Life on Minimum Wage; A Fact Sheet

The purpose of this exercise is to showcase the impossible choices that many Edmontonians making minimum wage are forced to make daily.

We know many low income households struggle to afford housing.  What are some of the numbers? 

In Alberta:
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 308,485
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 15.1%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 36.0%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.4% (Statistics Canada, 2017)City of Edmonton:
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of income on shelter costs: 86,665
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 16.5%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 38.1%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.6% (Statistics Canada, 2017)

What do housing affordability issues look like for those making minimum wage in Edmonton?

This section utilizes the calculation guide created by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to complement the 2017 living wage calculation for Metro Vancouver. The calculation guide includes a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the living wage amount after local family expenses, deductions, tax credits, and government transfers have been applied. We replaced the living wage with the current minimum wage of $13.60/hour to recalculate yearly budgets of low wage workers and to showcase affordable housing challenges in the City of Edmonton and the choices that many Edmontonians are forced to make because of their low wages and high housing costs (Ivonova and Reano, 2017).

Single Person making $13.60/hour

For a single person living in a $1,000/month one bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
  • They will have no contingency or emergency fund
  • They will take $150/year off the food budget and may need to go to the food bank
  • They cannot afford cable television, but can have internet and one cellphone
  • They cannot afford health insurance through Alberta Blue Cross
  • They cannot afford to go to night school
  • They must take $500/year off their furniture and supplies budget
  • Even with these cuts, this individual saves only $4 monthly and $50 yearly
  • The single person is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
  • This individual must spend 50% of their income on rent

Single parent with one child making $13.60/hour

For a single parent family with one child living in a $1,106 two bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
  • A single parent will receive the maximum amounts for the Alberta Child Benefit, the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, and the Canada Child Benefit
  • Even with these extra benefits, a single parent making minimum wage cannot afford to go to night school
  • They must take $150/year off their contingency or emergency fund
  • They must cut their furniture and supplies budget by half
  • They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
  • They must take $100/year off their food budget and may need to go to the food bank
  • They cannot afford television but can have internet with one cellphone
  • This family can save $1 monthly and $7 yearly
  • A family of two is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
  • A single parent family must spend 33.9% of its income on rent

Two parent, two child family, making $13.60/hour

For a two parent family with two children living in a $1,377 three bedroom in the City of Edmonton making $49,504 a year:
  • This family receives a significant amount in child and family benefits
  • This family must take $300/year off its furniture and other supplies budget
  • They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
  • This family cannot afford to have one parent go to night school
  • They must cut their contingency or emergency fund by half
  • This family can save $2 monthly and $28 yearly
  • This family must spend 24.7% of its income on rent


The purpose of this exercise is to showcase the impossible choices that many Edmontonians making minimum wage are forced to make daily. A single person making minimum wage must choose between receiving an education or having enough food to eat. While a single parent receives the maximum amounts for a variety of federal and provincial child benefits, they are still unable to go to night school and are forced to take $100/year off their food budget, possibly having to use the food bank. A two-parent family with two children also cannot afford to send one parent to night school, and are forced to choose between buying clothing and furniture or paying the rent.
ESPC logo
By Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator,
Edmonton Social Planning Council

Ivanova, I., & Reano, P. (2017). Working for a Living Wage 2017. Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver. Calculation Guide. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2017). About Affordable Housing in Canada. Retrieved from

Homeless Hub. (2014). What is National Housing Day? Where did it originate? What happens on that day? Retrieved from

Statistics Canada. (2017). Canada [Country] and Canada [Country] (table). Census Profile. 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa. Released October 25, 2017.


A Mennonite Reflection; Isaiah 58: on Worship and Social Action

Spiritual Disciplines like fasting, prayer and gathering for worship are important ways people connect with God.  But in the Bible, there is a clear connection between practicing spiritual disciplines and performing acts of compassion and justice.

The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 58 offers a powerful rebuke to the people of Israel for not practicing their faith on both fronts:
In verse three, the children of Israel call out to God wondering why God is not responding to them.  “‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?  Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’   God answers the following, “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, and oppress all your workers.   You fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.”  Finally God says in verses six and seven, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”  In verses eight and nine the result for those following God’s suggestion of right action is described.    “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,  and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”

The key verses of this passage reiterate that faithful fasting is made tangible by breaking the bonds of injustice.   They get very close to “home” (literally) when they state that we are to share bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into our houses, cover the naked, and not hide from relatives.  Our responsibility as faith communities is clear.   The focus in many of our faith communities is often on how we can worship God faithfully.   The answer here is clear that God cannot hear our voices in worship if there is unaddressed injustice we are causing directly, or that we are close enough to do something about.

Could it be that some of us who claim to be worshiping God are trying to address the issue of Homelessness but could be involved in structural injustice that makes us even complicit in the problem?   Whether we are the cause of the problem, or serving our own interest, we are to get right up close in bringing those who are without a home into our houses.  What does that mean for us in our modern society?  It is clear that we need to have real personal connection, perhaps even friendship with those whose housing issues are more complicated than ours.   Bringing someone into our home must mean that they are at least respected as we respect family members.   Does fear make us inactive on this count?   Through our disciplines, God helps us deal with our fears!

Donna Kampen Entz,

Mennonite Church, Alberta


No Room in the Inn Campaign – 2017

This year’s campaign is to support a refit of the Northern Arms Apartment complex, Independent living housing with supports provided by Canadian Mental Health Association.

Christian churches in Edmonton are once again joining forces at Christmas to assist those at risk of homelessness through the annual No Room in the Inn (NRII) campaign. This year NRII has chosen to support the Edmonton Region of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

CMHA is a non-profit charitable organization that receives funding through the United Way and other government programs. In Edmonton, the CMHA has seven properties with a total of 146 independent living units. Presently, there is a wait-list and an influx of applications.

The property receiving support through our 2017 NRII Campaign will be the Northern Arms apartment complex (in the Queen Mary park neighbourhood) which CMHA purchased in August 2015. Although a structural assessment deemed the building had good bones, renovations are still necessary to replace ALL the windows and balcony doors. Exterior siding, painting, carpet in common areas will also be updated. In individual units, renovations are also needed to update flooring, appliances, and window coverings. As outlined in this year’s NRII pamphlet, tenants of CMHA’s affordable long-term housing can readily access all the services provided by CMHA-Edmonton including a supportive landlord who can assist them when their mental health is not well.

How to donate:
1) Through your church – make a cheque payable to your church and enter “No Room in the Inn” in the memo line. Drop the cheque in the church collection or mail it to your church. The church will then forward donations to CMHA for the Northern Arms Apartment complex.
2) Making a cheque payable directly to ‘Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region,” enter “No Room in the Inn” in the memo line and mail it to:
CMHA; #300, 10010 – 105 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5J 1C4

This Christmas, please prayerfully consider being a blessing to the Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region’s Northern Arms complex and its mission through the No Room in the Inn campaign.

Housing Month Highlights

November was a very exciting month on the housing front; punctuated by numerous events, workshops and announcements.  Here’s a little of what we saw, heard and did together this month!

  • We heard excitement around the updated plan here in Edmonton, with numerous front line providers welcoming efforts to fine-tune work on the three fronts of ending chronic homelessness, preventing future homelessness, and better integration and coordination of services.
  • We heard the city of Edmonton formally recognize November 22 as Housing Day in our city, in line with National Housing Day efforts across the country.
  • We heard MLA David Shepherd speak to efforts by the Province to ease restrictions for those seeking help affording a home.  Families owning a vehicle or having a few assets to their name would often find themselves unable to qualify for assistance unless they liquidated these assets and spend what little extra they have in the bank.  New changes will make vehicles exempt, and allow for up to $25,000 in assets.
  • We heard Housing formally recognized and verbally expressed as a human right by the Federal Government.
  • We heard the formal announcement of a National Housing Strategy by the Prime Minister, and by Minster Amarjheet Sohi here in Edmonton.  As Jay Freeman noted, “43 years after the National Housing Act, we finally have a National Housing Strategy!”  We will unpack this strategy more in the next few months, but a few initial highlights are as follows:
  1. A stronger portable housing benefit to take root in 2020; providing rent assistance to low income families.
  2. We will see federal energy and dollars moving into the renovation and creation of new affordable housing across the country.
  3. There will also be new funding agreements created with Housing Coops to replace those set to expire.
  • We heard the city’s desire to integrate affordable housing all across the city; building inclusive, complete, diverse communities with a range of housing choices.  We also heard the need to engage the private sector in this effort, as they are critical partners that currently provide housing that is affordable for 80% of Edmontonians.
  • And of course, CRIHI hosted two major events ourselves: our [What’s your Wisdom on Affordable Housing?] workshop at West Edmonton Baptist Church on November 18, and our Plenary gathering on November 28 at Beulah Alliance.  We will have more detailed reports on these events in our January issue of the Neighbourly.

So much to be thankful for in this season!   New projects are being announced and are finding homes in Edmonton communities, and there is a spirit of welcome growing in many quarters of the city.  Let’s continue to bathe our city in prayer for the future, that the work we are all doing together may bear rich fruit!

Interfaith Housing Plenary – 11/28/17

We need your input and commitment to continue and grow the initiative. Working together, everyone achieves more. Let’s put our faith into action.

Join us to learn more about CRIHI and get updated on the Ten Year plan to prevent and end homelessness in Edmonton.

Let Us Continue To Be Part of the Solution!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Time: from 9 AM – 12:30 PM

Our Host:  Beulah Alliance Church (17504 98A Ave, Edmonton)

Lunch will be provided.

Registration begins at 9:00am with program starting at 9:30am

Where’s Beulah Alliance?

Beulah map


November Action Highlight: Host a Workshop

One key way we at the Interfaith Housing Initiative engage is by hosting workshops.  What we do at these workshops will depend on what kinds of questions or needs are coming forward.

Here are a few sample questions that our workshops could help explore answers to:
  1. What is being done across the city to help low-income neighbours afford a safe and quality home?
  2. What role can our community play in the work of addressing homelessness?
  3. What can we do to better respond to needs in our local community?
  4. What are other faith communities doing?
  5. How can we participate in local conversations on housing in our neighbourhoods?

Types of Workshops we can help plan:

Regional Workshops –  we could help you engage with other faith communities, community leagues, neighbours and other local partners in your corner of the city.

  1. Providing solid information on the current need for Housing help and supports, and hosting a conversation between diverse voices around a healthy community response to new neighbours and new units of affordable housing.  Example:  What’s Your Wisdom on Affordable Housing?
  2. We could develop a workshop to encourage collective action by local faith communities, and/or invite local partners to speak to community needs.

Local Neighbourhood Workshops enabling healthy housing conversation between faith communities, the local community league(s), and local businesses.

  1. Equipping and supporting people of faith for constructive engagement in upcoming conversations on affordable housing in their community.
  2. Connecting directly as a support to healthy process in a local housing conversation.

Multi-faith community workshops engaging numerous faith groups in your area.

  1. Providing Education on needs and challenges, as well as identifying opportunities for volunteering, collaboration and connection.
  2. Story-telling, and capacity-building to get your community thinking about what is possible.

Workshops for Individual Faith Communities

  1. Helping the local congregation consider what meaningful engagement looks like in their local context.  We could invite local social workers or community leaders to speak to issues and opportunities nearby.
  2. Highlighting opportunities, providing education, volunteering and ongoing connection/participation.

Call to Action:
Put the coffee on, and invite CRIHI’s Mike Van Boom to stop by to see what might work best to fit your questions and your community.  Email:

Interfaith Work an Act of Peacemaking

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.”
~ Jesus ~

As you know, the Interfaith Housing Initiative is a gathering of faith communities from around Edmonton working together to address homelessness in our city.  We work together, knowing that we may believe very different things about the nature of God, the world, ourselves, and our purpose…  but we all believe in the need to love our neighbour, and to care for our neighbour.  On this common ground, people of many faiths here in Edmonton are gathered to confront the need for quality decent and affordable homes for our neighbours.
In 2004, I was ordained as a Pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.  That makes me a Calvinist who values God’s sovereignty over creation and human history.  I see the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit on many interactions and movements around our city: at City Council, on building sites, in committee work, and in conversations in the local neighbourhood; and I follow the call of Jesus as King, Savior and Redeemer of our world.  And yes, I actually enjoy preaching on the Canons of Dort!

I continue to be profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve as Housing Ambassador for the Interfaith community gathered here in common cause.   In my almost two years serving here, I have come to realize the power of what we are about:  that in a time of rising fear and suspicion between peoples and faiths, our continuing decision to work together on this common ground is a profound act of peacemaking.

Serving with each other builds understanding and relationship.  It creates a sense of community and helps us place our fears and questions in a healthier frame.  At the end of it all, there will continue to be many things we disagree on; but our shared role in shaping a just and compassionate society will not be one of them.

What we are about here truly is the work of God!

~ Pastor Mike Van Boom, Christian Reformed Church

Befriending Dustin; a Welcome Home Story

Elizabeth and Richard’s [Welcome Home] participant, Dustin has struggled for many years with depression and an addiction to alcohol. When they first started meeting together, he struggled to keep their appointments, wondering if his volunteers were going to judge him because of his addiction. It was hard for him to believe that they really enjoyed his company, and he was often very quiet and withdrawn.

After many months, Dustin began to attend some of the program functions with Elizabeth and Richard, and found that he really enjoyed meeting others from Welcome Home. He felt accepted for who he was, which helped him to develop more self-confidence.

Recently, Dustin took a big step, and went into detox. As is often the case for those with a serious addiction, he had a relapse soon after getting home. However, instead of feeling ashamed and spiraling into depression, he called Elizabeth, and let her know. His willingness to share this part of his journey with his volunteers demonstrates the amazing level of trust that they have built together. Elizabeth and Richard reassured Dustin that they were still there for him, and encouraged him to try again when he felt ready.

Since that relapse, Dustin has applied to a longer-term treatment program, which will help him to address both his addiction and his mental illness. He continues to look forward to the next Welcome Home social, and knows that he has found true friends to journey with him through the many ups and downs of his recovery.

Volunteer with Welcome Home!Welcome home logo
One of the biggest reasons people struggle or fail as they come out of homelessness into housing is loneliness.  Welcome Home assembles and trains a small team of volunteers to walk with someone as a friend.  This is a one-year commitment to go for coffee, go bowling, take long walks, to encourage and pray for a fellow human being on a tough stretch of the road.  ​To find out more information about volunteering contact the Welcome Home Coordinator at 780-378-2544.


The Plan to End Homelessness: Unpacking the Third goal of the new update

Working together with a diverse group of people tends to be tricky under the best of circumstances.  After all, we each come with our different expectations, ways of being, backstories, ideas and passions.  But imagine how tricky it can be working across diverse organizations!  Even if we’re all working in the same general direction, a lack of good communication and coordination of efforts can sink the work; or at very least cause significant frustration and a waste of precious time and resources.

A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness:
Update Feature:  Part 3 of 3

Stronger collaboration between organizations responding to homelessness and extreme poverty has been a front-line emphasis for some time now, and an amazing amount of ground has been covered.  The chart below illustrates the gradual shift in movement the last years have seen toward better communication and coordination.

history of coordinated access

Jarrod Bayne, the Chief Strategy officer from Homeward Trust Edmonton (HTE) makes the following observations about how this work has progressed:

  • Before the Ten-year Plan, waitlists to get into housing were the norm.  With the implementation of the Plan and of Housing First, prioritization based on need (and standardized assessment tools) became the approach for HF programs.
  • Housing First agencies adopted a “No Wrong Door” approach, whereby a person presenting at any agency could expect to be screened and prioritized for service – they didn’t have to be referred elsewhere and repeat their story in other words.
  • No Wrong Door as an approach had a lot of strengths and consistency, but weaknesses as well.  Agencies were prioritizing largely individually, and it was more challenging to optimize as a sector.  A person could also have a service relationship with multiple agencies, complicating matters.
  • Homeward Trust established some central capacity for “Coordinated Access” to services funded under the Plan.  Given that Homeward Trust administered the shared database and provided other capacity for the sector as a whole (such as landlord relations, rental assistance, and training), it made most sense to locate this function within HTE.
  • Several opportunities locally served as “proof of concept” for Coordinated Access as a shared practice.  One example is our efforts through Housing First to address crisis levels of families in hotels.
  • Through our participation in the 20,000 Homes Campaign, the homeless-serving sector took the opportunity not only to increase our reach in identifying people experiencing homelessness, but also to combine and consolidate prioritization lists into a single shared list.
  • Building on international leading practice, HTE and our partners in Edmonton are now active participants in the “Built for Zero” initiative. This initiative emphasizes a real-time, shared “By Name List” as the cornerstone of community-wide efforts to end homelessness. This approach not only builds on the Coordinated Access capacity we have established locally, but also broadens the potential to directly involve multiple partners and providers in “working the list”.  A shared community-wide list in real time gives us tremendous ability to react to trends, to learn more about how people move in and out of homelessness, and to show the impact of our collective efforts.

How does the new Plan update talk about the next stage of the journey?  Here’s the basics:

Unpacking the Third Goal:
Develop an Integrated Services Response

update goal three
Engaging people with lived experience.  

If you want to do a good job on anything, you want to be able to see what you’re doing from many angles.  Frontline staff, along with participants in a program provide critical input to ensure providers are getting it right; with quality shelter, and in delivering housing and support services.  The plan says “the need for specific engagement with key subpopulations, including youth and indigenous people will continue to be assessed and expanded to other groups where needed.”

Continued partnership on access and information-sharing.
Building on the work done already, specific goals are set to bridge the significant gaps that remain.  The ‘no wrong door’ policy has helped to reduce the run-around and frustration people experience when trying to find help and support with housing.  But there is still work to do on making sure people are able to be assessed and referred to the most appropriate kinds of help, and of course trying to ensure the right help will be available to meet the needs.

The System Planner Organization
With so many organizations and partners engaged together in the work across Edmonton, it can be difficult to gauge the health and needs of the larger picture.  Homeward Trust Edmonton is currently positioned and resourced to be the system planner.  Much of the work they do is targeted to streamlining the communication and information gathered from the many partner organizations in order to understand and research the larger trends.  This helps inform where there are shortfalls and gaps in the work being done, and provides critical evidence to inform decisions as to where scarce resources are best spent.

update system planner

The Accountability Framework
How will we ensure the work stays on track?  Who will help resolve issues, sort out conflicts, and discuss the tough questions?  An accountability framework will be developed by 2018 that will “identify resource and funding coordination processes, roles and accountabilities to support plan strategies.”  This framework will (most likely) involve setting a table, gathering appropriate partners, and together formulating tools and structures so the group is able to understand and respond effectively to issues and challenges that emerge.

Areas of possible engagement for faith communities:
1. Engage with Local Service Providers in your community.  Here’s a list of different resources and the different kinds of basic needs they work to respond to:
2. Understand the best points of contact.  Visit our website for emergency contact numbers and service providers:
3. If you know someone in search of a place, call the Coordinated Access Hotline:  780.496.1300

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

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