All posts by Inter-Faith Housing Initiative

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

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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.’

Ministry Profile: St. Patrick’s Anglican Church

Several years ago, St. Patrick’s Anglican Church began exploring a way to minister to their community.  Today, they’re doing it!  Come join us as we learn from their story.

In 2014, the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton began a campaign called REACH targeted to encouraging and supporting mission and outreach efforts in their parishes.  The campaign raised funds targeted intentionally for “mission and not maintenance.”  It also asked two main questions of every church community:

  1. How can we meet local needs?
  2. How can we be better agents of the gospel?

The St. Patrick’s community in Mill Woods took these questions seriously, and began exploring some meaningful answers:  Their first movement was to host a foodbank depot, but in a short period of time local needs changed, and they were informed that there was no longer need for an additional depot in Mill Woods.  That forced them back to the dreaming board.

They considered  some of the limitations of their facility and the space.  Their kitchen was not licensed, so any community kitchen or food security initiative was not possible.  They also didn’t have a huge volunteer core during the day to run programming.
Eventually, three possible areas were identified for the parish to explore together:

  1. Partner to offer classes for newcomers for integration and community literacy.
  2. Begin a Kids on Track ministry
  3. Alpha Marriage Course or the Alpha Parenting Children Course with a particular focus around lone parenting.

At a Special Meeting of Parishioners, the congregation chose #1.  According to Rev. Kevin Kraglund, this decision came as something of a surprise to the Parish Corporation (Rector and Wardens)  as they had favoured one of the other options.  “But as we took ownership, it became clear that this was God’s direction for us.”
The congregation chose #1.  According to Rev. Kevin Kraglund, this decision came as something of a surprise to the committee as they had favoured one of the other options.  “But as we took ownership, it became clear that this was God’s direction for us.”  So, in partnership with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, they began the work of helping newcomers to Canada, with an intentional focus to help seniors.

The Church started out by supporting a three month course.  They paid for instructors and provided their space as a home to the program.  Then they looked for opportunities of intersection with the church; sharing the occasional meal, or opportunities for celebration or service.  One joint project was to hand-knit toques and other gifts for the homeless.  St Patrick’s invited newcomers to one of their monthly Leprechaun Lunches, as pictured below.

LeprechaunLunch2Today, they host literacy classes, English language studies, and a program to help with cultural literacy; helping people integrate into Canada.   Part of their program involves field trips, such as a trip to Ft. Edmonton Park, and another to learn how the city does waste management.  They invited City Councillor, Mohinder Banga to come talk about how to engage in Civic Politics, and they have hosted sessions on homelessness and poverty.

They also open up their space on a regular basis to host local job fairs.  They’ve had everyone from PCL to Victoria’s Secret, 7-eleven, Winners, and HomeSense.   They don’t have a huge space, but enough to host two employers at a time for an explanation of opportunities along with initial job interviews.

What’s happening as a result?
Rev. Kraglund tells the story of a frantic knock on the door:  “Pastor, Pastor!  I had an interview here at the job fair, and now I have a second.  Can you pray for me?”  Coming alongside people in journeys of hardship has opened up opportunities for real ministry.  The need for prayer is a strong thread in the work, but so is the need for relationship and for advice. “Let’s go pray together and talk about this.”  It’s a frequent phrase uttered in a space people feel safe to find help and counsel.

The work being done today by St. Patrick’s Anglican Church gives practical expression to their mission  statement:  “Out of our diversity as children of God; we share the love of Jesus Christ and seek our oneness in Christ.”

Their journey as a faith community to meaningful community ministry has had challenges and taken some sacrifice, but they are seeing it bear real fruit in the lives of both they and their neighbours.  And that makes the work very rewarding for everyone!

 

Celebrating Canadianism Together

Moses is standing atop Mt. Sinai, when God asks him where he wants to take the Israelites, where would be their Promised Land.  Moses glances around at the world and picks what he believes to be the best spot imaginable — abundant natural resources, plenty of room, no external security threats.

“Ca-ca-ca,” he begins to respond with his famous stutter.

Anticipating his answer, God quickly interrupts him and says, “Oh, Canaan?”

“I guess so,” thinks Moses, “but actually what I really had in mind was CANADA!!”

July 1st, 2017 is a special day not just for our country of Canada, but for all our faith communities of Canada.  Sometimes, as Canadians, we look at other nations and imagine that we don’t quite match up to their power and stature.  We look south to the US and feel small next to the world’s superpower.  We stare across the pond and view ourselves as a mere satellite of the British Commonwealth.  Who are we as Canadians and what does that mean to us as Jewish Canadians as Christian Canadians as Sikh Canadians as Muslim Canadians and so on?

The Bible relays the events when we find the Children of Israel who have been wandering in the wilderness for forty years.  Truth be told, it wasn’t a bad life.  Their daily bread came from heaven, they were protected by the Clouds of Glory, and their thirst was quenched by the Well of Miriam that accompanied them on their sojourn.  But one day, Miriam dies and the well is no more.  The people are crying out and Moses does not know what to do.  He turns to the Almighty who tells him to speak to the rock and ask it to issue forth water.

And so Moses gathers the Israelites together and begins talking to the rock.  But alas, no matter how many jokes he tells the rock, how much praise he heaps upon it nothing works.  The problem, our sages explain, is that he’s speaking to the wrong rock, because the correct rock was hidden amongst the other rocks!  And so Moses picks up his staff and strikes the rock.  Not once, but twice.

And all of a sudden, water comes gushing forth, in seemingly limitless supply!  The people are elated.  But not God.  He summons Moses and Aaron and informs them that as a consequence of their disobedience, they will not enter the Promised Land.

As far as Diaspora life goes, we are incredibly blessed to be living in a land of promise, in our beloved country of Canada.  Why is this year so spiritually significant?  Because the name says it all.  In the Jewish linguistic tradition, the word Canada may be subdivided into two words – “kan” which is Hebrew for ‘nest’, and “da” which is Yiddish for ‘here’ or Aramaic for ‘this.’  In other words, this here (our country) is a nest.  What does a nest represent?  Comfort.  Protection.  Happiness.  Soaring above the world.  These are all feelings that we as Canadians share.  What’s more, “kan” also happens to equal 150 – now isn’t that something?!

The great Canadian philosopher, John Ralston Saul, calls Canada a Metis nation.  Instead of seeing ourselves as not quite matching up to Great Britain or the United States, we should take pride in being the premier nation in the world to embody the qualities of multiculturalism and respect for our First Nations fellow citizens. And on that note, certainly this year we celebrate 150 years of the confederation of our nation. Nevertheless, we must always remember that our country, our land, has been here for millennia. Today we acknowledge the First Nations who opened their homeland to us and invited us to join them as a nation, and we express our gratitude to them for the treaty land upon which we stand.  150 years ago, we performed the commandment of “shiluach hakain” – we kissed the mother-bird goodbye and established our own independent nest, a nest where birds of a feather flock together.

But unlike our neighbours to the south or across the pond, birds of a feather don’t have to be ‘American’ or ‘British’ first and everything else, second, in some almost-embarrassed way of hiding one’s ethno-religious identity in the privacy of one’s home, whilst melting into some public ‘everyone’s-the-same’ pot.  Not in Canada.  We can be ‘birds of a feather’ while maintaining our unique cultural identities.

That’s what makes Canada great.  Because being Jewish and Canadian or being Sikh and Canadian or Somali and Canadian is part and parcel of the fabric of Canadian society.  Canadianism is multiculturalism at its very best.  Canadianism means being a proud of your belief.  The better the Sikh I am, the better the Canadian I become.   In Canada, we have created the most unique nest in the history of humankind.

And it’s this unparalleled attitude, this special approach to diplomacy and the brotherhood of man that we bring to the world beyond our borders.  We don’t strike the rock.  We speak to the rock.  A great deal of the work of our Canadian Armed Forces is serving as peacekeepers.  We’re there to negotiate international crises, to assist those in insecure regions of the world, to educate, to train, to advocate for the rights of women and children.

Does that mean we never strike the rock?  Of course, it doesn’t.  Sometimes you need to strike.  The problem occurs when one strikes not once, but twice.  Our approach to the use of force is extremely measured, we go to the ends of the earth to avoid the use of excessive force.  Because we realize that sometimes the ones we’re really targeting have gone, just like Moses’ target rock, and hidden themselves amongst innocent, peaceful good populations.  And when those innocents are displaced and see their lives destroyed, through no fault of their own, we do everything in our power to assist them in rebuilding their lives, either in their locales or in our welcoming Canadian arms.

We excel at and revel in this form of soft power, because as a Metis nation, we have immense and profound respect and love for all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed.  Canada also contains the same letters as “nekudah” which means ‘point’.  We, as Canadians, get the point.  And we must never feel in any way inferior to any other nation, au contraire (it would have been remiss of us to omit any French!), we must proudly and boldly express this point to the world!

150 years is an incredible milestone.  We have much to be grateful for.  Today we thank God for our great country and we bless our leaders that they remain eternally committed to the awe-inspiring principles of Canadianism.  May we continue for the next 150 years to be the leading nation in the world!

This speech given by Rabbanit  Batya Friedman on Canada Day July 1, 2017 at Beth Israel Synagogue (as published in the Neighbourly, August 2017)

 

A Journey Together in Grief, Healing and Hope

About thirty of us filled the community room at the Edmonton Native Healing Centre on July 6, 2017 for this event created as a collaboration between Interfaith Housing Initiative and End Poverty Edmonton.

Guests for the event came from a host of different faith backgrounds including Jewish, Quaker, Catholic, Anglican, Christian Reformed, Methodist, Unitarian, United, Presbyterian, Eastern Orthodox, Zoroastrian, Hindu, and three leaders from Muslim communities.

Elder Francis Whiskeyjack welcomed us with a smudge and some words of wisdom.  Then a pair from Kairos led us through the blanket exercise, intended to help us experience North American from an indigenous perspective.  We stood together and watched the land disappear from beneath our feet, and our people gradually lost or separated from us.  It was very powerful and very moving; full of grief and loss.

Following that experience, Francis Whiskeyjack led us into a talking circle where we had the opportunity to respond to what we heard together.  Expressions of shock and grief were mingled with those of compassion and hope.  By the end of our conversation, numerous suggestions had been made to help us in our continuing walk together on Turtle Island.  Some of these were recorded as words of wisdom by the group on cards and sheets highlighting the need to listen and understand; to treat each other with love, dignity and respect.  To be humble and appreciative of the perspectives and abilities of others.

Other ideas we had were to make opportunities like this available in the languages of newcomer communities.  We thought this might help them understand some of the history in their new home, and help them consider how they too can join our walk together in this place.

 

Serving Edmonton’s Immigrant Communities

Edmonton is increasingly becoming a destination city for immigrants entering Canada. In 2011, 20.5% of the population in Edmonton were immigrants. Based off a recently published report by Statistics Canada, that number is estimated to rise to 31.7% by 2036. As a result, efficient and effective integration of incoming immigrants and refugees is a crucial priority for Edmonton. Luckily, there are a number of organizations, private and public, whose mission is to help newcomers to Edmonton find their place in their new home.

Alberta and City of Edmonton Services
Both the City and the Provincial governments host centres specifically catered towards orienting and providing information services for newcomers to Edmonton. The Citizen and New Arrival Information Centre, located at City hall, offers information on and assistance in accessing the City’s services in over 150 languages. Simultaneously, the province runs 4 separate Alberta Supports centres across the city. Similar to the New Arrival Information Centre, Alberta Supports connect newcomers with essential services ranging from the International Qualifications Assessment to Alberta’s Child and Health Care services.

Edmonton Immigrant Services Association
For over 30 years, the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association (EISA) has been providing a variety of programs for newcomers to Edmonton. These include their “English as Another Language” classes, the In-School Settlement Services program, the New Neighbors program, and general translation and interpretation services. The EISA places a focus on helping newcomers access existing services and learn about Canadian customs and expectations. Their service helps immigrants with everything from finding and applying to jobs, to obtaining a driver’s license, to just finding some new people to interact and make friends with.

Catholic Social Services
Catholic Social Services (CSS) is the pre-eminent Catholic charity in Edmonton and works to provide a number of services for immigrants in the city. Their primary services focus on settlement and orientation, helping newcomers understand the process of acquiring citizenship, employment, and generally how to integrate with their new communities. CSS also runs the Language Assessment, Referral & Counselling Centre, which runs the officially recognized Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) and Language and Vocational Assessment (LVA) programs.

ASSIST Community Services Centre
ASSIST is another long-running immigrant support centre, having operated in Edmonton for 40 years. Having expanded from its roots in the Chinese community, ASSIST now provides orientation, legal and mental health counselling, aid with employment, and LINC classes. ASSIST is remarkable for providing services in 12 languages: Arabic, English, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Kakwa, Punjabi, Russian, Tagalog and Urdu.

Changing Together: A Centre for Immigrant Women
The Changing Together agency is specifically focused on helping immigrant women. They provide a variety of self-improvement services, including ESL classes, basic computer courses, employment counselling and support, and family support services. Edmonton has the dubious honor of having the third highest unemployment rate for women in Canada, with a correspondingly large gap between women and men’s unemployment rates (8.6% to 5.9%) and average wage (women make $0.59 for every dollar made by men).

Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op and the Multicultural Family Resource Society
These two sister groups focus on bringing multicultural communities together to solve the isolation and lack of support in immigrant communities. Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op began as a response to research indicating immigrant mothers were having difficulty with pre-natal healthcare. The organization trained women in those communities as “brokers” to provide pre-natal health care education in the languages and formats amenable to immigrant mothers. Since then the organization has grown to address senior and youth health concerns, and to generally provide a holistic health service for Edmonton communities. The Multicultural Family Resource Society was built on a similar foundation, but targeted at providing social programs and discussions for families from different cultures. They run programs and consultation groups focusing on multicultural parents, immigrant youth, and on English classes that specifically involve youth in the classroom.

ESPC logoBy Maxwell Jenkins, Research Support Assistant
Edmonton Social Planning Council


Sources:
Morency, J-D., Malenfant, E, C., MacIsaac, S. (2017) Immigration and Diversity: Population Projections for Canada and its Regions, 2011 to 2036. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-551-x/91-551-x2017001-eng.htm
City of Edmonton. (2017) New Resident Programs. Retrieved from: https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/programs-new-resident.aspx
Alberta Government. Alberta Support Centres. Retrieved from: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-supports.aspx
Edmonton Immigrant Services Association. (2017) About Us. Retrieved from: http://www.eisa-edmonton.org/
Edmonton Immigrant Services Association. (2017) Services & Programs. Retrieved from: http://www.eisa-edmonton.org/
Catholic Social Services. (2017) Our Ministries, Immigrant & Refugee Support. Retrieved from: https://www.cssalberta.ca/Our-Ministries/Immigrant-Refugee-Support
ASSIST Community Services Centre. (2017) About Us. Retrieved from: http://assistcsc.org/en/
ASSIST Community Services Centre. (2017) Immigrant Services. Retrieved from: http://assistcsc.org/en/
Changing Together: A Centre for Immigrant Women. (2017) Services. Retrieved from: http://www.changingtogether.com/index.html
Statistics Canada. (2017). Labour Force survey estimates (LFS), by census metropolitan area based on 2011 Census boundaries, sex and age group, annual. CANSIM Table 2820-0129.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (2016). The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2016 – the Gender Gap in Canada’s 25 Biggest Cities. Retrieved from https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2016/10/Best_and_Worst_Places_to_Be_a_Woman2016.pdf
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Protocol is Important in the Indigenous Community

We always have dignitaries at pow wows,’ Said the M.C.  Then he proceeded to introduce one. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Kerry Diotte (this is how it was spelled on his agenda). ‘Looking around he said, “Where is she?” 

Someone quickly said, ‘He’, it’s a he.’ Then the MC was embarrassed and not just a little.  As Mr. Diotte came from behind the MC continued to offer an apology and he was really quite upset about his mistake. Mr. Diotte took the mic and went right into his speech. He didn’t acknowledge the error.  He might have been embarrassed himself.  It was hard to tell. Many people would have mentioned it and tried to make light of it saying something like, ‘You are not the first one to make that mistake and probably won’t be the last,’ trying to generate a chuckle from the young crowd.
Mr. Diotte said the usual things politicians say.  Indigenous dancers had danced earlier and Mr. Diotte mentioned their colorful ‘costumes’.  He looked around the field and mentioned teachings that would take place in the tents.  He finished, and then the next dignitary was introduced. 
For the uninformed, here is the contextualization. Indigenous people refer to their ceremonial and pow wow clothing as regalia or outfits.  It is considered offensive to refer to it as costumes.
Regalia has spiritual significance. Secondly, tipis are not tents. There were 6 tipis in the school field and not one single tent.
So if protocol had been observed by both parties, this embarrassing scenario could have been avoided. Mr. Diotte would have been introduced as ‘Mr. Kerry Diotte, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach and Mr. Diotte would have commented on the regalia being colorful and great learning opportunities taking place in the tipis.
May 25 034 hoop dance 1
 
The event was the annual Miyokisikaw/Cree for It’s a good day, hosted at Delton School May 19, 2017. This year 4 elementary schools participated. Students were bused in from Oliver, Norwood, and John A McDougall Schools. 1200 students, 600 in the morning and 600 in the afternoon had the opportunity to experience 20 stations that included; traditional games, hoop dancing, tipi teachings, storytelling, Metis dancing, and drumming.  Each station was about 20 minutes and the students went from one to the next for half the day. It was gratifying to see young students learning positive things about Indigenous people!
 
Article submitted by:
Sharon A Pasula, M.A., Indigenous Cultural & Educational Helper

Ministry Profile: Millbourne Community Life Centre

Many faith communities wonder how they might go deeper in relationship, and in helping address needs in their local neighbourhood.  Often they will have their own building, and wonder what might be possible if they could just open their doors a little wider.

MIllbourne Community Life Centre, supported by the South Edmonton Alliance Church provides some great food for thought on this front.  They are a faith community who pursued the community centre model of engagement.
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Millbourne Community Life Centre is a busy place!
Close to twenty local partners collaborate with the centre to provide a dizzying array of programming and opportunities in service to both the immediate and larger community in Millwoods.  The local community they minister to is very diverse, and is home to people from a vast range of faiths and cultures, such as, Punjabi, Urdu, Latino, Chinese, Filipino, Hindi, and Arabic.  The socio-economic needs of the surrounding community are also significant, with over 1,400 households that fall within the lowest income bracket, as well as 2,500 subsidized housing units within the eleven communities that make up Millwoods.
Working to respond to those needs, the Millbourne Community Life Centre has become a hot spot in the local community, with many partners coming together to provide: immigration support services, a youth ministry centre, We-can food baskets, conversational cafes to aid in learning conversational English, Pre-natal classes, a food pantry and food bank outlet, a refugee medical clinic, a Community mother’s drop-in, a summer community sports camp, cultural fluency seminars, long distance seminary courses in Cantonese, and cross-cultural internships with the University of Hong Kong.
It is also home to three church communities: City South Church (Pentecostal) – 10am-12pm on Sundays, The Multicultural Alliance Church – starting at 12:15pm, and the Light of Life Filipino church, worshipping at 4pm.
It is open seven days a week, and is a hub for all kinds of help and services embedded in the local community. 

So how did this happen?

Ten years ago, the large brick building at 2101 Millbourne Road was home to the Millbourne Alliance Church.  The congregation had met together for over fifty years, and done much good work together, but they had become an ageing and dwindling congregation.  It was becoming clear the time was upon them to close their doors.
Local Alliance Churches began meeting to consider what to do with the building.  After a time, South Edmonton Alliance Church stepped up to sponsor the building as a community outreach, and in 2011 opened it as a community centre for the very diverse neighbourhood.  From the start, they elected to treat any potential organizations as partners, rather than renters.  They decided all their partners would have a seat at the table, and that they would meet regularly.  Together with new partners, they could help to address challenges faced by people in the community.

As the Centre found its’ feet, those partners gradually came to the table.  One of their anchor partners is Youth Unlimited, who run a youth ministry centre out of the basement.  A few years ago, as a partner they renovated the space as a venue for concerts and other types of programming for their youth, many of whom are from immigrant families and learning together under their Christian mentors, how to be Canadian, and caring citizens in their new home.

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There were certainly some difficult transitional moments.  One of those was the decision to take down the large cross that was on the outside of the building.  There were strong feelings on both sides of the decision.  The purpose for doing so, was to facilitate the coming and going for Muslims and other groups who could access ministries in their building.  Those serving today in the MCLC facility are very mindful and deeply appreciative of the tremendous work and sacrifice of those from the original church family, Millbourne Alliance Church!
One significant shift that happened was in how they saw the building.  Tim Cook, the director at MCLC describes this change as moving from a posture of “protecting our stuff,” to “let’s use this building together.”  That posture has made so much possible, with partners willing to invest in upgrades and some renovations.

Certainly, not everything is simple.  The centre is self-sustaining in operating costs, but currently the building needs some larger repairs, including a new roof and parking lot, and investments to make the upstairs accessible.  Finding the money and resources to effect those major repairs is still in the works, but these are normal challenges.  It is likely solutions to this will be generated out of the continuing fruit of the relationships and partnerships built.  Perhaps they will be able to tell that story too in the days to come.

Where is the heart that drives a community ministry like Millbourne community Life Centre?
That heart is expressed well in their vision statement:  “Millbourne Community Life Centre is a place where all, regardless of ethnic or economic background can come to receive an expression of God’s love and find hope that comes through knowing the gift of life that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

      This vision fuels a spirit of warmth and welcome that permeates the place.  There is no pressure employed, or any strings attached to any of the help.  But sometimes prayers are shared, and if anyone wants to understand the heart that drives their hospitality, there are several partners there to walk with them on that journey.