Gabriel Chen awarded as legal advocate for Calgary’s homeless

Lack of housing, high rent, mental health, disability, addictions and job loss can all lead to a person facing homelessness – and, sometimes as a result, legal issues.

Legal issues and homelessness often contribute to each other in a vicious cycle, making it crucial to address them together.

No one understands this better than Gabriel Chen, the only lawyer in Canada who exclusively represents people who are homeless.

“It’s something I’m very passionate about,” he says. “As a fairly unpopular child and one of the only visible minorities at school, I felt very isolated.

It wasn’t anywhere near what homeless people experience on a daily basis. But it helped me identify with feeling unwanted and separated from the community.”

Chen’s eight years as the Homeless Outreach Program Lawyer at Calgary Legal Guidance was recognized with an Arthur R. Smith Award on Mar. 10, 2015.

Although the Front-line Employee Award is an individual award for excellence in supporting the homeless and at-risk, Chen maintains that it’s the result of a collective effort.

“There are many other agencies I work with to address legal issues for homeless people,” he says. “To me, this award is recognition of the work we’ve done together.”

Chen is also on the Board of Directors at Calgary John Howard Society and a member of RESOLVE’s new Major Gifts Council (MGC). The MGC, an extension of the Calgarians Committed to Change, is comprised of influential community and business leaders in Calgary, and is playing a key role in Campaign fundraising.

“What we’re doing through RESOLVE is crucial. It will make Calgary a safer, more inclusive place,” he says. “The main reason that people are homeless is, frankly, a lack of affordable housing.”