Palliative care program for Calgary’s homeless at risk of shutting down

For nearly 20 years, Terry Millar was living on the streets. The 57-year-old Calgary man was sick but he didn’t know how bad.

He ignored a massive cancerous tumour in his neck for months. He didn’t ask for help because he didn’t know how and wasn’t sure anybody would assist.

“I just wanted it all to end. Just because of everything I’ve done for the last 20 years and the waste of life and losing my kids, I just didn’t care,” Millar said.

People with the CAMPP team, Calgary’s Allied Mobile Palliative Program, intervened and got him care.

He was given six months to live. He went through 10 rounds of radiation to treat the tumour.

The health professionals through CAMPP provide compassionate end-of-life care to the homeless and vulnerable. Troy Speechly is the program’s health navigator.

“We meet someone where they’re at — be it a street corner, in the woods living in a tent or vulnerably housed. Everyone deserves to be treated as a human being,” Speechly said.

CAMPP manages close to 30 clients a day, and is in desperate need of financial support. It needs $250,000 to continue to do its work. Funding will be running out in March. The program is relying on private donations, but the real hope is the provincial government steps in.

“Without funding, there’s a lot of people slipping through the cracks and their end of lives could be in back alleys, behind Safeway, behind apartment buildings, in a stairwell, without someone by their side,” Speechly said.

The team at CAMPP also helped Terry Millar reconnect with the children he’d lost contact with decades ago. The care has given him a reason to fight for his life.

“Just to know people care, people call you up to see how you’re doing, it just makes a difference,” Millar said.

“I don’t want to disappoint anybody and want to last as long as possible.”

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