In This Together – Ending Poverty in Alberta

Public Interest Alberta, the Alberta College of Social Workers, and the Edmonton Social Planning Council have just released their report, In This Together – Ending Poverty in Alberta.    This report encourages the Government of Alberta to recognize the need for a designed-in-Alberta poverty reduction strategy, to study best practices in other jurisdictions, and to engage in broad-based public consultations in order to create this strategy.  The full report can be viewed at

September 28, 2010


September 28, 2010


9:00 a.m.          Welcome by Bob McKeon, Associate Director, Office of Social Justice

9:10 a.m.          Archbishop Richard Smith: Orientation to the project

  • Task to form consciences
  • Call to compassion and action
  • What is the plan? Where do we go with this? How do we get there?

9:15 a.m.          Prayer by Julien Hammond

9:20 a.m.          Bob McKeon: Follow up from the May meeting

  • in a way the conversation started/ in another way still starting
  • wealth of diversity: faith, social action groups
  • Contact list? Please sign up – list continues to grow
  • today is a working meeting
  • information in folders includes:
    • info of what other cities are doing
    • draft statement – conversation starter
    • draft Welcome Home proposal
    • Should we meet again? How so? Whom?

9:25 a.m.          Introductions

9:35 a.m.          Update by Jay Freeman

  • Year & half since launch of 10 year plan aimed at ending homelessness in Edmonton
  • Plan based on a shift from managing homeless populations to housing first model
  • Video presentation on 1st year of the plan: target 150 homes – 3 times that many in first year

9:47 a.m.          Revised draft Interfaith Statement and Action Guide for Faith Congregations

  • Bob read the text aloud, overview of study guide
  • Is this the right way to go? Is there more or less that should be offered?
  • 20 minutes for discussion at tables

Summary of Small Table Discussion Points

Shared Interfaith Statement – feedback from table discussions

  • Needs stronger Faith – theological statement
  • More of a challenge to be committed and stay active – to keep communities accountable
  • Point people more directly to action guide
  • More commitment around working together. We will work together. Challenge ourselves
  • Where will statement go? Public? Each other? Politicians? Agencies? All?
  • Assist homeless people – more than eliminate homelessness
  • Include an executive summary (key elements/key concepts) of the 10 yr. plan
  • Brochure as an appendix or background document
  • Using the DVD to accompany presentations
  • Good statement – great to talk about the involvement of the greater community
  • Facilitating access to current information about initiatives underway
  • Provide info on ‘theology’ of homelessness and commonality between faith groups
  • Timing of the Interfaith Statement
  • Generally, we agree with this document. We would like to see the ‘why’ or the motivational aspects
  • included: faith/religious motivation – up front
  • Well put together
  • Beginning of 4th paragraph: we are already committed and are coming together; a more positive introduction.
  • Stronger Statement re: shared commitment based on our religious traditions – “All of our [religious]
  • traditions affirm the worth and dignity of each human being and impel us to act in order to serve
  • those in need.”

Action Guide: feedback from table conversations

  • Specifics are helpful
  • Keegano – intentional community, (Mill Woods)
  • Action strategy to address NIMBY
  • Education (show DVD in churches)
  • Support from Private Corporations and Industry
  • Have homeless people in this process join their voice to this process.
  • Strengthen call to compassion
  • Examine our prejudices and our readiness to welcome others
  • Strengthen our belief that we can do this!!
  • Get clergy on board – all groups that have clergy – church leaders
  • What is the best way to reach and share with the wider community
  • First step – start with your own
  • Need to go back and see how the eleven approaches work.
  • Do we need to determine our priorities to help discern the next steps? This group, congregations?
  • Need clearer action statements vs. general commitments
  • Conduct education info sessions over next year
  • Church can change NIMBY
  • Culture – incorporate community groups
  • Utilize ‘expert’ resources to help with conversation
  • Avoid formation of ‘camps’/sides
  • Keep ‘new’ homeless & youth on the table
  • Come together as churches – don’t do it alone
  • Raise Awareness – Borrow Videos/DVDs, see firsthand (listen to the stories)
  • Increase donations (In Kind) e.g. furniture, etc.
  • Clearer way to involve congregations – groups in telling their stories
  • Remind government & social service agencies that housing – though significant is ONLY a first step.

We must continue to address related issues such as addiction, financial stability, literacy, and

integration into the community.

  • We commit ourselves to challenging our faith communities to continue our present initiatives and to
  • find new and creative…
  • Add a study aspect – encourage each [faith] tradition to examine its own commitment to eliminate
  • homelessness.
  • Expand point 8 with more examples of community support – beyond housing and basic social
  • services.

In addition, these points were jotted on the flip chart pages from table conversations:

  • Building on what you said – we need a big‐group check‐in in 6 months. What have we done so far?
  • What else can we be doing that we aren’t already doing?
  • Theology of Human Rights as general start point?
  • There is something in UN Declaration of Human Rights.
  • 10:20 a.m. Return to plenary session
  • Intro to what the statement aims to do?
  • Edmonton city or Greater Edmonton region
  • Opinions from plenary conversation:
  • Hierarchies and personal commitments are necessary for this project to be successful
  • We are stronger together than as individual congregations
  • An Edmonton statement will have effect in the surrounding municipalities
  • This is different; we don’t need to motivate the government, the government is spurring us to
  • action; the statement is great; focus isn’t up but out onto our committees.
  • This statement/project requires us to get to the structural roots of the problem, not just addressing
  • specific issues
  • What questions do we ask of candidates in the civic election?

10:45 a.m.        Break

11:00 a.m.        Jay introduced the ‘Welcome Home’ concept/project.

  • Naming needs is only part of the project; mobilizing the communities is important
  • One barrier/issue to work against: loneliness of individuals and families who are newly housed
  • Sponsorship model – similar to refugee sponsorship – companionship – friendship – not about proselytism.
  • This model has succeeded in many US cities, in Calgary and internationally
  • This plan is doable – looking for approval in principal
  • Requires staff (Volunteer Manager), coordination of volunteers, etc
  • Hopeful signs from the City to commit resources to this project

11:10 a.m.        Small group discussion

  • Stronger faith statement – can we name God in this document? Like the Toronto multi faith
  • statement?
  • Shared statement – could direct people more directly to the study guide – to congregations, to
  • public, to politicians
  • Were looking for measures, targets, goals – built in accountability
  • We can come together or we will…

11:25 a.m.        Plenary – Welcome Home

Summary of Small group discussions

  • It’s crucially important to train/educate volunteers who work with homeless people.
  • Listening Skills
  • Issues of vulnerability for the homeless person and the volunteer. (Look @ C.P.E. educ.)
  • Safety issues
  • Knowing what to expect
  • Screening Volunteers
  • Training Volunteers
  • What is the…connection with current faith based workers – volunteers
  • How can faith communities address the social isolation
  • Homeless – invitations to be included
  • Community – Pot luck dinners?
  • Exciting concrete possibility
  • Opportunities for advocacy
  • Training – volunteers need debriefing, support, to realize it’s a long term commitment – 6 months to
  • 1 yr. minimum.
  • Need to realize richness these people bring
  • Community needs training – awareness – make it less scary
  • Teach – we are better off because they have become part of us
  • Advantage to not be a professional – can become friends
  • Geographic component – match in area
  • Volunteers as families?
  • Volunteers can assist in a ‘cross‐pollination’ of understanding the needs in our city. i.e.: University
  • Area & 118 Avenue (Whyte Ave. & Alberta Ave. speak to each other)
  • Is there an age range for volunteers? Could youth volunteer?
  • Clarification of volunteer training
  • Clarification: emphasis on local, neighborhood faith communities.
  • Who is the interfaith org. that will run ‘welcome home’?
  • Include specific examples of how the program will function & serve
  • Where will funding for staff salaries and programming come from?
  • What will the role of a volunteer in this organization be? [clarify specific tasks volunteers will be
  • responsible for.]
  • How do we differentiate the role of ‘Welcome Home’ from that of social services?
  • Agenda‐free interaction [meeting people where they’re at]
  • Role of volunteer beyond individual interaction to community involvement without proselytizing.

Loneliness will become a major challenge if not addressed now – already signs

Agreement in principle for Welcome Home proposal – affirmed by those present

11:40 a.m.        Next Steps

  • Could we establish an (interfaith) steering committee to provide future leadership?
  • What is the role of our ‘body’? Working group? Board of Governors? Communication Forum?
  • Could we commit to at least the Action Guide? Concrete, practical…
  • Would love to see an interfaith initiative – not just denominational, not isolationist – could lead to
  • other initiatives
  • Likes idea of steering committee – how do we get there?
  • Is there a list of agencies, etc., that could be sent to congregations? (Yes & No)
  • Anglicans are working on a comprehensive list – are willing to share
  • Can we work regionally /in neighborhoods? Already happens – (Yes & No)
  • CSS has assets & resources to lend
  • Contact list will be circulated – people can work/contact each other outside of this forum.

Volunteers for Steering Committee:

Brian Kiely John MacDonald Judy Ganz, Bob Peele, Katherine Douglas, Audrey Brooks, Don Koote, Fraser Williamson, David Kunin

  • If Welcome Home goes forward – Jay will communicate this back through the IF Housing network
  • Possible next meeting? Stay tuned…

Archbishop Smith’s concluding comments

  • Thanks
  • Likes Steering Committee idea – hopes SC will work first on statement and action plan
  • Archdiocesan Communications Office is ready to help
  • Issuing statement is only part of it – message to the City, public – implementation is long‐term
  • If we can really grapple with this issue – other things are possible
  • What is the point of unifying contact for us? City Commission (Exec. Dir. Jay Freeman)

12:00 p.m.        Conclusion/Adjournment

Thanks to Julien Hammond for taking notes and assisting with this report

May 5, 2010

MAY 5, 2010


Archbishop Smith welcomed and thanked everyone for attending. He spoke of his experience as a member of the Edmonton Homeless Commission. He expressed his support for the ambitious goals of Edmonton’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. Archbishop Smith pointed out the potential contributions that faith communities could make in realizing the goal of ending homelessness in Edmonton. He pointed to a specific role faith communities could play in welcoming homeless persons into local communities and serving as advocates. He also asked if there was interest in a public pastoral statement on homelessness and affordable housing that could be signed by leaders of faith communities in Edmonton.

The DVD, “A Place to Call Home,” summarizing the Homeless Commission’s Year One Report to the Community, was shown. Jay Freeman, the Executive Director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission, spoke of the results of the first year of implementing the 10 Year Plan with its Housing First philosophy He described some clear successes including the securing of 424 homes for 546 people who previously had been homeless. He also spoke of some challenges, including reports of loneliness and social isolation, being experienced by those settling into their new accommodations.

Following these presentations, there was a time of open plenary discussion. Several important points were raised:

a) Affirm that while faith communities are already doing a lot around the issue of homelessness, much more can be done.

b) Some spoke of the importance of supporting those who are at risk of becoming homeless. Specifically, the loss of financial support from the provincial Homeless and Eviction Fund was mentioned.

c) Several addressed the possibility of local faith congregations participating in a “Sponsorship Program” similar to the congregational sponsorships for international refugees settling in Canada. One pastor spoke of being part of a successful program in Denver. Another described the “All Roads Lead Home” project in Calgary.

d) There were voices of support for a faith leaders’ pastoral statement. A question was raised about whether this should be a statement made by institutional leaders of faith organizations (say 20-30) or a statement signed by as many faith representatives as possible (200 plus).

e) One leader of a community agency proposed that faith organizations could support affordable housing initiatives through the contribution of underutilized land, closed church buildings, and the creative leveraging of existing physical and financial assets.

f) One leader of a church social service agency spoke of the experience of a local parish that was in the process of working with a non-profit housing agency for the purpose of welcoming those being placed through Housing First in their local neighbourhood.

g) One leader of a faith-based agency providing direct service to homeless persons in the inner city, spoke of educating volunteers who help serve food with their agency so that they could better address affordable housing discussions in their own local neighbourhoods all across the city. Another leader of an inner city faith-based agency spoke of finding better ways for faith

organizations and congregations outside of the inner city to relate to and support front-line faith agencies. It was also suggested that parishes work together to debunk the myths of homelessness and that there be a sharing of best practices.

h) One representative from an ecumenical social action group spoke of his experience addressing the “NIMBY” issue with a proposed affordable housing project in his community. He spoke of how his pastor was hesitant to speak publicly and take a position in a divisive community debate. Others spoke of the possible ways pastors could be part of these discussions through preaching and education without necessarily taking a clear cut position. There was a general agreement that additional conversations and educational resources were needed for faith leaders addressing local NIMBY issues.

i) There was a suggestion that a homelessness/affordable housing resource booklet or catalogue be produced. Reference was made to a catalogue distributed by a Christian international development agency that listed different types of contributions and actions that individuals and congregations could commit to. Such a local resource book could provide a list of possible actions that individuals and congregations (small and large) could support to engage issues of homelessness and affordable housing in the Edmonton region.

j) Several spoke of the need to expand the conversation and widen the representation present at this initial meeting. The need for aboriginal representation was noted.

The meeting ended with a discussion about next steps. There was a consensus that the group should meet again in early Fall 2010 (likely in September). Next time people should bring friends and colleagues to widen the circle. Preparatory work should be done concerning proposals for specific action initiatives and a pastoral statement on homelessness and affordable housing. Archbishop Smith promised ongoing staff support for this project from the Archdiocesan Social Justice Office. Archbishop Smith thanked everyone for coming and indicated his personal commitment to moving this interfaith housing initiative forward.

Meeting summary prepared by:

Bob McKeon
Office for Social Justice, Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton
8421 – 101 Avenue, Edmonton T6A 0L1
Tel 780-469-1010