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

 

 

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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.’