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

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