Edmonton Faith Communities Talk Housing – September 6, 2018

The Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative has invited representatives from all three levels of government, and all political parties to join us on September 6, 2018 as we discuss how to respond together to the current shortage of affordable and supportive housing in Edmonton, and across the country.

At this meeting, many different faith traditions (Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical, Catholic, Anglican, Sikh, Unitarian, Hindu, Lutheran, Christian Reformed, Mennonite, Quaker, Indigenous and numerous other traditions) will stand up together to express their shared concern about a growing challenge impacting friends, family members and neighbours in all our communities: affording a place to call home.

This event will take place at Evangel Pentecostal Assembly from 10am until 1:30pm.

evangel map

Space is limited.  To attend: please register at the following link:  Edmonton Faith Communities Talk Housing


At this event, CRIHI will speak to the following as critical priorities in addressing the current shortage of affordable and supportive housing in Edmonton:

  1. the Portable Housing Benefit. A direct help for the 20,000+ households paying more than 50% of monthly income to rent.
  2. Land, capital, and Long-term support funding for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). PSH has proved itself as direct and effective help for Edmonton’s most vulnerable citizens; providing those with multiple complex needs with appropriate longer-term support and care.
  3. Increased funding for Mobile Support Workers (Ie. Home Care, Housing First support teams)
  4. A vision for the way ahead: Support and encourage Canadian housing providers to shift efforts toward the Netherlands model*.

*Observation: in the Netherlands, housing providers currently house more than sixty percent of the country’s population in sustainable mixed market developments with breakdowns such as: 20% low income; 60% middle income; 20% high income. In these developments, high income housing helps pay for the low income housing to make it a sustainable model for market development. This system required some start up support, but now requires no government funding!


To volunteer for this event (to help with food, hospitality, or audio/visual), or if you are a faith leader willing to speak briefly to the need your community sees in housing, please contact mike@interfaithhousing.ca.

 

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Finding Home in Bonnie Doon; Iris Court’s consultation story

Iris Court’s journey into existence was not an easy one.  Their initial effort to set up in the McCauley community was rebuffed as local neighbours, objecting to an already heavy concentration of services and social housing in their community, took the development to court to stop it.

But lessons were learned from that experience, particularly on the need for open and up-front consultation.  In McCauley, residents learned about the project as the groundbreaking ceremony was being celebrated.  When Iris Court was seeking a home in Bonnie Doon, they chose to proceed very differently.

Rubyann Rice, Executive Director for the Schizophrenia Society describes the excitement they had to find an ideal property available with a 21 suite lodge and convent home to the Sisters of Assumption.  The board quickly came on side to pursue this location, and the nuns received their offer to purchase warmly.  Throughout the process, the nuns were in prayer for their effort to succeed.

On the consultation front, they immediately began connection with the Bonnie Doon Community League to keep them informed of their intentions.  The facility needed rezoning to classify as a group home, and so, as required, they also sent out letters to a two blocks radius.  Councillor Ben Henderson helped greatly with connection and counsel on what was working well and went with them into some conversations.

The Society also worked hard to be transparent with their plans and movements.  Letters of invite to meetings at Iris Court went out to neighbours to two conversations hosted in the dining room.  They asked people to submit questions ahead of time, and to help them host these questions they invited people to speak to the answers.  A psychiatrist (serving on the Society’s board) spoke to the services needed.  They also had one of the clients speak to his journey and challenge.

Rubyann notes that having the client speak helped change the perception.  It illustrated the gap between living in a hospital and in a apartment, and the need for supported living.  In his story, they met someone living with schizophrenia.  The fact that his parents were both doctors illustrated that this can happen to anyone.  But Rubyann highlighted that the client they chose was someone who was strong enough to speak and handle the negative language that they knew might arise.

These conversations were far from easy, and they certainly did face some hostility.  But the society patiently worked through people’s questions, and as people became more informed about schizophrenia and mental illness, and received reasonable answers to their questions, that hostility diminished significantly.

Of continuing help to the relationship with the local community is the presence of a Good Neighbour’s Agreement.  With the help of Cllr Henderson, they framed this document to share their commitment to resolving concerns in the neighbourhood.  They also chose to make it a living document, so it can be altered or updated in the future if needed.  A phone number is posted out front of the building in case people have any concerns.

The whole process took about eight months, but at the end of it no community members came out to speak against the rezoning; even with an invitation.  One community member even said, “We should have housing for vulnerable people in every community.”  And today, the relationship with the local community is very positive, because of the efforts to build relationship and connection.

  1. Last year, the Community league swung by to pick up a few tenants for the Christmas party.
  2. Local churches have also been supportive, with a local Baptist church giving pumpkins every fall.  Some tenants would go to service there.
  3. They also have local neighbours come and volunteer from time to time and drop off donations of books and CDs.

The Schizophrenia Society’s efforts at consultation with the local neighbours were rewarded, and today Iris Court has found a wonderful home in the Bonnie Doon Community.


Article by Mike Van Boom, based on an interview with RubyAnn Rice, Executive Director of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta

See also: PSH Feature: Iris Court; Schizophrenia Society of Alberta

 

PSH Feature: Iris Court; Schizophrenia Society of Alberta

“Imagine a radio playing in your head, and it never shuts off.”

“Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects 300,000 Canadians.    …Interfering with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others, schizophrenia impairs a person’s ability to function to their potential when it is not treated. Unfortunately, no single, simple course of schizophrenia treatment exists.”  Psychosis is a common system of schizophrenia, which is defined as the experience of loss of contact with reality and usually involves hallucinations and delusions.  (Definition from: Schizophrenia Society of Canada)

Unfortunately, some behaviors related to this illness can threaten a person’s ability to keep their apartment or stay housed.  Yelling out loud to nobody…  Acting strangely…  Seeing things that aren’t there…  Delusions and Hallucinations that you act on sometimes.  Most landlords are not in a position to be understanding and/or provide supports.  And without access to adequate supportive housing, many folks with Schizophrenia end up on the street, greatly worsening their situation.

That’s where a place like Iris Court is critically important.  Iris Court provides home to twenty-one tenants diagnosed with this persistent mental illness.  Two staff are on site 24×7 to support tenants and help them retain their housing.  They will help with programming, ensure the safety of residents, and if a person is having a really bad, they have someone to call.

Iris Court is somewhat unique as it is a lodge style Permanent Supportive Housing.  So tenants do not have a private apartment with their own kitchen and living area.  They have a fully furnished bedroom and an ensuite, but everywhere else is shared space.  The on-site kitchen provides three meals a day and snacks.  Food, linen and cleaning supplies are also provided, so all a tenant needs to provide are personal clothing and personal care items.

There are no clinical supports or treatment provided by on-site staff.  If a tenant wants or needs medication supports, they are set up with these by Homecare.

One of the challenges many of the tenants of Iris Court face is that their networks of community, supports and relationships are often more in the City’s core neighbourhoods.  This is particularly true of people finding home there after living on the street.  Some don’t want to live on the south side.  It’s a big change.

However, the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood has proven to be a good place for people to grow and access local community supports.  There is a Pharmacy and a local doctor’s office close by to look after tenant needs.  They also have easy walking access to the local swimming pool, the Library, a Bowling alley, Grocery store, Mall, and Church communities.

Within Iris court, they do much to engage both tenants and their families.  They host a family advisory council to talk about quality of life and what can be improved.  The last Tuesday of every month they also host a multi-tenant meeting, which serves as a place to address concerns, and to generate new ideas.    Out of that grew a social committee, which has helped organize events (with a little staff support), arranged for a Karaoke machine, and did some thinking about pets.   Very soon, they will be getting a dog!


What does success look like? 
Everyone’s story is a little different.
When one tenant came to Iris Court, he was unable to leave the building out of anxiety and fear of people and rejection.  Now he is showing some success.   He is able to go shopping, and take the bus.  He is feeling comfortable in the local community.
Another, tenant wanted to look for a part time job, and found one!
One tenant did so well he moved out.  He got his own place.  Went to school, and has a job!

But Iris Court is not meant to be a transitional home.  It is meant to be home for the long term.

How about drugs and alcohol? 
Several tenants are in recovery, and sobriety is strongly encouraged.  Iris Court is a harm reduction facility, so no one is going to be evicted for coming home drunk.  But staff need to be very considerate of the need of the tenants.  Trueman Macdonald, Director of Housing at Iris Court notes that many are teetering on the edge every day.  If someone is loudly off balance with an addiction, it disrupts a lot of others.

Evictions are not done lightly.
In confronting behaviors of concern, staff usually work on a plan with the tenant to work on the issues.  Macdonald notes that an assault or violent behavior will result in eviction faster.  “Punching a hole in the wall?  Probably not, but it depends on why you did it.  Perhaps you imagined bugs in the wall, or had a voice in your head telling you to do it.” Staff also help tenants who struggle with hoarding or collecting stuff.  In these cases, they do a room visit once a week, with the goal of helping a person learn how to manage their space, as these can be a reason they lose their housing.

As far as other points of success, Trueman Macdonald reports that they have had very little turnover in staff, which is a really good sign.  As well, as part of their licensing as a lodge level facility, Accommodation Standards must be maintained. Guidelines require keeping a daily account of tenants, assessing risk, building maintenance, menu and meal requirements, Macdonald reports that Iris Court has been fully compliant and has been for the last three years.

How are the relationships with local neighbours?  Good!  More on that in the article,  Finding Home in Bonnie Doon; Iris Court’s Consultation Story


Profile by Mike Van Boom, based on an interview with Trueman Macdonald, Director of Housing at Iris Court.

Interfaith Habitat Works 2018; the Wrap-Up Party!

On May 31, 2018 CRIHI members gathered at Habitat for Humanity’s Carter Place build to celebrate the work Interfaith volunteers were able to accomplish this year.

Here are the rough numbers:

OVER 300 Volunteers; 48 lunches served!

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to do this work together!  Here are some of our celebratory faces from the Wrap Up Party:

Here are a few of the names and faces above:  We heard faith community representatives from Muslim, Jewish, Sai Baba Centre, Ismaili, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Christian Reformed, Quaker, and Anglican.

CRIHI was pleased to welcome five dignitaries to this event:
Dolores Peterson, Habitat for Humanity Board
City Councillor Mike Nickel, Millwoods
David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-Centre
Denise Woollard, MLA for Edmonton-Mill Creek
Hon. Richard Feehan, MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and Minister of Indigenous Relations

Of special mention is CRIHI’s own Fraser Williamson, who we honoured for his tireless efforts the last seven years as coordinator for this Interfaith Habitat Works project.  Fraser, we cannot thank you enough for all your work to make this project so successful!


PSH Feature: Balwin Place

Supportive Housing for Heavy Users of Service


In April of 2018, Edmonton celebrated the grand opening of a new place of home and healing for twenty-five of her most vulnerable citizens.  First opening its doors to new tenants in late 2017, Balwin Place is an example of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), which marries stable housing to staffing and supports designed to help people battling multiple complex needs and challenges.

For many of these folks, life on the street is all that they can look forward to, with many losing years of their life there.  Living in a perpetual state of crisis is very hard on a person, with enormous health consequences physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It is a life of constantly being under threat:

  1. Threats from the weather, with the cold and damp causing illness or loss of life and limb
  2. Threats from physical violence, with few places of safety available
  3. Threats mental and emotional, with even a relatively brief experience of life on the street causing trauma that can take a long time to recover from.
Richard Sanders, PSH program manager at Balwin Place (with George Spady Society) says there are some of those who don’t want homes, and choose to live rough.   For some of these folks abuse and trauma has so impacted them, that they don’t want it.  As one gentleman once told him: “I don’t need four walls around me because I don’t need to be in Jail.”  But many others find themselves cast adrift, living life on the street because they have no place to go.  For some, the struggle is so intense that they find themselves losing years of their life to the street, becoming what some categorize as heavy users of service; with frequent encounters with the police, numerous hospital stays and a steady use of other emergency services.

Who is finding home at Balwin Place? 
Every story is different.  Some folks were in treatment at Alberta Hospital, but then were released back into the community without any supports or plan; and they fell down long and hard. Some had a more gradual fall, surfing on the couches of family and friends while battling addictions, and exhausting important relationships.  Some are there as part of the lasting legacy of residential schools.  Others fell hard after a major life trauma, and were simply not able to recover.

One of the first folks to find home at Balwin Place was Ryan Arcand, whose story went viral around the world for his gifts of playing the piano.  Along with stable housing, Ryan was receiving help on a number of fronts including Balwin’s Managed Alcohol Program.  Sadly, Ryan died recently after only a few months of finding home at Balwin Place, which was a very hard loss for the community there.   But they were thankful he was able to die in a place of dignity.  The rooftop garden area was given his name as a memorial.

How does Balwin Place work?
Homeward Trust owns the building.  George Spady is the operator, overseeing staff and working with the assistance of Alberta Health Services to provide appropriate supports.  Balwin Place is a harm reduction facility, which means that people are allowed to continue to use drugs or alcohol without losing their housing.  Instead, a stable and supportive environment enables people to get stronger and healther, and that will sometimes result in strength and will to break with their addictions.

Safety is a critical priority at Balwin Place.  Cameras and sensors are used to monitor the facility, and staff are on site around the clock to guard the safety of the residents, which includes help with guest management.  Natural supports like visits from family and friends are encouraged, but the rule is they can’t stay or live at Balwin.   Having staff on site also helps guard residents from gangs and other criminal activity.

Balwin Place employs two case managers to work with the tenants.  They also receive visits from a psych nurse, an occupational therapist, recreational therapist, support worker, and on site healthcare from a licensed practical nurse and two health care aides.   They also receive support from a crisis worker from the George Spady mobile support team.

Rent is calculated at 20% below market housing.  Currently that is $865 per month which covers rent, cable, internet, TV, and a partially furnished one bedroom apartment.  This still leaves a few hundred for the resident to live on, but of course, that’s a very tight budget.

How does Change Happen?
Sanders observes that most residents are not used to having the supports or people to coach them.  On streets you are in survival mode.  Every month when paycheques hit the streets, it’s ‘Mardi Gras.’   People with addictions like gambling, alcohol, or drugs often spend what they get on a binge.  The self-talk leading up to payday is usually more hopeful, with many folks saying ‘This month, it’s going to be different.  I’m going to get me a place!  I have a plan.’  Then the paycheque hits the ground, and they fall down again.  Part of the reason they fail again and again is that they don’t have the means and support to follow through.

What helps the resident make a change is having people help them out.  The different support staff at Balwin are involved everyday, teaching life skills and living skills.  Hands-on coaching and learning in how to wash dishes, do laundry, cook, get groceries, and make budgets and keep their plans.  Sanders notes that most people know what they need to do, but they need people to believe in them and encourage them, and help them get up when they fall.

Patience is critical to this effort.  Some people have been in crisis for many years, with a lot of damage done.  Healing and change is also likely to take years.  The philosophy of harm reduction that undergirds the facility gives permission for that incremental change to take place; for the small steps forward, and the frequent failures that may also punctuate someone’s story.  Many of the residents have behaviors that get in the way.  Sanders observes, ‘Trauma, life history all play a role in behaviors.’  Some residents have poor boundaries or impulse control, and will push buttons to test the commitment of staff.  But for many of the residents at Balwin, this is their last stop.  Without a strong level of commitment and patience from staff, a resident could be too easily cut loose, ending up back on the street.  Staff are reluctant to remove someone from the program if they have nowhere else to go.  Instead, they pursue a restorative model that includes strategies of behavior modification; to try and make things work.

One way that staff model that patience is by banning the word ‘eviction’ from their vocabulary.  No one receives an eviction notice.  Instead a person would receive a conversation letter.  Whenever challenging behaviors erupt from a resident, whether its physical or verbal aggression, staff call that resident to a conversation.  They talk through what is happening, and look together at what they (staff and resident) can do to make this work; knowing that if they can’t sort it out, then the street is often the only option available.  That conversation can help both staff and resident make a plan for how they can change their behaviors; allowing them to stay on board.

Below:  At the Balwin Place Grand opening, April 17, 2018


balwin-place-opening-april-17-18


Managing Money, Food, Alcohol  
Balwin’s case managers sit down with their different clients and help them make a budget and a plan.  It’s complex work, of course.  Budgets are tight.  Some residents have trustees to help manage their funds.  Some have volunteers go with them to buy their monthly amount of alcohol.  And sometimes help is given with grocery shopping to help people make those decisions early on, before the money is gone.  When you do that kind of work with folks you can have some of those conversations, such as:  “Okay, you only have $120 left…  But you have your rent paid, and food, and when your family comes to visit, you can make something for them.  Looks like you won’t be able to use as much this month.”   It’s an opportunity to (in gentle ways) reinforce the good decisions.

How about relationship with the local community?
Sanders says the neighbours have been pretty amicable and laid back.  They did a tour and held a Q&A with local community folks in March of 2018, where they were able to talk through people’s questions.  They have had some neat expressions of support.  Balwin Community League organized a movie night to collect non-perishable food items to help out residents.  St. Francis of Assisi School is nearby, and helps arrange for food hampers.

Sometimes the police do need to come, or the ambulance.  Sanders says that people can be quick to judge, asking, ‘What’s the point of having a place like this if these things continue to happen?’  But once people come and hear what happened, they are more understanding.

As far as giving back to the community, Sanders says that Balwin place is still new, and settling in to roles and responsibilities.  Some residents are making their way around and finding ways to give back; like helping with clean sweep.  But a lot of folks are still in a lot of distress and aren’t able to give back much yet.

Does it work? 
If there can be two observations drawn, they are as follows:

  1. The work of healing and change takes time, with a lot of small changes.  Sanders says, the harm reduction philosophy allows for incremental changes (small steps) that are significant.  When change happens in small ways, residents don’t even see it all the time.  But when the staff show them some of the changes that are take place, it is exciting for them.
  2. It takes a community to support this change.  There is the community of organizations and funders that make a place like Balwin Place possible.  And there is the community of people who are willing to provide support and community in ways large and small.
    • Serving as a trustee
    • Taking someone out for coffee or to get groceries or alcohol
    • People to collect and distribute food donations.
    • Simple responses of compassion and understanding.

Permanent supportive housing is an evidence-based intervention that links permanent, affordable housing with flexible, voluntary support services to assist with housing retention and independent living. Susan McGee, CEO of Homeward Trust says that with 900 units of Permanent Supportive Housing needed in the Edmonton area, Balwin Place is a welcome addition to the city. “Increasing Permanent Supportive Housing spaces in neighbourhoods across the city is an urgent priority under Edmonton’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”

 

May Action Highlight: Storytelling!

In all of CRIHI’s publications and resources, we tell stories.  Stories give us new ideas and inspiration.  They help us see what’s possible.  And some of the best stories we have told are those of faith communities in action.

If you tune in to the Neighbourly, or have explored our website you have almost certainly seen, heard and hopefully been inspired by what different faith groups are doing.

Stories of hospitality and compassion; of generosity and sacrifice; of food shared, homes built, programs run, and relationships forged.

Guess what?  We as faith communities have many more stories and ideas to share.  CRIHI continues to offer the use of our website and the Neighbourly to serve as a story hub for the Interfaith Community, and we hope you will take advantage of it!


Tell us what your church, temple, synagogue, mosque or gurdwara is doing, trying, and learning in your community.  Write it up yourself, or invite us to come and see.  We can do an interview, take a few pictures and write it up so that others can learn from what is happening in your community.  We will share your story in our monthly newsletter, the Neighbourly, and on our website and facebook.

And of course, if you’d like to read some of the stories we’ve already shared, we feature several of them on our website at the following link:
https://wp.me/P20ewB-F4

Nothing inspires or shapes people like a story.  Let us tell yours!
email: mike@interfaithhousing.ca

Efforts to Aid Heavy users of Service Paying Off!

The following research highlights are from the 2017 report entitled: HEAVY USERS OF SERVICE SOCIAL RETURN ON INVESTMENT (SROI) ANALYSIS


The Heavy Users of Services (HUoS) project was launched in 2013 as a partnership consisting of 16 groups including health and social service providers, first responders, justice services, Indigenous-focused organizations, and government representatives. The initiative was developed as a response to community members who are highly vulnerable, cycle through the systems, and repeatedly “fall through the cracks”. By establishing an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and consent forms, agencies were able to share information across sectors, facilitating more comprehensive and holistic service delivery.

Since its implementation in late 2013, HUoS has supported a total of 27 individuals that are characterized as being:
▪ Edmonton’s most frequent users of health, justice, and social services
▪ often involved in social disorder incidents as both victims and offenders
▪ extremely vulnerable human beings with complex needs
▪ disproportionately Indigenous and experiencing the intergenerational impact of residential schools, colonization and loss of traditional family support networks
▪ often living with the long-term and irreversible impact of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
▪ mired by a range of mental and physical health issues, addictions, and homelessness
▪ people who have experienced deeply traumatic life events
▪ people for whom systemic barriers and gaps prevent or reduce access to supports, treatment, and programming.

The project worked to coordinate efforts from numerous angles, including better communication, provision of housing and supports, and committed case management resources.


The project team was able to track some measurable success as can be seen in the graphic below:

The Project team was also able to quantify the return on investment, with demonstrated cost savings to the system, along with measurable improvements in the lives of clients.

IN SUMMARY:  This report reinforces previous findings that were prevalent in the launch of the ten year plan.  It highlights the quantifiable data that says not only are tools such as coordinated support services and provision of housing cheaper than services that just keeping someone alive on the street, they also work to measurably improve a person’s quality of life!


Access the full report at:  HUoS report 2017; Civitas Consulting

Learning from Good Consultation

Mayor Don Iveson called the Westmount development a ’10 out of 10!’ Not just for the quality of the affordable housing project, but for the work done engaging with the local community ahead of time.

Come join with other developers, community leaders, and faith representatives as we learn from one of the brightest examples of community consultation done well here in Edmonton: the process developed by both community leaders and the Right at Home Housing Society in North Glenora as part of the recent redevelopment of land owned by Westmount Presbyterian Church


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

  • ARCA Banquet Facility; 14525 127 Street Northwest; Edmonton, AB T6V 0B3
  • Doors open at 6:00pm with a light supper beginning at 6:30pm ;
  • event concludes at 8:30pm
  • We have space and food for fifty participants, so a timely rsvp is encouraged.

Agenda features the following:

Keynote address by Andrew Gregory

Andrew is the community member who chaired the committee overseeing the process used to guide the consultation with the North Glenora community.

Panel discussion with Q&A to follow

Featuring: Cam McDonald (Right at Home Housing Society), Andrew Gregory, Les Young (Westmount Presbyterian Church), and Ryan Young (Past President, North Glenora Community League)

Following the panel discussion, organizers will discuss a consultation resource development project being initialized with grant funding from the Edmonton Community Foundation.

Faith Communities interested in exploring redeveloping of their land are also encouraged to attend, both to learn and to network with others exploring a similar journey.

Please RSVP for this event at the following link: RSVP – Learning from Good Consultation


CRIHI thanks the following partners in hosting and promoting this event:  Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, Al Rashid Mosque, Right at Home Housing Society, and Edmonton Community Foundation. 

Cheering on the work underway

A second reflection; As shared by Rabbanit Batya Ivry-Friedman at the Interfaith Work and Pray gathering at City Hall on March 27, 2018.

Right now, we see a lot of good work underway, and much to celebrate.  Of course we have a ways to go.  When the ten year plan to end homelessness came forward nine years ago, it identified a strong need for permanent supportive housing.  Functioning much like seniors assisted living facilities, these places assist people with numerous complex barriers; addictions, trauma, mental health barriers, disabilities, and chronic illnesses.  The plan called for a thousand units.  We have built just over two hundred.  A lack of land and funding continue to be the major barriers holding up the work.

We see fear and frustration in local communities.  Racism and classism, a fear of change and a fear of the future are undercurrents that spark higher levels of tension in community discussions.  And of course when consultation is not done well there is a lot of frustration. But that’s the bad news, the good news is that we as a city have a short string of successes behind us recently; with healthy community consultation showing itself to be a key factor! There are some signs of warmth and a willingness to discuss the building of new affordable and supportive housing in communities around the city.  Small fires burning; speaking a message of hospitality and inclusion that can be nurtured and grown.

As people of faith, we can help nurture those small fires; by supporting a healthy and respectful conversation in the local community.  We are even receiving calls from developers looking for some wisdom on how to do this well. The Interfaith Housing Initiative has the opportunity before us now to lead in the possible development of community consultation resources with partners like Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and property developers.  Gathering a diverse group of people with different ideas together to create something beautiful together can be challenging, however with the potential to do something meaningful and powerful, there is hope, and of course prayers can only help make it more successful.

Another significant challenge is finding land to build affordable or supportive housing.  It’s going to take many compassionate and discerning eyes looking in our neighbourhoods to see the opportunities.  Thankfully, we have a growing number of faith communities coming forward to explore opportunities with their land; to do something like what Westmount Presbyterian did!  It’s an exciting new energy, but also hard work ahead.  How can we support more of our faith communities in having that conversation, and then supporting them to get there?

We are encouraged to see some of the City’s current policy work.  It’s even in their title; discussing the work of creating inclusive, diverse and complete communities.  And City Council is actively backing the creation of better affordable and supportive housing options in neighbourhoods all over the city; recognizing it is not good practice to heavily concentrate services and supports in a few neighbourhoods.  As city efforts and policies gel, we need a lot of wisdom; balancing a defense of the vulnerable with supporting a sensible and constructive path to healthy integration in the local community.

We have reason to cheer on the work taking place; but recognize an urgent need to pray as well.  That’s why we are gathered here today. To ensure that the necessary relationships are forged; that good work is done; that solid commitments are made; that wisdom prevails over fear and suspicion; and that meaningful real-life solutions will take form with as much haste as can be mustered.

Following this reflection, prayers were offered for wisdom to guide current efforts

April Action Highlight: Invite Welcome Home to Visit your Faith Community

This past month, Beth Israel Synagogue hosted Claire Rolheiser from Welcome Home at Rabbi Daniel Friedman’s monthly class.

This month featured “Don’t pass over your neighbour this Passover.” Rabbi Friedman taught that in the Haggadah which we recite at the Passover Seder, we say a special prayer to welcome all those in need. Claire along with volunteer Maria shared their experiences with Welcome Home. Maria told us about her new friend Gloria who now feels comfortable going to the movies on her own when at first she felt scared in going out with anyone let alone by herself.

Claire is ready to present at your place of worship to discuss this meaningful opportunity for volunteers to share the simple gift of genuine friendship to someone coming out of crisis.  Drop her an invite so that folks from your community can learn about and participate in this beautiful program.

For more information, please call:  (780) 378-2544
or visit cssalberta.ca/Welcome Home

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

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