last year, CUPS provided health care for 5,183 patients, including pre-natal care for 214 women, pediatric care for 659 children and mental health care for 530 adults.

  • Primary Care Clinic
  • Women’s Health Clinic
  • Pediatric clinic
  • Mental health care
  • Pre and post-natal care
  • Hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment
  • Diabetes care
  • Dental clinic
  • Optometry clinic
  • Foot clinic
  • Visiting specialists
  • Hospital discharge coordination
  • Outreach health and medical care to 6 Calgary shelters including The Calgary Drop In Centre, The Mustard Seed, Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, Brenda’s House, Alpha House and Awo Taan Healing Lodge.

Education: Our education programs seek to improve the lives and futures of children and adults by disrupting the intergenerational cycle of poverty. To accomplish this, CUPS offers research-based early intervention and support programs that focus not only on the social, emotional and cognitive development of children, but also on the overall well-being of parents, families and adults.

Last year, 87 students enrolled in CUPS Child Development Centres; 431 parents attended parenting programs, 628 families in crisis were supported; and 69 adults received the Lorraine Melchior Bursary Fund.

  • Family Development Centre
  • One World Child Development Centre (3-6 year olds)
  • Pre-Natal to Three Child Development Centre
  • Nurturing Parenting Program
  • Multiple parenting programs
  • Lorraine Melchior Bursary Fund
  • Social opportunities for families
  • Crisis support

Housing and Supports: Stable housing continues to be the major factor in overcoming poverty and is essential for good health, child development and personal well-being. A safe living environment helps build social connections and dramatically increases education and employment prospects. We not only help Calgary’s most vulnerable adults and children secure housing, we provide the support they need to maintain it.

Since 2008, CUPS has housed over 3,600 homeless adults and children. Last, CUPS Housing and Supports prevented homelessness for 323 households, provided 923 pieces of government ID, completed 250 tax returns and provided almost 800 referrals for food, furniture, clothing, mattresses and Alberta Works Emergency Funding.

  • Key Case Management housing program
  • Community Development housing program
  • Graduated Rent Subsidy housing program
  • Client in Transition emergency funding
  • ID program
  • Income Tax Help
  • Referrals to Food Bank, Sleep Country, Neighbour Link, WINS 

Our Requests

What You Can Do

Your support is critical to helping individuals and families in our city move out of poverty to independence and self-realization. There are numerous ways you can support CUPS including:

Volunteer – Volunteers are a vital and vibrant part of CUPS’ programming and service delivery. Volunteers donate their talent and energy and do so with compassion and a commitment to helping the people we serve at CUPS. We are committed to ensuring that CUPS volunteers have a rewarding experience and that their skills and dedication are valued.

To find out more please visit our website at

Stay Connected


Karen Meades

Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS)


Charitable Number: 134112515RR0001

Visit Our Website

Annual Operating Budget: