All posts by Inter-Faith Housing Initiative

City updating Plan to End Homelessness

In 2009, the Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness released A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. The report calls for a transition from managing homelessness to ending it, using housing and supports.

The plan has five main goals, which are detailed below.

  1. Provide permanent housing options for all people living on the street and in public places.
  2. Ensure an adequate supply of permanent, affordable housing with appropriate supports for people who are homeless.
  3. Ensure emergency accommodation is available when needed, but transition people quickly into permanent housing.
  4. Prevent people from becoming homeless.
  5. Establish a governance structure and an implementation process for the plan.

Recently, City Council unanimously voted for a new plan to house the chronically homeless population.

      This vote came after a report showing that while the City of Edmonton has made progress on short-term housing, it has added just 213 of the 1,000 permanent housing units identified as needed in a 2009 report. According to Mayor Don Iveson, the shortfall is a result of a lack of funding from other levels of government. Iveson argues that improved access to affordable housing will help to offset other community costs such as policing, healthcare and social disorder and is a good investment into the health of Edmonton’s economy.
The City of Edmonton and Homeward Trust are holding public consultation sessions, giving the public the opportunity to provide information and input into an update of the Plan. The sessions are open to the public and have themes related to access to housing and basic needs. I hope that interest in these sessions is widespread and that all participants come with an open mind and with a focus on the best interests of the homeless population of Edmonton.
All residents of Edmonton deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, to have access to supports they need to excel in their daily lives, to have access to safe, secure and stable housing and to feel included and involved in their communities. These public consultations are a step in the right direction to ensure that all people of Edmonton have access to these experiences and that their basic housing needs are met.
By Heather Curtis: Research Coordinator at the Edmonton Social Planning Council(ESPC)
Visit ESPC at their website:  http://edmontonsocialplanning.ca/

Why Scientologists Help!

      One can look around this world and find numerous examples of tragedies, poverty, war and losses. It is easy to become depressed about this and feel that all is in despair.

We can put our attention on this and become hopeless or we can focus on the people that are tackling these problems to help; better yet we can join them to create huge effects for the betterment of all mankind.  Scientology believes that something can be done about it.

The eight dynamics as survival in Scientology is a fundamental  principle. The first dynamic is you as an individual, the second is creativity and family, the third is groups, the fourth is mankind, the fifth is all life forms, the sixth is the physical universe, the seventh is the spiritual and the eighth is infinity (however one wants to define God, Creator, Supreme Being etc…) In order to achieve harmony and success, one must ensure that all of these dynamics are thriving. They are intertwined and can not be separated.  This core belief is understood by Scientologists that one can not help himself and better his conditions in life if he is only focusing on the first dynamic. A poor 4th dynamic (mankind) will bring down all the others. We are only as good as all of our dynamics. It directly contributes to our personal survival to help our fellow man.

We help because anyone can sit on the sidelines and say what others need to do. Life is not a spectator sport. Life is a game and we play it hard. We know ways to help and it is our duty and our pleasure to back it up with action. One of the basic truths within Scientology is that one is as valuable as one is able to help others.

We don’t all have to have the same faiths to join together and create a healthy, thriving and safe world. We just need a common purpose – to help. And we can move mountains…

Article submitted by Kara Murray, from Edmonton’s Scientology Community

See Inside: Housing First!

We’re all familiar with door-to-door support programs like Meals on Wheels, providing food security to people with mobility challenges.  It turns out a similar approach is working for people coming off the street into housing.  Let me introduce you to Housing First!

Housing First is a philosophy.  It is a philosophy that’s part of Edmonton’s and Alberta’s respective Plans to End Homelessness.  If you want someone to succeed at being housed, you need to give them the tools to remove the barriers they face.  The first step is to provide housing, and then you can address life issues which may have led to homelessness in the first place.

But Housing First is also a program.  It is a network of resources, programs and strategies that has taken root here in Edmonton to provide both housing and necessary supports to people in crisis.  The basic thrust of the program is this:  Identify a person’s needs.  Provide them with appropriate housing.  Then provide support workers to help them keep their housing, settle in, and support them in the work of moving forward.  Since 2009, Homeward Trust, which oversees the Housing First program here in Edmonton has housed and supported 6,000 people.

How a person is housed depends on their needs.  Most in the Housing First program are placed in market rental housing, which could be anywhere in the city.  But as you will see in the chart below, not everyone needs the same level of support or care.  So the program works to provide appropriate home and care tailored to each individual.

HOUSING FIRST 
The range of housing and supports

Rapid Rehousing (RR) Intensive Case Management (ICM) Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
case management case management clinical intervention case management
  Able to access clinical supports on their own. Need in-home visits.

Chronic mental illness &/or addictions

On-site supports provided around the clock
Housing First team Housing First team Housing First team and visits from professional support like Occupational therapist, LPN, RN, Psychiatry Range of supports depending on population. Can include: food, healthcare, OT, LPN, RN, Recreational programs
Usually in Market Housing Usually in Market Housing Often in Market Housing Supportive Living Facility
What kind of barriers do people generally face?
In addition to experiencing homelessness, people who can be served by a Housing First program are facing a combination of barriers:
  1. Mental Health: ie. major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia
  2. Addictions: ie. alcohol, gambling, drugs
  3. Broken relationships or loss:  ie. Grieving the loss of a child, spouse, or parent or a broken marriage.
  4. Mistakes in their past that have damaged their credit, or rental history, or resulted in a criminal conviction.
  5. Trauma:  ie. from violence or abusive relationships, from living on the street, as veterans of police or military, or intergenerational trauma from residential schools.  Trauma is common to almost everyone coming into Housing First.

What does a Housing First team generally do?
Once a person has been assessed and Housing First is found to be the appropriate intervention, they are provided with a Housing First team.  This team helps them find a place, get settled, and supports them as they move forward. The team will go with them to look at different apartments, and help get everything arranged; be there for moving day; take them to Find (Homeward Trust’s initiative that provides people moving out of homelessness through Housing First with free furnishings) to get set up with initial furniture, start-up food, cleaning supplies, basic tools.
Then depending on what a person needs, members of the team will visit regularly.  It could be as many as two day a week for the first few months.

How does Housing First help people move forward?
From beginning to end, every part of this program is voluntary. It is client-centred with self determination of the client, key.  The moment you walk into someone’s living room and tell them what to do, you create a wall: usually impenetrable.  But if you ask someone what they need to move forward, they are going to know.  The Housing First team works with the person to make a plan and connect with appropriate resources.
The program works to help overcome barriers, but the choices of participants must be honoured.  The team must give someone the dignity of failure: to make their own decisions and to learn from those decisions.

What kind of challenges do people face? 

  1. Negative messages.  As participants are welcomed into the program, they receive a lot of messages from the mainstream: suggesting that they are not deserving of housing because they haven’t worked for it, or judging them for their addictions.
  2. It’s a mountain!  When people first move in, things go really well.  Then the hard work begins of confronting barriers; many of which are very, very difficult.  There can be a lot of stumbling.  “The Housing First worker has to be a guide through the hard work and show the payoff at the end.  But what is amazing is how strong some folks are!  The trauma can be so heavy, but folks learn so much and connect in a finite amount of time.  It is like climbing a mountain, but they do it and it is amazing!” says Renee Iverson
  3. Building a new network of support. When someone is moving from a life that’s entrenched on the streets into the life of a housed person, there’s a change with the way someone views community.  It can be a huge task rebuilding a positive community of support. For example, Welcome Home is a program designed to address this challenge by matching a team of volunteers with a participant to go for walks, share a meal, go bowling, and to be there as a friend.  Click here for more information on how to volunteer https://www.cssalberta.ca/Our-Ministries/Welcome-Home

How does a person apply for Housing First?
Coordinated Access is centralized intake. People can call or visit Homeward Trust’s partnering agencies. There is “no wrong door” approach to what agency they can visit.  Most people who experience homelessness in Edmonton will never require a Housing First intervention. For those that do, centralized intake will be able to route them to the appropriate Housing First teams.

Here is a link to a page on CRIHI’s website with some key contact numbers including access to Housing First:  http://wp.me/P20ewB-o6

Article by Mike Van Boom, based on an interview with Renee Iverson from Homeward Trust

If my kid can do it…

It all started with a request for sidewalk chalk.

My family was walking the few blocks home after church one Sunday afternoon, when my four-year-old daughter asked my wife to have some sidewalk chalk from her purse.  She then proceeded to begin drawing arrows all down the sidewalk.

After a while, we asked her about why she was drawing these arrows, and she said to us, “so people can find our house!”
“Oh!” we said.  And what’s happening at our house?
(Parent’s note: We were planning a nice quiet afternoon as it was our last day with Nana, who was visiting from Ontario)
“We’re having a tea party!” said she.
“Oh really!  And where are we having this tea party?”
“On the sidewalk!”

So, as happens regularly with parents raising young children, our plans for a chilled afternoon with Nana were hijacked by an exciting new idea from the mind and heart of our child.

Here’s what we did:  We brought out a few chairs and a small table and set it up on the sidewalk at the foot of our driveway.  We set out the tea.  We knocked on a few doors to invite people who lived nearby, and for the next two and a half hours we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon chatting with our neighbours.

Our Italian neighbours from around the corner brought out some cookies to share.  The eighty-year-old woman on the corner who had lived in this neighbourhood for over 60 years came out and told us stories; including how she raised her six kids in her little 650 square foot house.  People walking their dogs stopped to visit, and we even had one or two homeless neighbours stop by for a cookie and some tea.  It was a wonderful and beautiful experience.

Today, it is a reminder to me of what is possible with a little heart, imagination and courage.  Poverty takes many forms and is in every community.  Some of that poverty is relational; taking the form of loneliness and isolation.  All of us find ourselves there sometimes.  The answer to much of the poverty we experience is found when we experience real community together.

How does that community start?  With a little hospitality!   And hey, if my kid can do it, so can I!

By Mike Van Boom, from Edmonton’s McCauley Community

A Catholic Reflection: Spiritual Grounding in Bridging Societal Divides

Article first published in the Western Catholic Reporter on September 16, 2013
by BOB MCKEON

Last month I attended an afternoon meeting at the Marian Centre in inner city Edmonton. At the end of the meeting, I was invited to join with the Marian Centre staff for the 5:15 pm Mass at St. Benedict’s Chapel at Edmonton’s City Centre Mall.

The walk of only four blocks was a jarring experience of contrasts.  Coming out of the alley, we passed by Immigration Hall, a newly-renovated, 41-unit housing complex operated by Hope Mission that provides transitional and long-term housing for formerly homeless men and women making important life transitions.  On the next block we passed by the Spady Centre, a community-run street-level detox facility where two peace officers were interrogating a man in the lineup outside of the centre. Just a little bit further, we passed by the main entrance of the EPCOR office tower where crowds of well-dressed people were hurrying out at the end of their workday. A block further, we passed through the lobby of an upscale downtown hotel to gain access to an elevated pedway which led to a side entrance into Edmonton City Centre Mall.  Once in the mall we passed by a jewelry store with beautiful expansive displays. One floor up on the escalator, we entered the sacred space of St. Benedict’s Chapel.

HALF A WORLD AWAY
While most of us know there are homeless people in Edmonton, usually they are at a distance from us. That afternoon, the distance was literally only a couple dozen metres on one hand, and yet half a world away on the other.

Two nights later I was far from the inner city at St. Thomas More Church Hall in Riverbend, attending a community meeting debating a proposed 60-unit supportive housing project for men, women and families making the transition from an earlier experience of homelessness to a new situation of stable, affordable apartments.
Here the visible and societal distance between those with and without homes was narrowing rapidly. The hall was crowded. People spoke with great passion and often with anger. Most who spoke were opposed to the proposed housing project.

Many questions were raised about the building site in Terwillegar Towne, the size of the project, availability of support services and the potential risks posed to the local neighbourhood by the new residents.

FEAR, FRUSTRATION
Underlying public conversations like this is a strong sense of fear, frustration and vulnerability. Some in our Catholic parishes regularly cross this societal divide when they give generously of their time and money and encounter those who are hungry, homeless or poor at the Marian Centre or Inner City Pastoral Ministry in inner city Edmonton or in community or church halls in other parts of the archdiocese.

This is often a spiritually and personally transforming experience for those who give of themselves in this way. However, there is a certain intentionality and clear limits and boundaries in these encounters. There are usually clear time expectations, assigned roles and tasks, and experienced mentors. At the end of the encounter, it is possible to leave and go back to our own homes and communities often a safe distance away.

What is most challenging and often creates fear is when this social divide is crossed unexpectedly without pre-set time and space boundaries. Think of encountering a person begging on the sidewalk or a new service agency or social housing complex on our block.

SPIRITUAL GROUNDING
For Christians, one key reference point is our internal spiritual disposition. In our deepest heart of hearts, is our spiritual grounding: one of love, inclusion, hospitality, solidarity and freedom? Jesus in the Gospel stories provides a perfect model for this. Fear and anger can present obstacles for us to be able to respond from the strength of this spiritual foundation.

As we grow in our discipleship journey following Christ ever more closely, we learn to respond more fully from an internal disposition of love. This does not mean we surrender our responsibility to exercise prudence, wisdom and discernment as we face difficult debates on controversial community projects or when we navigate inner city sidewalks. But it does mean that we start from a spiritual grounding of love, solidarity and welcome, especially to those who are vulnerable and on the margins.

rooted-and-grounded

Mark talks Housing

My name is Mark.  I am 13 years old I am in grade eight.  I feel so blessed and excited as our family will take this new chapter of our life. I am so grateful that we are now part of the community that helps many families reach their dreams.  Today is the day we’ve been waiting for.mark-13-habitat

      Having a home is having a strong foundation especially for every child. I describe home as the starting place of love, hope, and dreams. A home is a place where I feel the love of my family, relatives, and friends. This is where I learn how to become a better person every day. This is where I get my energy to get through another day. This is a place of hope where I learn how to get back on my feet, when things are not going well, and having that hope that tomorrow will be better day. This is where my dream of becoming a basketball player someday starts, because I have a place where I can spend watching my favourite sports on TV and do my research on how to enhance my skills in basketball. Having a home is everything to me.  This is where I build myself as a person to become a good citizen today and in the future.
      Moving to a new place means meeting new friends and being in a new community. I just moved to a new school nearby, and at a very short time I have gained new friends already. My family and I are looking forward to know our new neighbours and friends. I am also looking forward to have my very own room for the very first time and this is really exciting for me.

      With all the hard work and passion of all the people who work together to make this possible to us and other families, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. A decent shelter to our family is finally a dream come true. To all the volunteers and donors for your never ending and generous support of Habitat for Humanity – a big and warm thank you! Thank you, Habitat for this wonderful opportunity!

Want to help out?  This year, Habitat for Humanity is building 150 homes across Canada; 75 of these are here in Edmonton.  This year’s Interfaith Habitat Works is from February 23-April 27.  It’s not too late!  Grab a few friends from your faith communities, your workplace or neighbourhood and come work for a day.

Here’s the poster with this year’s details:

habitat-interfaith-most-recent 

 

See Inside: Grand Manor (Excel Society)

Supportive Living Facilities play a crucial role in providing home for people who need the extra help because of age or illness, disability or injury, or even addictions.

Grand Manor is one such facility run by the Excel Society.  They provide home and support for people 25-100 years of age from a variety of needs and backgrounds. The entire facility has 118 individual suites. Three are 1-bedroom apartments, the rest are studio style.

Thirty-two beds are on a secure unit where people are not allowed to leave unless accompanied. Sixteen beds are for PDD (persons with developmental disabilities) – a new program. Edmonton has lots of group homes providing home to PDD tenants, but as people age they need greater support.

Here are the services Grand Manor provides in-house:

  1. 1. On-site support staff: 24-hr LPN care and Health care aide. A Physician is onsite twice per week.  Psychiatrist once per week. Podiatrist once every six weeks. RN, M-F. Supportive living case managers M-F. They have an occupational therapist on-site with a Mental Health specialization who tests a person’s capability, helps them set goals, and perhaps find work).
  2. They have a Harm Reduction Program for people with an uncontrolled habit of alcohol consumption (Managed Alcohol Program). More details below.
  3. They provide Financial counseling to clients who need that assistance; including a program that allows people to live in a cash-free environment, with credit used in the small store on-site.
  4. And of course food! In the older part of the facility, residents from 55 suites use a main dining room. In the newer part of the building, residents meet for lunch on each floor.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does a person qualify for a supportive living facility like Grand Manor?

Alberta Health Services oversees assessment and placement. People first contact the Continuing Care Access Hotline: 780.496.1300. From there, people are assessed and are connected with facilities that have the proper resources to address their needs

2. How much does room and board cost?

Room and board costs around $1900. Many clients receive funding from AISH or CPP, but others are funded privately through savings or by family support. In the event someone is unable to afford this kind of help, AISH and CPP are able to provide an increase for clients in Supportive Living.

3. How does the Managed Alcohol Program work?

At Grand Manor, staff work with each resident to develop an individual alcohol management plan that takes into consideration how much the resident wants to drink and what the resident can afford to drink. The goal is to determine what is enough to satisfy the resident while still being safe for that person. In some cases, they help the client find a safe level close to what his/her body is accustomed to and then gradually help them taper down. At Grand Manor, alcohol is purchased by staff using funds clients have provided. They then serve the alcohol to people in their rooms in regular doses, perhaps once every hour.

Who is currently in this program? They have people anywhere from 55 to 90 years old. Many of these have severe alcohol addictions and often have mental health issues. Some are men grieving the loss of a spouse who were not doing well on their own, and began to drink more. Others were people living on the streets.

How is a managed alcohol program helpful? Almost all residents that enter the Harm Reduction Program have come with an uncontrolled habit of alcohol consumption. This causes numerous problems such as incontinence, injuries related to falls, alcohol-related dementia, seizures, poor nutrition, and verbal and physical abuse. Through the harm reduction program, Grand Manor has been able to assist the clients to reduce their alcohol intake to a safer consumption that allows them more control over their lives.

A success story: A woman came into Grand Manor from living on the streets. The hospital sent her to Grand Manor to be part of the Managed Alcohol Program. She had diabetes and high blood pressure. Coming into the program, she expressed her view that she doesn’t really enjoy drinking, but that when you are on the street, ‘It’s what you do.’ She began to participate in the recreational programs and make friends. She only drank for a week, and then stopped. Today, she is no longer on any blood pressure meds; is on minimal oral diabetic medication and doesn’t drink at all.

When haven’t people been successful? The program has not worked for people who want to binge drink, and value that more than a roof over their head. Some choose to go back to living on the streets

4. How does financial counseling work at Grand Manor?

Most clients at Grand Manor have a trustee to help them manage their budget. The trustee could be a family member, or their is a staff person who can play that role if need be. In more difficult cases, a person can sign a third-party agreement to directly allocate their income to cover their room and board at Grand Manor.

To learn more about Grand Manor, visit the excel society’s website: http://www.excelsociety.org/care-options/grand-manor

 

 

Homeless Count 2016 brings some good news!

Over two hundred volunteers partnered with agencies and city staff to do Homeless Count 2016.

The task, as always is challenging, but teams of volunteers hit the streets and alleys, shelters, and walked the river valleys to engage with people in need. The count is an important tool for Canada’s cities, as it helps different levels of government see where needs are being met or missed, and how better to respond.

The Homeless Count is never able to capture the whole picture, as it is difficult to measure the hidden homeless, but the information helps inform decisions. This year’s numbers show that some of Edmonton’s hard work is paying off.

2016 Count: 1,752 is a 43% decrease over the previous year.

70% of these are chronically homeless.

Indigenous: 48% (Pop 5%)

Veterans: 70 veterans of military or RCMP

Unsheltered:  22% 374

Emergency Sheltered: 43% 745

Provisionally Accommodated: 36% – 633

Men 74%

Women 25%

LGBTQ 1%

Families – success! 246 housed between January 2015 to March 2016.  We saw a 51% decrease in homeless families from 2014 to 2016.

Youth – 240 counted in 2014; 129 counted in 2016

Here are a few front line stories from volunteers who participated in the count:

“I spoke with a man who had been homeless for 20 years. He is now in subsidized housing and no longer an alcoholic, and he mentioned being helped along the way by Homeward Trust. He spoke about the difficulties of getting off the streets but still having homeless friends, and being around people who still abuse. It was a nice chat, and interesting to hear his story.”

“We were humbled by how honest the participants were …so accommodating and caring. People expressed concern for us. There is a true sense of community and helping among the homeless population of Edmonton.”

“Regardless, it was an eye-opening experience learning the hardships of constantly waiting in line for food and shelter, and not feeling independent.”

“The number of homeless people my partner and I encountered, who I’d never have guessed would be homeless based on appearances, blew me away.”

“I only got through about half a dozen surveys in the time I was at the shelter. This wasn’t because it was difficult or tedious, but because the men I spoke with were just looking to have someone listen as they shared their stories – and their stories ranged so widely, especially given the economic downturn of the past year. It was incredibly humbling just to sit there, going through the survey, yes, but the questions were just a medium and excuse to start conversations about life and experiences lived.”

“Respondents helped me to understand more of who is experiencing homelessness and why. One fellow was working in Ft. Mac and lost his truck with possessions to the fire. He has spent the last year homeless in Edmonton, struggling with his insurance company. UGH!”

“A couple of the folks had just received word that they were going to get an apartment through Housing First and were so excited! Two different respondents had dealt with homelessness in the past and received assistance from Housing First. They expressed major gratitude.”

 

Interfaith Recruiters’ Meeting

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY’S INTERFAITH WORKS PROJECT 2017 IS COMING!  FEB 23 – APRIL 27, 2017

We are mobilizing Edmonton’s faith community to come out and join us on the Habitat build and in Restores. If you are part of a faith community, we invite you to join us! Habitat for Humanity Edmonton and the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative are working together to engage Edmonton’s faith communities.

Our goal is to mobilize 500 volunteers and provide 45 lunches.

The Recruiters’ Meeting will provide information on how to sign up your faith group and promote the Interfaith Works Project.  We are gathering people from across Edmonton to recruit volunteers from their faith community.

Come and join us to find out how you can be part of this!

When: Jan 23 OR Jan 24

Time: 6-7pm

Location: 14135 128 Ave NW

RSVP: Batya@interfaithhousing.ca

interfaith-works-flyer

 

 

Edmonton’s Response in 2016: Hospitality

“Anyone coming down from Ft. Mac need a place to stay?  I have a bed and a pull-out couch at my house.  Call me!”

Facebook posts like this were common in an outpouring of support for wildfire-devastated neighbours from the north.  fleeing-wildfires

The refugee crisis from Syria and other war-torn countries also prompted an opening of borders and an outpouring of care.  What was our first instinct when seeing neighbours in crisis?  Hospitality.  By opening our doors and our communities, we gave rest to people fleeing war and wildfires.  It brought people hope, and a place to heal.

In 2017, what will prompt us to open our doors and our hearts?  Will it be a crisis somewhere across the world?  Or will it be a need close to home that claims our attention?  Be it the struggle of a young family looking for a safe and affordable home, a senior on a long waiting list, or just someone trying to find their way alone in a new place, CRIHI invites you to work with us in making 2017 a year where Edmonton’s compassion and hospitality again shine fiercely for those who need hope and home so desperately.