All posts by Inter-Faith Housing Initiative

Welcome Home Links ‘friends’ with the Formerly Homeless

October 15, 2012


Debbie Jodoin spent a year living in a shelter and begging for change on the streets. Her situation improved dramatically five months ago when she moved into a brand new apartment through the Housing First program.

Jodoin, 55, is one of about 1,800 people who have made the journey from homelessness to home since Edmonton began its 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness three years ago.

But as Jodoin knows, adjusting to a new life off the streets takes time and is usually a lonely experience. In the beginning, she spent a lot of time alone in her new home, except for casual visits from her children.

Now, thanks to Catholic Social Services’ Welcome Home Program, Jodoin receives weekly visits from a Christian couple who spend quality time with her. She is happy with the arrangement because the couple talks to her, and takes her out for movies and dinner or simply for coffee.

Welcome Home is a volunteer-based program that provides companionship to individuals and families making the transition from homelessness to home. The goal of the program is to reduce the loneliness and social isolation faced by many newly-housed people.

Jodoin calls the Housing First program a “real miracle” and thanks Mayor Stephen Mandel for her new apartment. One day, after spending hours sitting on the concrete under the wet rain, Jodoin entered a coffeehouse and asked the mayor for change and told him of her situation.

In addition to giving her $20, the mayor invited Jodoin to contact Housing First. She did and in a matter of weeks she got her new apartment. It is a one-bedroom apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen, a den and small living room with a sofa and TV set.


Jodoin was happy there but said she began to feel lonely in her new neighbourhood. She uses a walker so she can’t go far; plus she doesn’t know the neighbourhood well. So she signed up to have volunteers from the Welcome Home program visit her.

She hadn’t seen anybody for months, except for social workers, when the volunteers, a married couple, showed up. “They are a very good Christian people. I do enjoy their company.”

Catholic Social Services has the contract to run the Welcome Home Program, which trains volunteers from various faith communities and then partners them with recently housed individuals who agree to participate.

So far, nine matches have been made – two fully-trained volunteers per participant – and four other matches are pending, said Sister Mary Clare Stack, CSS’s manager of parish relations and the “promotions person” for Welcome Home. Volunteers must undergo nine hours training and clear a police record check before they are matched.

The matches work together for six months and then they are evaluated. If things are okay, they can continue for another six months, Stack explained. At that point, CSS ends its involvement.

Participants and volunteers may continue the relationship after that if they wish, she said.

Stack said the Welcome Home team continues to do workshops in churches to engage more volunteers and to let congregations know about Welcome Home. “We have 15 participants waiting for a match,” lamented Stack. “We need more volunteers.”

Sister Roseanne Favreau, a Sister of Charity of Evron from Pickardville, near Westlock, and Eunice Bland, an Anglican woman from Bon Accord, were matched last July with a 50-year-old man who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the west end.

The trio meet in a small restaurant every week and spend at least two hours together, when the participant shows up. For his birthday, Favreau and Bland wanted to take him to the Imax Theatre for a movie but he didn’t go.

The next time they asked him why. The man said he just wanted to be with them at the restaurant. He has a bad back and the medication makes him tired and sleepy.

“We have a cup of coffee and we talk and he is happy,” Favreau said. “Last week he just poured out his heart but we don’t ask anything; we just accept what he says.”

The women asked the newly-housed man if they were helping him by coming out every week and he said, “Oh, yes.” The man has no friends in the area and said he looks forward to his weekly meeting with Favreau and Bland.

Favreau said he is afraid to take a bus because he may meet one of his old friends and return to his former life.

Sr. Roseanne Favreau

Favreau, a religious sister for 52 years, is well suited for her volunteer position with Welcome Home. She spent 34 years in mission, including 26 years in the Ivory Coast and eight in Peru.


She came back from Peru in 2010 and wanted to do something. One day she accompanied a sister to a Welcome Home meeting and was hooked immediately.

She loves her new ministry. “My thing in mission was to be friends with the people, visiting, listening to the people. Here too. (Newly-housed people) need to feel they are not alone. It’s important just to be there with the person. This is a ministry of presence – presence and friendship.”

Jane, who didn’t want to use her last name, is a well-educated woman who grew up affluent but ended up homeless following her mental health diagnosis and her subsequent divorce.


Her homelessness ended about 18 months ago when, thanks to Housing First, she moved into a two-bedroom apartment in southwest Edmonton. The apartment is clean, nicely furnished and has a pleasant view of a nearby farm. Jane shares her home with Magnificat, her rag doll cat.

The 54-year-old woman had lived in Castledowns for years so she didn’t know many people in her new neighbourhood. She has been attending an Anglican church nearby but hasn’t made any solid friendships yet.

“It’s actually quite lonely here,” she lamented.

But she said the two volunteers from Welcome Home who have been visiting her for the last three weeks have made life much more bearable. “It’s a great program,” she says. “These people have improved my life.”


Two weeks ago the volunteers took Jane to the Farmers’ Market and they were planning a visit to the Muttart Conservatory. “It’s a nice match,” she said of the volunteers. “It has worked quite well for me. It’s nice to know that at least once a week I’ll see them.”

Those interested in volunteering with Welcome Home can contact Jacqueline Bass at 780-378-2544.

General Meeting: June 7, 2012

Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative on Homelessness & Affordable Housing
General Meeting
June 7, 2012, 10:00- 12:00pm
Bob McKeon welcomed everyone and offered regrets from Archbishop Richard Smith who was unavailable to attend. Bob explained the intent of the meeting was to focus on how we can specifically help aboriginal people with the obstacles they face in regards to homelessness and obtaining affordable housing.
Limited time was allotted for updates, but the following information was shared with the plenary group:

Sr. Mary Clare-Catholic Social Services
Welcome Home Program
CSS has presented to 9 of the 12 Housing First teams. Jackie Bass, program director, has been interviewing the possible volunteers. Kaeli Freehan and Clare Rolheiser have been helping to train and screen volunteers.
The fund referred to as the Discretionary Fund in the past, is now referred to as the Activity Fund. The money collected in this fund is to allow the Welcome Home volunteers and their match an opportunity to enjoy community outings without fiscal burdens. A fund of $40.00/month per match has been budgeted. This fund enables both the Housing First participant and the volunteer to plan activities together, without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. This is an important part of the program, but requires donated contributions to be available. Please see the letter explaining this program and need for donations. (attached).
Kaeli Freehan-Catholic Social Services
Habitat for Humanity Interfaith Build
Habitat for Humanity is one of the options stated in the Congregational Housing Action Guide for Edmonton Religious and Spiritual Communities prepared by the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative. It was suggested at the Interfaith Steering Committee meeting early in the year, that the steering committee encourage their religious communities to come together and volunteer together with Habitat for Humanity.
The goal for the May Interfaith build was to provide 110 volunteers. The goal was met and exceeded with 120 volunteers. Further, many congregations are continuing to sign up for shifts. Special recognition was given to McClure United Church who provided 25 volunteers and supplied lunch for 5 days. This was a very big contribution from such a small congregation!
Habitat for Humanity contacted representatives from the Interfaith Housing group and invited them to a debriefing meeting of the build which took place on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. There is a recommendation that we do another interfaith habitat build in 2013.
Information about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity can be found at or by phoning the volunteer coordinator at 780-451-3416.

Brian Kiely-United Church of Edmonton
Welcome Home Congregational Workshops
Sr. Mary Clare and Brian Kiely have been providing congregational workshops to educate people on the many ways they can assist with challenge of Homelessness and Affordable Housing. The Congregational Housing Action Guide is used to walk participants through some of the options available and let the parish choose which volunteer activity/strategies would be the right fit for them. If anyone is interested in hosting a workshop, please contact Brian Kiely at . Also, there is a DVD of Sr. Mary Clare’s presentation, specifically on the Welcome Home Program, available for viewing.
There is a committee currently working to create a revised version of the Congregational Housing Action Guide which they hope will be ready for publishing in the fall 2012. Please contact Bob McKeon at if you have any suggestions for revisions or additions.

Jay Freeman-Executive Director of the Homeless Commission
Edmonton Homeless Commission
Jay spoke briefly about entering into Edmonton’s 4th year of the 10 year plan to end homelessness. Recently, the year 3 update has been made available and it is available for viewing at . Jay was pleased to announce that over 1800 people have been housed with 85% retention rate to date.

Pam Reichenbach-Do Likewise Society
Neighbor Center
Many homeless people are choosing to live on the south side of the city but there are few services in south Edmonton for people in need. The Neighbor Centre is an initiative of the Edmonton Do Likewise Society. It will be a small scale storefront outreach centre located at 7221 104 street. Pam shared that they are currently looking for volunteers skilled in the building trades or experienced in doing renovations as they work to renovate an old restaurant into the outreach center. If you are able to help, please contact Pam at or call (780) 439-3654.
Those present were introduced to Larry McCormick their new program director.

Dave Ward
Homeward Trust
Dave Ward, Director of Aboriginal Relations at Homeward Trust, presented an in-service on the over-representation of Aboriginals experiencing homelessness. He shared his personal experience of growing up in an Aboriginal family, the sacrifices that were made in order to obtain a post-secondary education, and his unique perspective on the homelessness crisis. Offering suggestions on incorporating Aboriginal
tradition into new practices enlightened the audience on the “walk with” and “Education is our Buffalo” philosophies.
The presentation was divided into 2 sections, Aboriginal Identity and Homeward Trust. We were educated on the different Aboriginal groups in Canada and specifically in Alberta.
With the use of statistics on Aboriginal over-representation in the foster care system, prisons and those living in below standard housing, he was able to clearly state the immense need for specific intervention strategies.
Dave provided a comprehensive overview of all the ways Homeward Trust funds and coordinates efforts to end homelessness in Edmonton. Provincial and federal funding make up the majority of their budget to run their many initiatives. These initiatives include, Housing First, capital projects, planning & research and Aboriginal relations. From offering frontline support including the supply of household furniture through FIND:Furniture Bank, to the recognition of required further research Homeward Trust is an essential organization. Members of faith communities are invited to donate gently-used furniture, kitchen & household items, and household electronics to the Furniture Bank. For pick-up services call 780-988-1717.
A You tube video was shared featuring MP Charlie Angus on First Nation Peoples living in below standard conditions. It can be viewed at
A very sincere thank you to Dave Ward for sharing his knowledge and personal stories in his presentation. Dave’s obvious passion for bettering the lives of others Homelessness is inspiring.

Upcoming Events:

  • October 16, 2012 Homeless Street Count
  • October 21, 2012 Homeless Connect

Volunteers are needed for both of these events.
Please contact Homeward Trust for more information at 780-780-496-2630 or visit
Visit us at the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative on Homelessness and Affordable Housing Website located at

Next General Meeting of the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative will be in scheduled in September 2012.

Welcome Home Program Workshop

Interested in learning more about Homelessness, the Congregational Housing Action Guide, and the “Welcome Home” program?

You are invited to a workshop on homelessness for members of congregations in the NE quadrant of Edmonton, sponsored by the Archdiocesan Office for Social Justice and the Interfaith Housing Initiative.  It is an opportunity to learn more about homelessness in our City, to reflect on attitudes, and to explore what church congregations can do to assist in Edmonton’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.  Also included is an introduction to the new “Welcome Home” program- a befriending program which matches folks from the Interfaith community with newly housed individuals from Housing First Agencies.  The support of the volunteers helps reduce the loneliness and social isolation faced by many newly housed individuals.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

St. Thomas More Church, 210 Haddow Close

Facilitators:  Members of the Interfaith Housing Initiative.

The workshop is open to anyone, but may be of particular interest to congregants in the SW quadrant of the City.

Thursday, June 14, 2012, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

St. Alphonsus Parish, 11828-85 Street (east side entrance)

Facilitators: members of the Interfaith Housing Initiative

The workshop is open to anyone, but may be of particular interest to congregants in the NE part of the City.

Kindly RSVP to Sr. Mary Clare Stack, uj

or (780) 378-2455 or (780) 863-1597 (cell)

Edmonton’s First Interfaith Build to Begin in May

Habitat for Humanity volunteers gather at Anderson Gardens’ dedication ceremony.
A new partnership between Habitat for Humanity Edmonton and the Capital Region Interfaith Initiative will see volunteers assisting with our community’s first Interfaith Build. The initiative will begin May 2nd and will conclude on May 31st.

With support from the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative, Habitat for Humanity Edmonton will recruit five volunteers per day up to a maximum of 110 from various faith communities. These individuals will work alongside other Habitat for Humanity Edmonton volunteers to assist with various tasks at the Anderson Gardens build site, which is Habitat for Humanity Edmonton’s largest project to date.

Volunteer shifts will commence Tuesdays to Saturdays from 8:30 pm – 4:30 pm, with the exception of May 19th, the long weekend Monday. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for as many or as few shifts as they prefer.

Congratulations to Habitat for Humanity Edmonton and the Capital Region Interfaith Initiative for spearheading such an important and exciting project.

For more information about the Edmonton Interfaith Build, contact Angela at or phone 780-451-3416 ext 223.

From Homeless to Business Tycoon

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the Homeless Commission present:

From Homeless to Business Tycoon, Frank O’Dea, founder of Second Cup

Over the last three years, more than 1,600 people have been housed under Edmonton’s Plan to End Homelessness.  Internationally renowned entrepreneur Frank O’Dea, who founded Second Cup, the largest chain of gourmet coffees and teas in the country, fully understands the struggle of beginning a new life off the streets. In his early teens, Frank’s life went off the rails into a downward spiral. Now, a successful businessman, Frank has always believed in the importance of giving back to the community.  Join fellow business people at this unique opportunity to hear Frank speak, and have a chance to personally make an impact in the goal to end homelessness in Edmonton.

Thursday, May 3, 2012
Crowne Plaza, Chateau Lacombe
10111 Bellamy Hill
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Tickets: $49.95 Members (+GST)
$69.95 Non-Members (+GST)
Tables of 8 Available

Registration Forms available at:

Habitat for Humanity Interfaith Build

One of the strategies in the “Congregational Housing Action Guide” is for local faith congregations to partner with Habitat for Humanity in the construction of affordable housing units. In May, members of Edmonton faith communities are invited to move from words to action to provide affordable housing for local families. Habitat for Humanity is hosting Edmonton’s first ever Interfaith Build. This initiative will occur at the Anderson Gardens build site in NE Edmonton. The Interfaith Build will begin May 2nd and conclude on May 31st. Five volunteers per day will be recruited from the various faith communities to help us with various tasks. The recruitment will occur through the faith communities themselves. The Interfaith Build volunteers will be working alongside other volunteers as this project accommodates a large number of people daily. Shifts are Tuesdays to Saturdays from 8:30 – 4 pm, except for May 19th, as it is the long weekend. Volunteers are welcome to sign up for as many or few shifts as they like. More information is included on the attachments.
Contact Angela for more information: or 780-451-3416 ext 223.

Congregational Workshop on Homelessness and Affordable Housing

We will be presenting an introductory workshop on homelessness and affordable housing for members of local congregations. The workshop is designed to help congregations discern social justice commitments appropriate for their community, addressing homelessness being one possible response. It will be an opportunity to learn about the different strategies suggested in the Congregational Action Guide. It will also be an opportunity to learn more about how members of your congregation can volunteer with the newly launched Welcome Home program. This workshop will be available for use with members of local faith congregations in the Edmonton region. Anyone interested is invited to participate in one of the following sessions:

Tuesday, April 24 from 10 am to 12 noon at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 8421-101 Avenue
Wednesday, April 25 from 7-9 pm at the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, 10804-119 Street

For more information, contact:Brian Kiely, or Bob McKeon, or (780) 469-1010

Ending Homelessness – Changing Lives

Thursday, May 3, 2012
Crowne Plaza, Chateau Lacombe
10111 Bellamy Hill
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Tickets: $49.95 Members (+GST)    $69.95 Non-Members (+GST)
Tables of 8 Available

Ending Homelessness – Changing Lives
Presented by The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the Homeless Commission.

Over the last three years, more than 1,600 people have been housed under Edmonton’s Plan to End Homelessness.  Internationally renowned entrepreneur Frank O’Dea, who founded Second Cup, the largest chain of gourmet coffees and teas in the country, fully understands the struggle of beginning a new life off the streets. In his early teens, Frank’s life went off the rails into a downward spiral. Now, a successful businessman, Frank has always believed in the importance of  giving back to the community.

Join fellow business people at this unique opportunity to hear Frank speak, and have a chance to personally make an impact in the goal to end homelessness

To register, please contact the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce:
700, 9990 Jasper Avenue, World Trade Centre Edmonton
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 1P7 Tel: (780) 426-4620