Calgary can be a tricky city.

On one hand, we’re often portrayed as a successful city. An abundant city. A city full of kind, caring Calgarians often known as being the most volunteer-friendly people in the country. And all of that is true.

But that doesn’t mean all Calgarians are successful. That doesn’t mean that Calgary’s abundance benefits all. And as much as Calgarians care, we can often easily forget about our friends and neighbours who might need our help.

As someone who spends way more time walking and biking around the city than anything else, I see a lot. I see the ways Calgary is prosperous and beautiful, and I see the ways Calgary struggles. Calgary is a proud city. It means something to us when we saw “I’m a proud Calgarian.”

And this month, a new campaign with Vibrant Communities Calgary called Challenge Poverty YYC is asking Calgarians to challenge what they know about poverty: About homelessness and about this city.

For this campaign, I had the pleasure of spending time with Nigel Kirk. Nigel is a born-and-raised Calgarian, who also spend more than eight years living on the streets. He is now in affordable housing and uses his influential social media channel to start conversations about homelessness and how we can treat it.

I love talking to Nigel for exactly that reason. It’s something I haven’t thought about before, but for many people, using social media can be a powerful to give their voice strength, which can be so difficult homeless or low income Calgarians. But social media is free and more and more places are offering free wifi, so all of a sudden we have a chance to hear from people that we might normally walk by and not pay attention to. But are we listening?

I like to think I’m a pretty compassionate person. I think a lot of us think we are, but I learned so much during my time with Nigel. So much about how to talk to homeless Calgarians and how to help Calgarians.

If you’d like to know more about how you can help, please visit the website and use the hashtag #challengepovertyyyc  to share how your perspectives are changing.”

Mike Morrison