CUPS Corner: Celebrating 30 years of building resilience!


Can you believe CUPS is turning 30 in September? What began in 1989 as a place where low-income and homeless Calgarians could receive basic medical care and referral services has become a trailblazing, innovative organization that applies science to helping vulnerable and low-income Calgarians manage adversity, reach their potential, and end the cycle of poverty and trauma for themselves and their families.

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary this month and throughout the year, we’re looking back at some key milestones that capture how we’ve evolved to become the science-based organization we are today — and what a journey it has been! 

The beginning: In 1989, faith-based communities and medical professionals across Calgary came together and started CUPS as a means to provide referral and basic medical care to Calgary’s impoverished and vulnerable populations. Dedicated physicians and nurses focused on meeting the immediate needs of these clients, which included homeless people, sex workers and those struggling with mental health and addiction issues.

The early 90s: In 1994, CUPS expanded its offering beyond individual adults. The Family Development Centre was created to provide early intervention and support programs that focused not only on the social, emotional and cognitive development of children, but also considered the well-being of the entire family. In 1995, the Shared Care Mental Health team was added to address the growing issue of mental health and addiction among this population.

Into a new millennium: In the early 2000s, CUPS opened the One World Child Development Centre. The centre focused on early childhood intervention programs for children between the ages of 3 and 6 who came from impoverished or low-income backgrounds. The program later expanded to provide intervention and therapeutic services for children under the age of three, coupled with prenatal parenting programs. In 2008, CUPS recognized how important housing was in providing stability for clients and families, and added a housing program to fill this gap. 

Moving toward brain-science:  After nearly two decades of community service, CUPS realized that in order to make a lasting impact in the lives of our clients, it meant moving beyond delivering basic services. We began to build on the scientific foundation of the Brain Story, which explains how the experiences we have – good and bad – get built into our brains and bodies. It explains why our brain development, especially during childhood, affects our lifelong physical and mental health. Most importantly, it shows us how to build resilience that spans generations. In 2012, CUPS moved into a larger building, expanding its services by 30 per cent. Along with this growth began intentional efforts to understanding the underlying causes of why people were seeking support in the first place.  

Into a new era: Today, CUPS has adopted an evidence-based, integrated-care approach. Based on Brain Story science, CUPS is now applying Trauma informed Care, which considers the unique experiences and strengths of each individual. With the help of the Resiliency Matrix, this approach involves meeting with clients and developing integrated care plans that are tailored to support their individual needs and set them up for stability.  

As CUPS has evolved over the last 30 years from a traditional charity model toward a science-based organization, we recognize that we couldn’t have done it alone. With the support of our amazing community, our partners, clients, staff and volunteers, we are truly redefining how non-profits approach the social challenges of poverty and trauma and making a real difference. Today, CUPS doesn’t simply solve problems, but we take a big picture approach that creates lasting, positive change for our clients, their children and our city. 

Join us on our blog every month over the coming year as we go more in-depth into our past and celebrate where we’ve come from. After all, as the famous quote from novelist James Baldwin says: “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” With such an incredible past and exciting present, we can’t wait to see what impact CUPS can make in our community for the next 30 years — and beyond!

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CUPS 2019 Corporate Video

newsKaren Meades