Faith-Based Collaboration Highlight: Jasper Place Wellness Centre

Here’s how this story started:  Recognizing growing needs and struggles experienced by their neighbours in West Edmonton, several Christian churches (large and small) met together with the City of Edmonton to consider what they might collectively do to help out.

From that first meeting, West Edmonton Interfaith coalition formed, starting in 2005; gearing up to address social issues locally.

The coalition met with Murray Soroka, who was working with a few others doing some street work in the community.  Together, they agreed that a drop-in/resource centre was needed.  So they went and did it!  A society was formed, a lease was signed, volunteers donated time, money and expertise in renovating and preparing the space (including Plumbing, drywall, finishing carpentry, painting…), and they opened in June of 2006 on Stony Plain road.  Their starting goal was simple:  “Building community through relationships.”  They made a place where vulnerable community members could come and build relationships with the faith community.

At the beginning, Soroka says, “we were heavy on relationships, but light on everything else.”  But they provided laundry, showers, shopping cart storage (a safe place to put your stuff during meetings or appointments), and lots of meals.

A year in, they started helping people experiencing homelessness find housing.  In 2007, they helped house 100 people across West Edmonton.  They helped provide a damage deposit, and a utility deposit and helped people get settled.  Some of these people needed just that little bit of help, and are still housed today from that initial work!

In 2008, they ran two pilot projects exploring Housing First, a new strategy to start by housing and then providing supports to people.  Then in 2009, Housing First took off, and they have been involved ever since.  Through their own efforts and housing first, have housed over 1100 people.

In 2010, they secured funding to build Canora place; an affordable housing complex with 24-7 on-site support.  For help with more difficult issues like mental health and addictions, residents are connected with outside agencies and services.  Ongoing donations help keep Canora a safe and affordable home.

In 2011, they started a social enterprise, employing vulnerable populations paying a living wage, providing job training and experience; part of their employment program.  Today, they operate five for-profit businesses that pay a living wage (around $17/hr).  The hope is that these businesses may some day provide wealth for the organization to help sustain the work they do.  Through these businesses, they provide for forty full-time jobs and put 1.5 million in wages back into the community!

CBC News featured a story on one of these businesses at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/mattress-recycling-edmonton-homeless-1.4120502

Food security is also one of their five pillars.  They are a founding member of Food4Good, that helped start over forty community gardens.  They host Collective kitchens, with opportunity for food education and awareness.  Food4Good supports pop-up markets, selling groceries up to seventy percent below market.

In 2016, JPWC made inroads into Wellness Education with the goal to ‘build resiliency into the lives of community members through education.’  The Edmonton Public Library provides basic computer training.  An Art teacher produces art therapy.  Financial institutions come in to provide financial literacy.  They also have a mental health worker, an addictions counselor, grief counseling, and assistance with tax returns (right until the end of October); which is a critical way to lift people out of poverty.

In September 21, 2017, they officially opened the Jasper Place Wellness Centre (celebration picture below), a Medical Centre where they provide primary care to vulnerable populations.  Currently, they have two doctors on staff, and they hope to eventually be a full-time clinic with hours from 9am-9pm, six days a week with five to seven doctors.
JPWC opening

Today, JPWC serves around 800 people every year in West Edmonton.   Murray Soroka says it matters that “we are outside of the core.  Vulnerable people can reside in all parts of our great city.  We need to have supports where the people are.”

Starting with a coalition of caring communities that saw the need and wanted to respond; JPWC has become an incredible hub for help.  They see themselves as a community development organization, and a wellness centre; a place where people can find help with the basic things, get over some big hurtles, and become contributing members in their local community!

Who are the faith communities supporting Jasper Place with time, money, volunteers, hospitality and genuine care?  They are many!  Beulah Alliance, West Edmonton Christian Assembly, Hosanna Lutheran, Trinity United, West End Christian Reformed, Covenant Christian Reformed, Annunciation Catholic, West Meadows Baptist, Jasper Place Baptist, Gospel Centre, and many more.

Other partners:  Edmonton Public Library, City of Edmonton, Edmonton West Primary Care Network, Parent Link, Bissell Centre, and Homeward Trust

Look what’s possible when we work together!

To further explore Jasper Place Wellness Centre, please visit: http://www.jpwc.ca 

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The Plan to End Homelessness: Unpacking the Second Goal of the New Update

They called it the ‘Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.’  At the beginning, leaders in the city of Edmonton knew this was an unachievable goal, but they stuck with the title.  Why?  Because they believed it was better to aim for success than to begin by measuring our failure.

Eight years in, much good work has been accomplished, and ‘no, we are not on target to succeed in ten years.‘  The work has always been long-term, but to do it well, it is good for us to continue to aim for success; to continually evaluate what we are doing and why; making our efforts better, stronger and more effective.  It is also critical to stay focused on the larger picture, which must include prevention.

The report, A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention describes it well with the following infographic:
thistothis
Access the report at the following link: http:// www.homelesshub.ca/anewdirection

Last month we reflected on the first goal to End Chronic Homelessness; most of the solutions there focused on providing Accommodation and Supports.  In October and November, we examine the second and third goals.  The second goal targets the work of prevention.

Unpacking the Second Goal: Prevent Future Homelessness

The new update sets the following targets:

In 2019, people will be diverted from entering the homeless-serving system with an immediate link to community-based prevention supports within five days wherever possible and appropriate
By 2018, corrections, health, and child intervention will report on the number of people discharged into homelessness from public systems on a biennial basis at minimum.  Based on figures reported, annual targets will be introduced to achieve zero discharge into homelessness by 2023.

Update second goal
Enhancing homelessness prevention and diversion.
A key to prevention is catching people before they either lose their housing, or slide into homelessness for any length of time.  The plan update aims to fill that need by strengthening the ability of Coordinated Access to stabilize people’s housing situations, prevent evictions, and enhance crisis supports so people don’t end up at shelters or in Emergency rooms.

They aim to provide supported referrals that will make flexible housing funds available to agencies that are already providing support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  the report says, “a total of 750 individuals will receive supports from these two programs annually when fully implemented.”

Additional proposed measures to prevent homelessness include working with the Government of Alberta, City of Edmonton, and EndPoverty Edmonton to encourage increases to affordable housing stock and portable rent supplements.

Stronger supports and resources for Indigenous communities.
The report highlights: “In 2015, 54% of clients in Housing First programs were Indigenous. Indigenous-led and delivered services that provide access to Elders, and healing and wellness practitioners as part of supports, will continue to be a priority across the homeless-serving system. Morning Fire Protector has a cultural support worker to connect residents with cultural and ceremonial teachings, as well as engaging with Elders. Bent Arrow’s Indigenous Housing First team ensures that cultural supports are available to the participants they serve, and they coordinate and provide access to supports for other teams in the community.”

These are very needed resources in the indigenous communities, and certainly these resources are critical to the community at large as well, so the plan update calls for increased access to increased support resources in mental health, addiction, trauma and wellness services.

Public Education and Awareness
The Plan update recognizes the need for a social marketing campaign, as a way for people and communities to understand the impacts of poverty and unstable housing on people and families, so that they are better prepared to participate in solutions even on a local level.

The report states: “Edmontonians consider ending homelessness an important priority; many are engaged as volunteers, advocates, and donors. While this has been critical to our success, we know that ongoing public education and awareness about homelessness will help challenge myths and opposition to proposed Plan efforts, particularly in the location of new affordable and permanent supportive housing. We will continue to develop targeted and ongoing public marketing campaigns working with the media, business sector, faith community, volunteers, and Indigenous leaders to enhance public understanding about homelessness and challenge reactive approaches to this complex social issue.”

Staff and steering committee members from CRIHI have been in conversation with the City of Edmonton and other partners about the need for this for some time now, and are eager to assist in this important effort.  CRIHI’s efforts at public education via our regional workshops are mentioned in the report.

Homelessness numbers

Areas of possible engagement for faith communities:
1. Connect with local social workers or service providers, and offer to provide a fund to help them intervene before individuals or families are evicted.  Have a conversation.  Build trust and understanding, and find opportunities together.
2. Make room for supportive relationships to grow.  Consider hosting mental health, or grief and trauma workshops, or Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous circles.  Host parenting or marriage support groups.
3. November is Housing Month.  Watch for news and educational efforts on housing by CRIHI and other partners.  Read.  Share.  Talk about it.  Invite CRIHI to visit your faith community to learn about the need and how we can respond.  Website still being updated for 2017: housingmonth.ca
4. Creating more affordable housing will help prevent people and families from falling into crisis. If you or your faith community has access to land, consider working with non-profit developers to build or incorporate affordable housing.
5.  If you are a landlord, consider connecting with housing providers.  Talk with them about possible ways you could make room for to someone who needs help affording a home.

Access the full plan update report at the following link:

https://interfaithhousinginitiative.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/edmonton-update-plan-july-2017-full-booklet-web.pdf

 

 

CRIHI’s Presentation to City Council Executive, September 5, 2017

Greetings from the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative.  It is a pleasure to be here with you in declaring our firm support for this recent update to Edmonton’s plan to end homelessness.

The Interfaith Housing Initiative began eight years ago as Edmonton began this work with A Place to Call Home; the ten year plan.  As you, the city committed to this task, faith communities also stood up to say, ‘This is important to us too!  How can we help?

We are Roman Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarians, Anglicans, United Church, Christian Reformed, Zoroastrian, Evangelical, Lutherans, Jewish and Hindu… [we could go on for a while]. We were here in year one, and at year eight, we are still here continuing to work beside you, because there are many things we do not agree on, but we do all agree on the need to love our neighbour, and to care for our neighbour.  At a stakeholder luncheon hosted by Archbishop Richard Smith last week, he spoke to the group; noting that after eight years, it is clear that the work is not done and neither are we.

So we stand here today in support of this update to the plan.  It is absolutely critical that we together find the heart, the resources, and the courage to pursue a wise and compassionate response, and see it done well.

Let me highlight a few things in the update that resonate deeply with what we see.  Early on, we recognized a need showing up in the Housing First approach.  One of the biggest reasons people were failing in the program was loneliness.  They had a home and were getting help and supports to recover from addictions and trauma, or overcome mental illnesses; like trying to claw their way up a mountain, and in many cases, they felt like they were doing it alone.  So we helped develop a program called Welcome Home that matched a few volunteers to come alongside sincerely as a friend; to go for coffee or a long walk, to make that phone call just to check in, to commit to being in regular contact and support for at least a year.  And we are happy to say that this program continues to be very meaningful for both participant and volunteer; with many friendships going well past that one year!

But then their time with Housing First might run out, and without the continuing supports our friend was back on the street.  Needless to say, it was very discouraging for everyone involved!  So we, along with many others raised our concerns…  and we are happy to see that the new update hears and answers them; identifying the need for greater Permanent Intensive Case Management  Resources, and its strong emphasis on filling the paralyzing gap in Permanent Supportive Housing. These long-term helps and supports are critical for people who have been battling numerous complex and chronic barriers.  And we have seen how places like Ambrose Place and Grand Manor and other PSH facilities provide real places of real hope and healing for our most vulnerable.

And on that front, we continue to work hard with you.  Finding new land and welcoming communities as home for all this Permanent Supportive Housing is very difficult and complex work.  We are bringing the challenge of finding land to faith communities, and some are answering that call.  We have been hosting workshops in communities around the city, helping local neighbourhoods generate wisdom on what a healthy response to new neighbours and new units of affordable housing look like.  We want you to know that there are many very reasonable and constructive communities out there, and they have a lot of great wisdom and insight to bring to the table.  And most recently, we have embarked on a partnership with End Poverty Edmonton, and possibly Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues to develop effective community consultation resources to aid developers and local neighbourhoods in sitting down together.

People of Faith have been at this a long time, and we want you to know we are still here and ready to go another round.  Let’s get this right together.

Presentation by CRIHI Housing Ambassador, Pastor Mike Van Boom

Edmonton Stats and Forms of Homelessness

What numbers are we working with currently on Homelessness?  Here’s a breakdown from Edmonton’s 2017 Plan update:

Homelessness numbers

These numbers from Edmonton’s 2017 Plan Update.  Full report and summary available in the links below:

2017 Edmonton’s Updated Plan Executive Summary June 2017

2017 Edmonton’s Updated Plan Full Report June 2017

 

 

Ministry Profile: Islamic Family and Social Services Association

Here in Edmonton, numerous Islamic communities work together to respond to the needs experienced within the Muslim community and beyond.  How do they do that?  IFSSA!

As with so many non-profit ventures, it all started when a few members of a community got together to help meet a need.  At the beginning that need became obvious as low-income Muslim families struggled to gain access to healthy and halal food.  So an uncle in the community opened up his basement and they began a food pantry and hampers to help people out.  And of course, it grew from there.  Starting in the early nineties in a basement, today they have three different facilities around Edmonton and 22 paid staff.

For the last several years, IFSSA has had three main areas of work. 

  1. Meeting essential needs like food and clothing.  Last year, the Muslim community through IFSSA assisted more than 7000 families and distributed more than 640,000 pounds of food.
  2. Emergency Rent help and financial counseling.  Last year, IFSSA was able to provide more than $100,000 in emergency rent help to families in danger of losing their home.  This assistance can prevent a family from experiencing a deeper crisis, and it provides the opportunity for IFSSA workers to help a family consider how they might improve their financial situation.
  3. Fostering Healthy Families. “The Fostering Healthy Families program provides direct support services to family members and individuals affected by family violence in the immigrant community. IFSSA is committed to helping keep families together and free from abuse. Also to guide those that have been affected by violence in the family to heal, regain control and to feel safe in having a place to come to for help.  A Muslim female provisional psychologist provides counselling services in the areas of trauma, self-esteem, marital discord, family mediation, depression and healthy relationships. The services are offered in a sensitive and knowledgeable manner with an understanding of cultural and Islamic aspects.”  (http://www.ifssa.ca/services)
Alongside these three main areas, IFSSA also works with partners like the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and Catholic Social Services to help new immigrants to Canada find their feet and integrate well in Canadian Society.  They have been working with youth for many years through a program they call The Green Room; which seeks to create an “open space for youth to foster meaningful connections, grow, and serve the community, rooted in Islam and relevant to time and place.”

In the last few years, IFSSA has also identified affordable housing for large families as an area of high need, and has begun a partnership with Right at Home Housing Society to help create homes for low-income families.  They hope to see some new units built in the next few years.

What fuels the heart of a ministry like IFSSA?
1The Islamic teaching of Zakat, one of the five pillars.  It reminds all Muslims of their responsibility to care for their neighbours.  Muslims from various communities see supporting the work of IFSSA as a way to obey this core teaching of their faith.

They are also fueled by a sense of identity grounded in the Quran.  Omar Yaqub, chair of IFSSA’s board describes their brand identity as embodied by the phrase “Created to Serve.”   He says, “It is a proper representation of our principles, a reminder of God’s verse within the Quran (3:110), You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men.” The phrase speaks to many dimensions. IFSSA is here to serve people both directly, and secondly, we as people, volunteers or staff with IFSSA were created with the purpose to serve others.  Serving others is spoken of within the Quran as medicine, and it speaks to the need within; an inner void that is filled through helping others.”

Here’s a glimpse into some of the work they do:  Amina’s story!
Amina* approached IFSSA in distress after having experienced physical, emotional and financial abuse from her husband. She was in need of intense emotional support, as well as assistance in understanding the lasting effects the trauma has had on her physical and mental health. She was assigned an outreach worker who began to meet with her regularly to begin the healing process. Amina received professional counselling and was also directed to additional social supports, such as legal assistance. After three years of ongoing support from IFSSA, Amina has now taken ownership of her life.
She is still reliant on social assistance but has found it insufficient for her and her children. After being denied eight times for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) status, our staff intervened on her behalf through her local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). After this, she was finally approved on her ninth attempt!
Through it all, Amina’s resilience, patience, and courage has been remarkable to everyone who has worked with her.
*The name of this client has been altered to ensure her privacy

To learn more about IFSSA, visit them on their website:  www.ifssa.ca

Keys to Engaging People Sleeping ‘Rough’

From visit to visit, outreach workers want to build a relationship with people living rough. Through building a relationship you get to know the people and what they require.

A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness lays out a variety of goals and action plans with the aim of ending and preventing homelessness in the City of Edmonton.

The first goal of the Plan is, End Chronic and Episodic Homelessness.  The actions to achieve this goal are listed below:
1. Enhance the focus of crisis response services and facilities on permanent housing outcomes
2. Continue to evolve Housing First Programs for Maximum Impact
3. Develop permanent supportive housing and affordable housing across all neighbourhoods

The targets set to achieve the goal of ending chronic and episodic homelessness involve having all rough sleepers engaged through Coordinated Access and assertive outreach by 2018. The Plan also makes the following target: by 2020, no one staying in a shelter or sleeping rough will experience chronic homelessness (Homeward Trust, 2017). The purpose of this article is to determine how these two targets focusing on rough sleepers can become a reality by speaking with those who engage with this population on a daily basis.

2016 Homeless Count

According to the 2016 Homeless Count coordinated by Homeward Trust, out of the 1,753 individuals counted as experiencing homelessness, a total of 187 were classified as unsheltered. Out of these, 97 people were recorded as living in a makeshift shelter, 12 people in a vehicle, and 11 in another unsheltered location unfit for human habitation (Homeward Trust Edmonton, 2016).

Boyle Street Community Services

Outreach Services

Boyle Street Community Services’ outreach workers actively seek out vulnerable Edmontonians who may not have access to the programs. Outreach workers strive to find people in need, being those living in parks or on the street to help connect them to needed resources and supports. The organization provides basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, and medical support.

The outreach services include downtown outreach that links those living rough with programs. In addition, there is a city-wide outreach team that works with businesses, faith communities, and many others to help homeless individuals find affordable and adequate housing. In addition, the organization has a winter warming bus that runs from November to May. It is stocked with blankets and soup and actively seeks out the homeless in the City of Edmonton to provide crucial support during the winter months (Boyle Street Community Services, n.d.).

In 2016, Executive Director Julian Daly explained how his organization’s street outreach team worked with over 800 individuals sleeping outside in the river valley and city parks. Daly and colleagues have seen an increase of 43% of individuals camping in the river valley. Similarly, the number of people who use Boyle Street as their mailing address because they do not have a fixed address and are likely homeless has increased from 1,600 in 2015 to 2,220 in 2016 (Boyle Street Community Services, 2016).

How to reach rough sleepers in Edmonton.

An interview was conducted on August 23, 2017 with Doug Cooke, the Team Lead for Street Outreach at Boyle Street Community Services

Question 1: What is a rough sleeper?
“A rough sleeper is a homeless individual who sleeps outside, under tarps or tents, or those who make some form of shelter out of whatever materials they can find.”

Question 2: How does Boyle Street Community Services engage with rough sleepers?
“Street outreach workers make sure the people are in good shape, that they are not under medical distress and they are not experiencing any form of crisis at that moment. From visit to visit, outreach workers want to build a relationship with people living rough. Through building a relationship you get to know the people and what they require. After the first introduction, you may get a first name. When you start assisting someone, you can get them into medical appointments or getting them onto income support or introducing them into a housing program. The first goal is building a relationship and building trust.”

Question 3) What needs to be improved upon for the targets related to rough sleepers to be achieved?
“First having more outreach workers doing their job. It is also more about the accessibility of places to put people. There is a great push of getting people out of shelters and the river valley, but a lot of those people often have higher needs that will require some assistance with living, like someone checking in on them regularly to ensure they are keeping their apartments clean. There needs to be more funding for more apartments and programs that offer assistance and support beyond getting them a place to stay, but also ensuring they know how to take care of themselves, some people need this follow up support. Funding for affordable and supportive housing is lacking in addition to programs that help those who are living rough with mental health issues.”

Conclusion

For the targets outlined above to be achieved, there must be more directed funding into affordable and supportive housing models that will assist those previously sleeping rough to maintain their housing and to live independently. Ensuring that the most vulnerable Edmontonians do not experience chronic homelessness involves relationship building and forming connections based on respect, compassion, and patience. Funding for affordable and supportive housing needs to be improved upon to support more assisted living situations for those with more complex needs who require daily support.  ESPC logo

By Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator
Edmonton Social Planning Council


Works Cited:
Boyle Street Community Services. (n.d). Outreach. Retrieved from http://boylestreet.org/we-can-help/adult-services/outreach/

Boyle Street Community Services. (2016). Executive Director Julian Daly Guest Editorial (Edmonton Journal). Retrieved from http://boylestreet.org/executive-director-julian-daly-guest-editorial-edmonton-journal/

Homeward Trust Edmonton. (2016). 2016 Edmonton Point in Time Homeless Count Report. Retrieved from http://homewardtrust.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2016-Edmonton-Homeless-Count-Final-Report.pdf

Homeward Trust Edmonton. (2017). A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Retrieved from http://endhomelessnessyeg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Edmonton-Full-Booklet-web.pdf

Homeless & Wealth; from one Hindu Perspective

I quote a few passages below that may help you in understanding how the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi and Karma links to homelessness and wealth. 

The concept of Karma indicates that what one does, whether positive or negative, will impact us in our current lifetime or in our next lifetime.

“The Goddess Lakshmi means good luck to Hindus. The word ‘Lakshmi’ means ‘aim’ or ‘goal’, and she is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual.  Pursuing wealth is one of the four aims of a Hindu’s life as long as it does not dominate a person’s life.  Possessing and earning wealth is not restricted but there is only one restriction that the scriptures put on this activity and that is the wealth must be earned in a righteous way.

Within Hinduism, wealth is regarded as a beneficial and positive value, just like love and morality.  Still, especially for those engaged in commerce, generosity and hospitality were also highly regarded.  Traditionally, these are not only private values.  Among the roles of the state, embodied in the office of the king, was the social mandate to feed the poor and support religious institutions.  Today Hindu temples continue to promote charitable and community activities.

Hindus are expected to give away the wealth they do not need.  Distributing wealth means that a person is doing good karma and thereby securing a better next life.  As a person grows older… they need their wealth less and less.  Hinduism is not only a religion but ‘a way of life’. Two of the most widely read scriptures namely ‘The Ramayana’ & ‘The Mahabharata’ vividly describes the acts of compassion and justice.  Hindu’s are expected to live according to the values enshrined in the scriptures and practice compassion and justice in the course of their lives.

~compiled by Hasha Sasitharan

The Plan to end homelessness: Unpacking the first goal of the new update

We are eight years in on the ten-year plan.  “It’s time to look under the hood and see how we’re doing,” to use the words of Jay Freeman.  Certainly, we have some things to be happy about. The Housing First program has been very successful, and has given over 6,000 people a home, and in many cases some solid supports as well.

But the work is certainly not done, and there are a few areas identified as needing a lot more work.   That work is identified in the new update to the plan.  For the next few months, we at the Interfaith Housing Initiative will be walking through some of the key learnings and goals set so that we can better understand where we as a whole city need to focus more of our energies as our work continues.

UNPACKING THE FIRST GOAL


update goal one


Creating an effective network of helps, supports, services, and housing options is a tricky business.  In the new update to the plan we see an intensive push to give people more permanency in their supports and housing situations.  One area of concern that CRIHI, Welcome Home volunteers, and other partners expressed with the plan thus far was that people would often finish out a period of housing support in the Housing First program and then end up back on the street.  This was really discouraging for both the people losing their housing and those walking with them.  A major reason identified for this loss is a lack of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), and longer term supports.

As you can see in the chart below, the plan recommends strengthening Permanent Intensive Case Management (PICM) resources to provide better support to people long term, and to greatly increase our supply of PSH.


Update chart change in emphasis


One of the biggest shortfalls in the plan so far has been that while the original plan called for 1,000 units of Permanent Supportive Housing, only 200 were actually built.  PSH is fairly expensive to develop and run and requires major Capital investments, as you can see by the costs associated below.  But it is still cheaper than the cost of providing emergency responses to people living on the street, and it provides real and effective help for people with numerous complex barriers!


update chart cost of psh

Concluding Summary: a lack of both Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Permanent Intensive Case Management (PICM) resources is credited with causing shortfalls in the overall response system.  A person may be very successful and making progress, but if their supports are not permanent and come to an end, they often fall back very quickly into the same place of crisis.  So CRIHI applauds efforts to fill these gaps in our housing response.

Three keys to success in meeting these goals, and how faith communities might help: 

ONE: Committed Funding and Consistent political backing.  Stable operational dollars are needed to maintain supports, and Capital funding is needed to create new units of Permanent Supportive Housing.  Currently, appeals are being made to all levels of government to pitch in.  But people of faith can ensure our leaders know that finding meaningful helps and solutions to homelessness is important to us.  When you run into your City Councillor, MLA or MP, broach the topic of poverty and affordable housing.  Can Faith Communities and other community partners play a significant role in this fundraising?  CRIHI’s Advocacy committee is talking about how we might help collaborate for that opportunity.  Curious to explore that with us?  Drop Mike an email at mike@interfaithhousing.ca

TWO: Finding available land in communities all over Edmonton.  This is complicated work.  There are many factors to consider when finding land, including access to local community resources and transportation, and if that land is expensive, creating housing that will be affordable is more difficult.  Faith communities sometimes have parcels of land, and have offered that as a contribution to the development of affordable housing. Westmount Presbyterian Church provides an excellent example of this.  Read full story here:
https://interfaithhousinginitiative.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/the-westmount-presbyterian-story/

THREE: Gaining support and a welcome from the local community.  This too is complex work.  A key to success is a healthy consultation process.   This is a need identified both by CRIHI and End Poverty Edmonton, and our two organizations are beginning work together on some great resources to aid both the community and developers in sitting down together. The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues also sees the need for this, and is willing to share their wisdom and experience, and hopefully some of their volunteers to aid in this task.


Plan Update Reflection by Mike Van Boom, CRIHI Housing Ambassador

Artwork for the plan update (top) was painted by Chipewyan artist Michael Fatt, and features the Cree word for home, ‘wikiwin.’

Ministry Profile: St. Patrick’s Anglican Church

Several years ago, St. Patrick’s Anglican Church began exploring a way to minister to their community.  Today, they’re doing it!  Come join us as we learn from their story.

In 2014, the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton began a campaign called REACH targeted to encouraging and supporting mission and outreach efforts in their parishes.  The campaign raised funds targeted intentionally for “mission and not maintenance.”  It also asked two main questions of every church community:

  1. How can we meet local needs?
  2. How can we be better agents of the gospel?

The St. Patrick’s community in Mill Woods took these questions seriously, and began exploring some meaningful answers:  Their first movement was to host a foodbank depot, but in a short period of time local needs changed, and they were informed that there was no longer need for an additional depot in Mill Woods.  That forced them back to the dreaming board.

They considered  some of the limitations of their facility and the space.  Their kitchen was not licensed, so any community kitchen or food security initiative was not possible.  They also didn’t have a huge volunteer core during the day to run programming.
Eventually, three possible areas were identified for the parish to explore together:

  1. Partner to offer classes for newcomers for integration and community literacy.
  2. Begin a Kids on Track ministry
  3. Alpha Marriage Course or the Alpha Parenting Children Course with a particular focus around lone parenting.

At a Special Meeting of Parishioners, the congregation chose #1.  According to Rev. Kevin Kraglund, this decision came as something of a surprise to the Parish Corporation (Rector and Wardens)  as they had favoured one of the other options.  “But as we took ownership, it became clear that this was God’s direction for us.”
The congregation chose #1.  According to Rev. Kevin Kraglund, this decision came as something of a surprise to the committee as they had favoured one of the other options.  “But as we took ownership, it became clear that this was God’s direction for us.”  So, in partnership with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, they began the work of helping newcomers to Canada, with an intentional focus to help seniors.

The Church started out by supporting a three month course.  They paid for instructors and provided their space as a home to the program.  Then they looked for opportunities of intersection with the church; sharing the occasional meal, or opportunities for celebration or service.  One joint project was to hand-knit toques and other gifts for the homeless.  St Patrick’s invited newcomers to one of their monthly Leprechaun Lunches, as pictured below.

LeprechaunLunch2Today, they host literacy classes, English language studies, and a program to help with cultural literacy; helping people integrate into Canada.   Part of their program involves field trips, such as a trip to Ft. Edmonton Park, and another to learn how the city does waste management.  They invited City Councillor, Mohinder Banga to come talk about how to engage in Civic Politics, and they have hosted sessions on homelessness and poverty.

They also open up their space on a regular basis to host local job fairs.  They’ve had everyone from PCL to Victoria’s Secret, 7-eleven, Winners, and HomeSense.   They don’t have a huge space, but enough to host two employers at a time for an explanation of opportunities along with initial job interviews.

What’s happening as a result?
Rev. Kraglund tells the story of a frantic knock on the door:  “Pastor, Pastor!  I had an interview here at the job fair, and now I have a second.  Can you pray for me?”  Coming alongside people in journeys of hardship has opened up opportunities for real ministry.  The need for prayer is a strong thread in the work, but so is the need for relationship and for advice. “Let’s go pray together and talk about this.”  It’s a frequent phrase uttered in a space people feel safe to find help and counsel.

The work being done today by St. Patrick’s Anglican Church gives practical expression to their mission  statement:  “Out of our diversity as children of God; we share the love of Jesus Christ and seek our oneness in Christ.”

Their journey as a faith community to meaningful community ministry has had challenges and taken some sacrifice, but they are seeing it bear real fruit in the lives of both they and their neighbours.  And that makes the work very rewarding for everyone!

 

Celebrating Canadianism Together

Moses is standing atop Mt. Sinai, when God asks him where he wants to take the Israelites, where would be their Promised Land.  Moses glances around at the world and picks what he believes to be the best spot imaginable — abundant natural resources, plenty of room, no external security threats.

“Ca-ca-ca,” he begins to respond with his famous stutter.

Anticipating his answer, God quickly interrupts him and says, “Oh, Canaan?”

“I guess so,” thinks Moses, “but actually what I really had in mind was CANADA!!”

July 1st, 2017 is a special day not just for our country of Canada, but for all our faith communities of Canada.  Sometimes, as Canadians, we look at other nations and imagine that we don’t quite match up to their power and stature.  We look south to the US and feel small next to the world’s superpower.  We stare across the pond and view ourselves as a mere satellite of the British Commonwealth.  Who are we as Canadians and what does that mean to us as Jewish Canadians as Christian Canadians as Sikh Canadians as Muslim Canadians and so on?

The Bible relays the events when we find the Children of Israel who have been wandering in the wilderness for forty years.  Truth be told, it wasn’t a bad life.  Their daily bread came from heaven, they were protected by the Clouds of Glory, and their thirst was quenched by the Well of Miriam that accompanied them on their sojourn.  But one day, Miriam dies and the well is no more.  The people are crying out and Moses does not know what to do.  He turns to the Almighty who tells him to speak to the rock and ask it to issue forth water.

And so Moses gathers the Israelites together and begins talking to the rock.  But alas, no matter how many jokes he tells the rock, how much praise he heaps upon it nothing works.  The problem, our sages explain, is that he’s speaking to the wrong rock, because the correct rock was hidden amongst the other rocks!  And so Moses picks up his staff and strikes the rock.  Not once, but twice.

And all of a sudden, water comes gushing forth, in seemingly limitless supply!  The people are elated.  But not God.  He summons Moses and Aaron and informs them that as a consequence of their disobedience, they will not enter the Promised Land.

As far as Diaspora life goes, we are incredibly blessed to be living in a land of promise, in our beloved country of Canada.  Why is this year so spiritually significant?  Because the name says it all.  In the Jewish linguistic tradition, the word Canada may be subdivided into two words – “kan” which is Hebrew for ‘nest’, and “da” which is Yiddish for ‘here’ or Aramaic for ‘this.’  In other words, this here (our country) is a nest.  What does a nest represent?  Comfort.  Protection.  Happiness.  Soaring above the world.  These are all feelings that we as Canadians share.  What’s more, “kan” also happens to equal 150 – now isn’t that something?!

The great Canadian philosopher, John Ralston Saul, calls Canada a Metis nation.  Instead of seeing ourselves as not quite matching up to Great Britain or the United States, we should take pride in being the premier nation in the world to embody the qualities of multiculturalism and respect for our First Nations fellow citizens. And on that note, certainly this year we celebrate 150 years of the confederation of our nation. Nevertheless, we must always remember that our country, our land, has been here for millennia. Today we acknowledge the First Nations who opened their homeland to us and invited us to join them as a nation, and we express our gratitude to them for the treaty land upon which we stand.  150 years ago, we performed the commandment of “shiluach hakain” – we kissed the mother-bird goodbye and established our own independent nest, a nest where birds of a feather flock together.

But unlike our neighbours to the south or across the pond, birds of a feather don’t have to be ‘American’ or ‘British’ first and everything else, second, in some almost-embarrassed way of hiding one’s ethno-religious identity in the privacy of one’s home, whilst melting into some public ‘everyone’s-the-same’ pot.  Not in Canada.  We can be ‘birds of a feather’ while maintaining our unique cultural identities.

That’s what makes Canada great.  Because being Jewish and Canadian or being Sikh and Canadian or Somali and Canadian is part and parcel of the fabric of Canadian society.  Canadianism is multiculturalism at its very best.  Canadianism means being a proud of your belief.  The better the Sikh I am, the better the Canadian I become.   In Canada, we have created the most unique nest in the history of humankind.

And it’s this unparalleled attitude, this special approach to diplomacy and the brotherhood of man that we bring to the world beyond our borders.  We don’t strike the rock.  We speak to the rock.  A great deal of the work of our Canadian Armed Forces is serving as peacekeepers.  We’re there to negotiate international crises, to assist those in insecure regions of the world, to educate, to train, to advocate for the rights of women and children.

Does that mean we never strike the rock?  Of course, it doesn’t.  Sometimes you need to strike.  The problem occurs when one strikes not once, but twice.  Our approach to the use of force is extremely measured, we go to the ends of the earth to avoid the use of excessive force.  Because we realize that sometimes the ones we’re really targeting have gone, just like Moses’ target rock, and hidden themselves amongst innocent, peaceful good populations.  And when those innocents are displaced and see their lives destroyed, through no fault of their own, we do everything in our power to assist them in rebuilding their lives, either in their locales or in our welcoming Canadian arms.

We excel at and revel in this form of soft power, because as a Metis nation, we have immense and profound respect and love for all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed.  Canada also contains the same letters as “nekudah” which means ‘point’.  We, as Canadians, get the point.  And we must never feel in any way inferior to any other nation, au contraire (it would have been remiss of us to omit any French!), we must proudly and boldly express this point to the world!

150 years is an incredible milestone.  We have much to be grateful for.  Today we thank God for our great country and we bless our leaders that they remain eternally committed to the awe-inspiring principles of Canadianism.  May we continue for the next 150 years to be the leading nation in the world!

This speech given by Rabbanit  Batya Friedman on Canada Day July 1, 2017 at Beth Israel Synagogue (as published in the Neighbourly, August 2017)

 

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

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