In this case, the real solutions are cheaper! The financial case for Permanent Supportive Housing

When the real fixes are cheaper than bandaid solutions, why would we choose to stick with bandaids?

Edmonton’s most vulnerable citizen is her homelesss neighbour.  These (our brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, sons and daughters lost to the street) must journey daily from soup kitchen to drop-in to emergency shelter with long walks all day (or all night) being chased out of public spaces, with little access to bathrooms, vulnerable to attack or theft as soon as they try to get some sleep; and battling addictions or mental health concerns on top of physical ailments and injuries.  Today around 70% of Edmonton’s street population is chronically homeless; with most of these losing years (even decades) to the street, and with many succumbing to their illnesses every year.

For the chronically homeless real help is more than a shelter bed, a hospital bed, or a prison bed.  Real help (the kind that’s working!) is  Permanent Supportive Housing.  But building these places requires a significant investment.  The question is: Will we pay it, and is it really cheaper than the status quo?

In recent years, City Council has identified the need for 900 units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) as critical to successfully addressing homelessness in our city.  PSH provides stable housing paired with wraparound support and care for people with multiple complex needs including mental health, addictions, trauma and disabilities or physical ailments.

The Provincial government is a major player in the work of addressing housing and homelessness.  Health care funding and capitol dollars for affordable and supportive housing fall primarily in their jurisdiction, with significant assistance and a shared responsibility from partners at both federal and municipal levels.

As belt-tightening looms over the upcoming budget discussions in our province there is concern that effective help and treatment for the chronically homeless will be one of those areas that is lost.  The province has announced additional funding for 4000 addiction treatment beds, which is very good news and much needed.  But there is some concern that other needed investments may be dropped, slowing some of the positive movement that Edmonton has been able to celebrate in the last few years.  A main pillar of success in help to people experiencing chronic homelessness is Permanent Supportive Housing.

In 2018, CRHI identified Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) as one of our four critical priorities. 

We continue to give our support for this critical effort on the conviction that we can and we must do better to help our most vulnerable neighbours. The financial case only cements our conviction that this is the right way forward.  the cost of doing better is actually less than the status quo.  Doing it wrong is not only ineffective, it’s also more expensive than doing it right!

Q:  Is it really cheaper than the status quo?  Consider this portrait from the City of Edmonton 


“Providing appropriate housing for people experiencing homelessness generates significant cost savings to emergency, health, and justice systems in addition to freeing up resources for other Edmontonians in need of those services. Individuals who are sleeping outside are more likely to have complex co-occurring mental and physical health challenges, often compounded by substance abuse, that result in frequent and inappropriate use of health services. A hospital stay for a person experiencing homelessness costs more than $8,000 per day and an emergency room visit $840.

The negative financial impacts are demonstrated in a 2007-08 study that found that just ten heavy individuals system users among the homeless population cost Alberta Health Services an estimated $3.5 million alone in a single year.  This impact is consistent with other major cities across Canada, evidenced by a 2014 study that followed 990 people with mental health issues who were experiencing homelessness in five Canadian cities cost systems $53,144 per person on average annually.

Over the last ten years, Edmontonians have made significant progress in ending homelessness. Since 2009, more than 8,400 people have been housed and overall homelessness in our city has been reduced by 43 percent. In addition, these efforts saved an estimated $920 million in health and justice system costs.”


Up front, PSH requires a relatively large investment of land, capital dollars and operating dollars.  Here are the numbers the City of Edmonton has put forward to federal and provincial partners in a whitepaper submitted in September of 2019:


PSH facilities are created on a sliding spectrum from high to low intensity, and different kinds and levels of supports.  At the high intensity end of the spectrum, we see a facility like Ambrose Place here in Edmonton; a facility that the city featured as an example to accompany their submission to the Province. As you will see, even this more expensive example of PSH is still saving money.

Consider this case study of Ambrose Place; an example of




As the provincial budget is released in the next few weeks, CRIHI asks you to join us in watching for continuing funding for Permanent Supportive Housing.  Creating places of real healing and hope is the only way to help some of our most vulnerable neighbours.  It is cheaper than surrendering to bandaid solutions, and it actually works to help people!

Let’s get this right!

Pathways to Recovery; Understanding Harm Reduction and Abstinence – November 19, 2019

Opioid and alcohol abuse impact every community, with people losing years of their lives to powerful addictions; or losing loved ones to dark places and even to death.  Finding effective help and healing for those we love also matters to every community.

CRIHI recognizes that access to a safe and stable place to live is a key pillar of that help. But what kind of helps and supports do we need to provide on top of that, and what is truly helpful from the perspective of the person most trying to heal?

Come join the conversation as we consider these big questions together. Our journey to a shared understanding will be led by people with lived experiences, and those working to help them from using both harm reduction and abstinence approaches.

Pathways to Recovery; Understanding Harm Reduction and Abstinence


Tuesday, November 19, 2019 from 6-9 pm at Beth Israel Synagogue (131 Wolf Willow Rd. Edmonton)   To register, please visit our eventbrite at the following link:  Pathways to Recovery


Our keynote address will be provided by Karen Bruno.
Karen is a Cree women from Treaty 6 Territory. As a lived experience and professional experience person, she is known for her advocacy and networking skills. She has had over 27 years to help influence, communicate on community and social issues. Also known for her creative thinking and problem solving ability.
Karen currently works as a site manager in transitional housing that focuses on a Harm reduction and Trauma informed practice with a hard to house population.


In this public conversation we seek to build a shared understanding of:

  1. The workings of MAPs and MOPS (Managed Alcohol and Managed Opioid programs)
  2. What’s working to support people on their roads to recovery.
  3. The pillar of Housing First and the need for Permanent supportive housing.
  4. The need for wrap around community supports and care.

Program

  • 5:45 Doors open and guest sign-in
  • 6:15 Buffet dinner served (Kosher and with Gluten free and vegetarian options provided)
  • 6:40 Opening reflection and prayer
  • 6:45 Keynote address by Karen Bruno
  • 7:05 Table conversations hearing from people with lived experience of homelessness and addictions and reflecting on their respective journeys to recovery.
  • 7:40 Panel conversation hearing the voices of those working to support a person’s recovery using both abstinence and recovery approaches.
  • 8:05 Questions for the panel
  • 8:15 Table conversations to process learnings and key insights.
  • 8:40 Sharing of table learnings with the larger group.
  • 8:50 Closing reflection and adjournment

Dinner and childcare are provided free of charge for all participants.

Seeking Jubilee – Interfaith Table exploring a 0% mortage program

“The word “jubilee”—literally, “ram’s horn” in Hebrew—is defined in Leviticus 25:9 as the sabbatical year after seven cycles of seven years (49 years). The fiftieth year was to be a time of celebration and rejoicing for the Israelites. The ram’s horn was blown on the tenth day of the seventh month to start the fiftieth year of universal redemption.”

“The Year of the Jubilee involved a year of release from indebtedness (Leviticus 25:23-28) and all types of bondage (vv. 39-55). All prisoners and captives were set free, all slaves were released, all debts were forgiven, and all property was returned to its original owners. In addition, all labor was to cease for one year, and those bound by labor contracts were released from them. One of the benefits of the Jubilee was that both the land and the people were able to rest.”
Source:  https://www.gotquestions.org/Jubilee.html

Inspired by these teachings from the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and from Muslim teachings on debt and Usury, CRIHI is assembling a table to design and carry forward a 0% mortgage program.  A first draft of this program has been completed and is tentatively titled the Jubilee Mortgage program.  The idea is that such a program would provide a path into home ownership for low and middle income families who have demonstrated an ability to retain stable housing.

Instead of charging interest, this program would require participants to pay a service fee up front for participation .  This fee would cover:

  1. the costs of staffing and administration, program promotion etc
  2. stress tests and risk management
  3. and a significant percentage to grow the funding pool for the program.
CRIHI currently has Christian and Muslim voices at the table already to work together on this, but are seeking more participants from other faith communities.  Additional Muslim or Christian voices are also welcome.  CRIHI believes a strong Interfaith team backing this is critical to this program having success in developing relationships with financial institutions and private and public partners in business or Government.

If interested to participate in this program, please contact CRIHI’s animator at mike@interfaithhousing.ca.

Understanding and Responding to Nimbyism (Not in My Back Yard)

As cities all over North America work to provide low-income households a safe and affordable home, they face numerous persistent barriers.  These include the high cost of land, the search for funding for development, policy and zoning, and a very human challenge: Nimbyism in the local community.

Here’s a story to illustrate the challenge of Nimbyism:
A few years ago, I ran into an old friend at a consultation for a new affordable housing complex proposed for her neighbourhood, and asked her what she thought.  She said, “Look, I get it that everyone needs a place to live, and that we need more places like this, but here?  On the corner of my park?  My kids have to walk past there all the time on their way to school.”

Now I know my friend to be a caring and compassionate person, and a great mom.  But faced with this change, she had a strong reaction; one sometimes referred to in shorthand as a NIMBY reaction:  “Not In My Back Yard.”

On May 14, 2019, the Interfaith Housing Initiative hosted a workshop at Queen Alexandra Community League called “Understanding and Responding to Nimbyism.”  This was the third of four workshops in a series called, “Getting Consultation Right!”  This event featured two panels of speakers, including three housing providers and two community leaders all willing to share their experience and insight in how to both understand and respond to Nimbyism.    You can watch the full panel discussion at the link below, or keep reading for a summary of key points:

Here is some of what we learned together:

How can we understand Nimbyism?
Here is a working definition we are using:  Nimbyism (Not in My Back Yard)  is a (sometimes) strong reaction or response to more significant changes in a local area; especially those perceived as possibly negative.

So how should we understand why people react as they do?
In our second panel discussion, Fraser Porter, the current president of the Edmonton Federation of Community leagues observed that “Love and attachment are the root causes. We love our neighbourhoods and we resist change because we worry something we love is being lost.”

That natural fear of change was also noted by Carola Cunningham, who serves as CEO of Niginan Developments, a provider of Permanent Supportive Housing.  Cunnningham noted that “it is only natural to object and respond with fear to the unknown (color, culture, addiction, etc) and all those things must be meaningfully addressed to have an honest dialogue.

Certainly, the love for what we have and the fear of losing it are very powerful impulses. Some of those fears may be connected to structural changes to infrastructure such as parking and traffic flow, the fit and flow of architecture, the loss of trees or open spaces.  But other fears may centre around who the new neighbours might be, and how they will integrate into the local community.

Q: How can we respond well to Nimbyism?
The answer that seemed to come forward from our panelists was to respond to fears with clear, honest and open communication; working to build both a shared understanding and a trusting relationship moving forward.  To do that, the housing provider should avoid thinking about or treating local neighbours as opponents, even if there are strong feelings or anger.  As with all relationships, how we conduct ourselves in the midst of conflict can either inflame or resolve concerns.

Sherri Shorten, a community voice from Holyrood said it was important to “Believe in the community voice. The people in our community were hurt by being called NIMBY. It broke down relationships when they were bringing truly valid concerns to the table.” 

Cam McDonald from Right at Home Housing Society noted that:  “What was important in the North Glenora context was an openness on both sides. What I learned was just how much the community was willing to give to create a shared vision and understanding.

Demonstrating openness and a will to patiently answer people’s questions makes room for trust, and for the community to also give of themselves to the health of the project and their new neighbours.

Consultation pic

Q: Is it problematic to tell the community about the health problems of residents?
At one level, even talking about who is going to live in a new housing development seems problematic.  In Canada, no one has the right to choose their neighbours, and discrimination based on age, ability, illness, race or culture, or religious belief is not permitted.  But our panelists responded in favour of answering those questions openly and honestly.

“It can be heard in comments like, “How do you screen your tenants? How do you ensure our community remains safe?  At my house I don’t get to pick who is my next-door neighbour. The zoning bylaw is very clear. It’s not about the USER, its about the USE. However, its so important that you don’t offend the people you’re talking to. You do have to address their concerns.” (Cam Macdonald, Right at Home Housing Society)

Trueman Macdonald, who oversees the work at Iris Court a supportive home for formerly homeless persons with schizophrenia shared their approach:  “We actually saw it as an opportunity to educate the community as well. It was just natural for us to talk about it. Our whole mandate is advocacy and breaking down those barriers. Our people with lived experience want to get their stories out to reduce the stigma surrounding their illness.”

Addressing people’s concerns with patience and respect is the best way to help them better understand and put their fears and concerns into context.  It also paves the way for understanding and healthy long-term relationships in the local community.

A very helpful tool in this regard are Good Neighbour Agreements.  With Iris Court, the Schizophrenia society provided a detailed “Good Neighbour Agreement” to the local community that included info regarding tenants, services, house rules, and how the organization planned to respond to community complaints.  Having a clear plan and a process available showed the community the strength of Iris Court’s commitment to being a good neighbour.  It also helped the tenants feel safe and secure in their new community.

The Nimby response is a very ordinary and human reaction to change in a local community.  Good consultation takes the time to work through people’s questions and concerns openly and honestly, without judging them or treating them as opponents.  A patient approach builds toward a trusting relationship between the local community and the developer.  In the space of that relationship, honest and constructive engagement is able to flow, supporting the long-term health and vitality of the project, the local community, and those finding a home there.


By Mike Van Boom, Network Animator for Interfaith Housing Initiative (CRIHI)

The article is presented as a summary of key learnings in this third, of four workshops in a resource design project hosted by CRIHI, involving community leaders, housing providers and people of faith in a collaborative creation of consultation resources.   The full resources we have developed together will be delivered in the fall of 2019; made possible by a grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation, with Al Rashid Mosque serving as fiscal agent for the project.

CRIHI Asks – Get involved!

Hello everyone.  CRIHI has some pretty interesting and exciting work underway, and we have several opportunities to get involved.   Take a look!

  1. We need new members to serve on our steering committee.  (Time requirement:  One meeting every other month; typically a daytime slot which works best for faith leaders and partners.)
    1. Oversees the larger direction of the movement.
    2. Supervises staff and committee work.
  2. From our Governance Committee:  (meets once every other month)
    1. We are seeking to grow our circle of funding in order to build and expand our LAN work to cover the entire capital region
      • Send us your volunteers familiar with grant-writing.
      • put us on your donations schedule; donations arranged through the Anglican Diocese.  Contact John Gee to inquire after process:  treasurer@edmonton.anglican.ca
      • Help us arrange for additional staff.
  3. From our Education and Advocacy Committee:  (normally meets monthly)
    1. Join our learning community; the Neighbourly! Tell us your stories.  Share why your faith thinks this work is important.
    2. Join our working tables:
      • Zero-percent mortgages. (just beginning)
      • Reintegrating people coming out of prison (just beginning)
      • Learning how to get consultation right.  (Project underway
  4. Volunteer
    1. Interfaith Habitat Works project. (Advisory committee hosted by Habitat For Humanity)
    2. Welcome Home.
  5. Connect with us on Land opportunities.
    1. We can come present on affordable and supportive housing as a possible direction; along with some examples.
    2. We are able to serve as a broker for connections with formal partners and resources.

To learn more or to respond to any of these asks, please contact:

Mike Van Boom, CRIHI’s Interfaith Network Animator
mike@interfaithhousing.ca; 780.554.2703

Interfaith Habitat Works – Wrap-up Party!

Habitat for Humanity Edmonton and the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative are celebrating the success of the 8th Annual Interfaith Works Project with a Wrap Up Ceremony that will include speakers and lunch!

It’s been an eventful three months with hundreds of volunteers from many different faith communities working together in a common cause: building homes for low-income families!  Come join us as we celebrate together!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at Carter Place (2216 – 24 Street NW)

Ceremony begins at 11:30 sharp, so please come a little early so you can find parking*.  And of course, please plan to join us for lunch!

Carter Place Map

*Parking is only available on side streets around the development.

To RSVP by email, contact: volunteer@hfh.org | T: (780) 451-3416 x 222

Faith Leaders Work Day with Habitat for Humanity! – May 1, 2019

Calling all Rabbis, Imams, Pastors, Priests, and Gurus!  CRIHI invites you to take up hammers and paint brushes for our first ever…

Faith Leaders Work Day!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019; From 8:30 am – 4:00 pm at Carter Place

With the help of thousands of volunteers from every skill level and background, Habitat for Humanity Edmonton has provided over 500 families with a hand-up into home ownership.

This year, we asked ourselves, what would happen if we had all kinds of different faith leaders working together at on the big Habitat build site at Carter Place?

Our answer:  Who knows?!  But it would likely be a lot of fun!
So here’s the formal call to faith leaders from every tradition to take a day on May 1st and come join us.


To sign up:
1. Please rsvp to mike@interfaithhousing.ca,
2. Register with our faith leader’s work group (group name: Interfaith Works 2019) on May 1 according to the instructions below:Here’s the link to get started, with the steps to register below:
https://www.hfh.org/volunteer/



If you have any questions about your registration, please contact:
Megan Stannard at mstannard@hfh.org or 780-451-3416 x 237


May 1, 2019 – Instructions for the day!

Working in my Community, Part Two

So you’re interested in working in your community…  As you begin, consider the following insights from those involved in community development work.

Before you dig into this session, please ensure you have read part one in this series: Working In My Community; Part One

Part Two Focus: Let’s find our way forward carefully, and make sure we do no harm.


The Oath for Compassionate Service

  1. Listen first.
  2. Never do for another what they can do for themselves.
  3. Limit one-way giving to emergencies; then stop.  (Sustained one-way giving creates a dependency; often diminishing a person’s capacity)
  4. Strive to empower the materially poor through employment, lending and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
  5. Keep your self-interest secondary to the needs of those being served.
  6. Listen closely to those you seek to help
  7. Above all, do no harm.

(Provided by Robert Lupton in Toxic Charity)


DO NO HARM

“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.” 

Research from around the world has found that shame – a “poverty of being”- is a major part of the brokenness that low-income people experience in relationship with themselves. …low-income people often feel they are inferior to others.  This can paralyze the poor from taking initiative and from seizing opportunities to improve their situation, thereby locking them into material poverty.

At the same time, the economically rich …also suffer from a poverty of being.  In particular, development practitioner Jayakumar Christian argues that the economically rich often have ‘god-complexes,’ a subtle and unconscious sense of superiority in which they have achieved their wealth through their own efforts.  …the way that we act toward the economically poor often communiicates – albeit unintentionally – that we are superior and they are inferior.  In the process we hurt the poor and ourselves.”

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert


how can i help

Consider these three levels of help we can provide.   


Relief
The urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering.
Giving a sandwich to someone who is hungry; taking someone in out of the cold, or calling an ambulance for someone injured.

Rehabilitation
Restoring people to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions.

Assistance finding housing, or a job and reconnection with their family.

Development
A process of ongoing change that moves all people involved to right relationships to ourselves, to others, to God and to the creation.
Helping someone find a supportive community, belonging, purpose, mentoring, healing from trauma and addictions.

*Warning:  Hurt comes when we apply the wrong intervention.
Example:  Sustained one-way giving (relief work) creates a dependency; often diminishing a person’s capacity.  (points one and three in the oath of compassion.


Most people in North America are capable of participation in the improvement of their lives, so we should always be doing development work.  “Let’s figure this out together.”

To watch for along the way…

  1. Look for systemic issues and then also focus on advocacy. [ie. working (helping yourself) while on social assistance means reduction in benefits.]
  2. The design, implementation and evaluation should be done by all participating.

Here’s a great Edmonton example of community development:

The Riverbend neighbourhood is home to a pocket of affordable housing in a community called Brander Gardens.  A circle of local organizations including the school, churches, the library, the community league, and local sports programs came together to develop an outreach program called Brander Gardens ROCKS! that provides all kinds of different opportunities for the kids and families.

Riverbend United Church has been a strong partner from the beginning, opening up space for programming, and providing volunteers.  Every year, they host a community meal inviting the broad community including some Syrian families.  But rather than just having church volunteers provide lunch for the community, they chose to invite BG Rocks families to participate in every stage.  So these families help plan the meal, do the shopping, and cook the meal with the church’s volunteers.  This shared effort makes for a wonderful and special event that is rewarding for everybody.


BG Rocks families gathering with Riverbend United Church members

 

Interfaith Habitat Works 2019!

From March 5 – June 5, CRIHI and her partners at Habitat for Humanity invite you to come join us as people of many faiths put boots on the ground together building homes for people.  There is still time and opportunity to get involved, so come join us!


Ways you can get involved:

  • Volunteer on a build or at a ReStore: Volunteers can come out either individually or as a group. Beginners are welcome and all equipment and tools are provided.
  • Feed the volunteers: contributions of lunches or baked goods are welcome.
  • Attend the Kick-off and Wrap-up events

Here is the link to Habitat’s Interfaith page where you can sign up your groups, download posters and information, and find answers to your questions:
http://www.hfh.org/interfaith/  

We also have a promotional video for you to share with your community:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUA5Vgj2ivY&feature=youtu.be

And a Special Invite to Faith Leaders! 


CRIHI is excited to announce our first ever …

Faith Leaders Work Bee!
May 1, 2019

Habitat work days usually start around 8:30 and go until the later afternoon.  If you as a faith leader are at all able, carve out a day in your schedule to come work on site with leaders from other faith traditions.  A formal invitation will be sent out shortly, but please mark your calendars!

Three Hebrew Words

Shalom

Shalom is a rich word in the Hebrew scriptures. encompassing “universal flourishing, wholeness and delight,” according to Christian Theologian, Cornelius Plantinga Jr.   Shalom is often thought of as the desire of God for all his creation; characterizing both Eden in Genesis, and in the new creation in Revelation.

Chata

Contrasted with shalom, is the Hebrew word for sin.  In Hebrew, the word sin (Chata) literally means “missing the mark; or getting it wrong.”  But more broadly, Plantinga explains sin as any human action that vandalizes shalom; causing harm; breaking relationships; resisting, twisting or distorting something good, doing damage in word or deed.

Chata damages Shalom when…

  • We sin against another person.
    Gossip…  abuse…  neglect…  or even by trying to do good in the wrong way.
  • We sin against creation.
    polluting…   exploiting…   neglecting our responsibilities as stewards and caretakers.
  • We sin against ourselves.
    Accepting lies that fuel either pride or depression.  Losing our freedom to addictions and the pursuit of false hopes.
  • We sin against our Creator.
    denying God’s existence and authority; putting our trust for the future elsewhere, and sinning against others, ourselves, or the creation.

Hesed

The path of restoration and healing relies heavily on hesed; or the practice of covenant love.  It is a love commitment that binds relationships together for the long term, so that no matter what happens the relationship holds together.    In the Bible, God forms several covenants with his people to rescue them, teach them, heal them, and restore Shalom.  By practicing hesed,God shows his commitment to his children; a stubborn love that never gives up.

So too, God wants his children to practice covenant love with each other so that our families and friendships are strong, and our communities are warm and vibrant, where everyone belongs and is cared for.  In relationships built on Hesed, we find ourselves in a circle of secure and committed love where we can put broken pieces back together, and find shalom.

As we work to care for each other in our city, may we too seek God’s vision of Shalom for each other, reject actions that knowingly or unknowingly cause harm to another, and couch every work of hope and healing in the context of loving relationship.


By Pastor Mike Van Boom, Christian Reformed Church

Religious and spiritual communities working to end homelessness in Edmonton and area

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