What’s Your Wisdom on affordable Housing? – West Edmonton

The City of Edmonton is considering a guideline/target of 10% affordable housing in neighbourhoods all across our city.  What might that look like in your neighbourhood? What questions or concerns do you have? What ideas do you have? What do you think is a healthy response to new neighbours and new units of affordable housing? What’s your wisdom on affordable housing?

This workshop gives communities in Edmonton’s West End a chance to start the conversation early; before new projects or proposals come to the table.  In this workshop we will hear:
1. A presentation on the types of Affordable Housing needed.
2. A non-profit developer who consults, builds and manages units of affordable housing.
3. A story from a person who has needed help affording a home.
…and then we will have a chance to talk about it with each other as neighbours.

Neighbourhoods invited for this are those west of 170th over the Henday, South of Stony Plain, and North of the River.  Direct invitations have been extended to all local community leagues, faith communities, and home owner associations.  But this workshop is open to any interested neighbour.

Here’s the details!


west ed workshop logistics

Refreshments and Childcare are provided.  This is a workshop, not a drop-in information event, so please plan to join us starting at 1:00 and stay for the conversation.

 

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Faith-Based Collaboration Highlight: Jasper Place Wellness Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look what’s possible when we work together!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unpacking the Second Goal: Prevent Future Homelessness

The new update sets the following targets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homelessness numbers

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

Access the full plan update report at the following link:

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presentation by CRIHI Housing Ambassador, Pastor Mike Van Boom