Category Archives: Events and workshops

Affordable Housing Bus Tour!

On Thursday morning, September 20, several faith leaders and community partners went together on a tour of six different affordable housing complexes.

The tour was organized in partnership with the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homeless (ECOHH).  ECOHH is a broad gathering of service providers and stakeholders in Edmonton working together to promote strong and effective solutions in housing and homelessess.  For the last few years, ECOHH has organized tours for politicians and government administration.  This tour organized with CRIHI for faith and community leaders was the first of its kind, and was very appreciated by those who attended.  To learn more about ECOHH, please visit their website at http://ecohh.ca


First stop, Canora Place (10141 153 Street)

Canora Place is Permanent Supportive Housing, level 1, which means it has staff on site twenty four hours a day, but hosts no permanent supports.  Many of her clients are with Housing First, so they receive support from a mobile team of workers, and access many services off-site.  Canora Place is connected with the Jasper Place Wellness Centre and her network of social enterprises in West Edmonton.
Learn more at: http://www.jpwc.ca

Second Stop:  Jeannette Romaniuk residence for families.  (12304 Fort Road)
Finding an affordable home for a large family is a challenge in Edmonton.  The Romaniuk residences operated by Right at Home Housing Society are 4-unit townhouse project for large families. The townhouses offer 5-bedroom units, a rarity in Edmonton’s affordable housing market. These homes opened in July 2012, in the community of Elmwood Park. Rents currently do not exceed 60% of average market rental rates.

Third Stop:  Pregnancy Pathways
A safe place and a care centre for pregnant mothers living on the street or in crisis.  Many of these moms battle active addictions.  Pregnancy Pathways offers a safe and supportive place for mother and child in the months building up to and following childbirth.  This helps both mother and child get the best possible start.  The building (worth $3M) was donated for use by the program in March of 2018 by Architect Gene Dub.  The program is supported out of the Boyle McCauley Health Centre.  Learn more by visiting their website: http://www.bmhc.net/pregnancy-pathways.html

Fourth Stop:  Sundance Place, Cooperative Housing

Sundance formed as a cooperative housing association in 1978 in Edmonton’s Riverdale Community.  In cooperative housing, members participate in decisions and responding to needs that emerge.  Three projects are governed by Sundance: Sundance Main (59 townhouses including three wheelchair accessible units), Sundance Expansion (three duplexes and one fourplex) & Sundance Place (nine apartments for members 55 and older).  The units above provide home for many of the cooperatives senior residents.

Fifth Stop:  A Youth Housing Group Home.  (Operated by E4C)
A renovated older house in the parkdale community provides home to teens in crisis.  Young people may find themselves homeless for many reasons, often related to conflict in the home.  A team of staff people helps these young people with a bedroom, shared cooking areas, and support connecting with schooling, job training or counselling.

Sixth Stop:  Ambrose Place, Permanent Supportive Housing
Ambrose Place (below) is a level four PSH, which means it has the highest level of support on site for residents.  Food, health care, addictions support, managed alcohol, and even palliative care services (where necessary) are provided on site.  As a facility with an Indigenous focus, Ambrose Place is also able to practice spiritual care as part of a person’s journey of healing.  Facilities like Ambrose Place are proving to be very effective in helping some of Edmonton’s hardest to house, and chronically homeless citizens.

CRIHI would like to offer special thanks to Jeannette Wright (ECOHH, and City of Edmonton) for arranging the bus and lining up the tour for us.  We are also grateful to our partners at ECOHH and to each of the six locations that opened their doors, and sometimes their living rooms so we could see how this form of help is working in our community.

Advertisements

Edmonton Faith Communities Talk Housing – Event report

On September 6, 2018, Edmonton’s Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative (CRIHI) welcomed representatives from all three levels of government, and all political parties to discuss how we could respond together to the current shortage of affordable and supportive housing in Edmonton, and across the country.

The turnout from faith communities was strong, as was the participation of political representatives from the three levels of government.  Many participants shared their view that this was a very meaningful and informative gathering.  Here is what we did together:

We heard spokespersons from five different traditions speak to how their communities were impacted by current housing challenges.  (videos will be uploaded as they are completed)

  1. Rev. Deborah Hoekstra (United Church of Canada) – CRIHI co-chair
  2. Rev. Rick Chapman (Anglican Diocese of Edmonton) – CRIHI co-chair
  3. Imam Dr. Amin (Rahma Mosque; Muslim Association of Canada)
  4. Russell Auger (Indigenous spiritual care provider at Ambrose Place)
  5. Rev. Menghisteab Teclemariam (Pastor in the Eretrian community; Multicultural Health Brokers)

Following this, CRIHI spokesperson Mike Van Boom presented on the four critical priorities being forwarded as necessary and meaningful housing solutions.

  1. The Portable Housing Benefit
  2. Permanent Supportive Housing
  3. Mobile Support Workers
  4. A Vision for the Way Ahead

Following a brief coffee break, we spent thirty minutes hearing from people with lived experience at local tables.

CRIHI’s partners from the Mustard Seed, Welcome Home, Ambrose Place, Multicultural Health Brokers and E4C arranged for twelve people at different tables.  This was a very meaningful portion of the event, and highlighted successes, challenges and needs of people trying to find their way.

CRIHI then invited five political representatives to respond on behalf of their party or government.  Videos of their responses are below:

Michael Walters, Edmonton City Council

Randy Boissonault, Liberal Party of Canada (Federal)

Garnett Genuis, Conservative Party of Canada (Federal)

Lori Sigurdson, New Democratic Party (Provincial)

Laila Goodridge, United Conservative Party (Provincial)

A note of thanksgiving!

CRIHI would like to express enormous gratitude to the many partners who helped make this event a great success.  Special thanks to our hosts at Evangel Pentecostal Assembly, who donated their space and the time of their staff.  Our gratitude to the political representatives who joined us to learn, to share their interest and give voice to the perspective of their respective political bodies.  And our gratitude to the several faith communities who donated the food and refreshments that greatly enhanced our time together.

Evangel Front

Evangel Pentecostal Assembly…  very gracious hosts to this gathering!


For an additional writeup of this event, please look at the October 2018 Messenger (Anglican Diocese); the feature is on pages 1,6&7.  The link is here.

Edmonton Faith Communities Talk Housing – September 6, 2018

The Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative has invited representatives from all three levels of government, and all political parties to join us on September 6, 2018 as we discuss how to respond together to the current shortage of affordable and supportive housing in Edmonton, and across the country.

At this meeting, many different faith traditions (Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical, Catholic, Anglican, Sikh, Unitarian, Hindu, Lutheran, Christian Reformed, Mennonite, Quaker, Indigenous and numerous other traditions) will stand up together to express their shared concern about a growing challenge impacting friends, family members and neighbours in all our communities: affording a place to call home.

This event will take place at Evangel Pentecostal Assembly from 10am until 1:30pm.

evangel map

Space is limited.  To attend: please register at the following link:  Edmonton Faith Communities Talk Housing


At this event, CRIHI will speak to the following as critical priorities in addressing the current shortage of affordable and supportive housing in Edmonton:

  1. the Portable Housing Benefit. A direct help for the 20,000+ households paying more than 50% of monthly income to rent.
  2. Land, capital, and Long-term support funding for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). PSH has proven itself as direct and effective help for Edmonton’s most vulnerable citizens; providing those with multiple complex needs with appropriate longer-term support and care.
  3. Increased funding for Mobile Support Workers (Ie. Home Care, Housing First support teams)
  4. A vision for the way ahead: Support and encourage Canadian housing providers to shift efforts toward the Netherlands model*.

*Observation: in the Netherlands, housing providers currently house more than sixty percent of the country’s population in sustainable mixed market developments with breakdowns such as: 20% low income; 60% middle income; 20% high income. In these developments, high income housing helps pay for the low income housing to make it a sustainable model for market development. This system required some start up support, but now requires no government funding!


To volunteer for this event (to help with food, hospitality, or audio/visual), or if you are a faith leader willing to speak briefly to the need your community sees in housing, please contact mike@interfaithhousing.ca.

 

Learning from Good Consultation

Mayor Don Iveson called the Westmount development a ’10 out of 10!’ Not just for the quality of the affordable housing project, but for the work done engaging with the local community ahead of time.

Come join with other developers, community leaders, and faith representatives as we learn from one of the brightest examples of community consultation done well here in Edmonton: the process developed by both community leaders and the Right at Home Housing Society in North Glenora as part of the recent redevelopment of land owned by Westmount Presbyterian Church


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

  • ARCA Banquet Facility; 14525 127 Street Northwest; Edmonton, AB T6V 0B3
  • Doors open at 6:00pm with a light supper beginning at 6:30pm ;
  • event concludes at 8:30pm
  • We have space and food for fifty participants, so a timely rsvp is encouraged.

Agenda features the following:

Keynote address by Andrew Gregory

Andrew is the community member who chaired the committee overseeing the process used to guide the consultation with the North Glenora community.

Panel discussion with Q&A to follow

Featuring: Cam McDonald (Right at Home Housing Society), Andrew Gregory, Les Young (Westmount Presbyterian Church), and Ryan Young (Past President, North Glenora Community League)

Following the panel discussion, organizers will discuss a consultation resource development project being initialized with grant funding from the Edmonton Community Foundation.

Faith Communities interested in exploring redeveloping of their land are also encouraged to attend, both to learn and to network with others exploring a similar journey.

Please RSVP for this event at the following link: RSVP – Learning from Good Consultation


CRIHI thanks the following partners in hosting and promoting this event:  Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, Al Rashid Mosque, Right at Home Housing Society, and Edmonton Community Foundation. 

Cheering on the work underway

A second reflection; As shared by Rabbanit Batya Ivry-Friedman at the Interfaith Work and Pray gathering at City Hall on March 27, 2018.

Right now, we see a lot of good work underway, and much to celebrate.  Of course we have a ways to go.  When the ten year plan to end homelessness came forward nine years ago, it identified a strong need for permanent supportive housing.  Functioning much like seniors assisted living facilities, these places assist people with numerous complex barriers; addictions, trauma, mental health barriers, disabilities, and chronic illnesses.  The plan called for a thousand units.  We have built just over two hundred.  A lack of land and funding continue to be the major barriers holding up the work.

We see fear and frustration in local communities.  Racism and classism, a fear of change and a fear of the future are undercurrents that spark higher levels of tension in community discussions.  And of course when consultation is not done well there is a lot of frustration. But that’s the bad news, the good news is that we as a city have a short string of successes behind us recently; with healthy community consultation showing itself to be a key factor! There are some signs of warmth and a willingness to discuss the building of new affordable and supportive housing in communities around the city.  Small fires burning; speaking a message of hospitality and inclusion that can be nurtured and grown.

As people of faith, we can help nurture those small fires; by supporting a healthy and respectful conversation in the local community.  We are even receiving calls from developers looking for some wisdom on how to do this well. The Interfaith Housing Initiative has the opportunity before us now to lead in the possible development of community consultation resources with partners like Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and property developers.  Gathering a diverse group of people with different ideas together to create something beautiful together can be challenging, however with the potential to do something meaningful and powerful, there is hope, and of course prayers can only help make it more successful.

Another significant challenge is finding land to build affordable or supportive housing.  It’s going to take many compassionate and discerning eyes looking in our neighbourhoods to see the opportunities.  Thankfully, we have a growing number of faith communities coming forward to explore opportunities with their land; to do something like what Westmount Presbyterian did!  It’s an exciting new energy, but also hard work ahead.  How can we support more of our faith communities in having that conversation, and then supporting them to get there?

We are encouraged to see some of the City’s current policy work.  It’s even in their title; discussing the work of creating inclusive, diverse and complete communities.  And City Council is actively backing the creation of better affordable and supportive housing options in neighbourhoods all over the city; recognizing it is not good practice to heavily concentrate services and supports in a few neighbourhoods.  As city efforts and policies gel, we need a lot of wisdom; balancing a defense of the vulnerable with supporting a sensible and constructive path to healthy integration in the local community.

We have reason to cheer on the work taking place; but recognize an urgent need to pray as well.  That’s why we are gathered here today. To ensure that the necessary relationships are forged; that good work is done; that solid commitments are made; that wisdom prevails over fear and suspicion; and that meaningful real-life solutions will take form with as much haste as can be mustered.

Following this reflection, prayers were offered for wisdom to guide current efforts

After Nine Years, the Landscape has Changed!

What follows is the first of three reflections offered at the Work and Pray Gathering CRIHI held at City Hall on March 27, 2018.  

It has been just over nine years since the ten year plan to end homelessness began.  Are we there yet? Well, there’s still lots to do. But SO MUCH has been done!  The landscape has changed tremendously.  We have seen some real success, and the circle of people working together is wider than it has ever been.

Do we remember the sparks and the series of crises that got us moving?  The tent city that took root in downtown Edmonton.  The massive community uprising in Terwillegar.  And of course, growing stress on many families, with rents rising much faster than their income.  Wait lists for housing help tripled in a few short years, with thousands of people and families on wait lists at every major housing provider.

We learned the shocking numbers around the cost of managing homelessness – just keeping someone alive on the street; with emergency room visits, police encounters, ambulance rides, services, and jail time adding up to a staggering cost of over $100,000 per person per year; balanced against the cost of housing and supporting someone in their own home coming in at around $35,000!

And of course, a statistic that unfortunately has not changed much:  One in four Edmontonians have a hard time affording homes, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on a pace to live, with more than 20,000 households spending over 50% on housing.  And yes, some of those are paying more than 60%.

Some of these challenges are very much still here, and are a reminder to us all that our work is not done.


What has been done thus far?  These events and realities have sparked a real change in the minds of our leaders, and driven a new way of thinking and practice in how we address homelessness in our city.  And that is nothing short of massive!

We have seen Housing First become our leading principle as a city.  No longer do we expect people with addictions or mental illnesses and trauma to get their stuff sorted out before we help them find housing.  Now we say, ‘let’s get you a safe place to call home, and then surround you with the supports and care to help you heal and get back on your feet’.

We’ve made it easier for people looking for help to find it with a no wrong door approach and greater coordination between the different agencies.

As faith communities, we helped develop Welcome Home; a program to support caring volunteers in coming alongside people as they struggled to heal, to overcome challenges, and rebuild their lives.

We have also seen moments of real beauty in the context of supportive housing; with people coming back to life again after years of battling chronic addictions and mental health challenges on the street.

The number of homeless on our streets has dropped from over 3,000 to just over 1,700.  Shelter space usage is also down, with numbers this winter at around 75% capacity on cold winter nights.

And of course, we as faith communities are in the thick of it:

  • We are realizing more and more how important it is to participate in local conversations in our communities.
  • We are hosting workshops on affordable housing and poverty.
  • We are telling each other’s stories.
  • We are getting involved in our community leagues and meeting our neighbours.
  • We are working together with partners to meet the needs of refugees, newcomers to Canada, or families in poverty.
  • We are volunteering in countless places; like Habitat for Humanity; or with Brander Gardens Rocks! Reaching out to low income families with a wide range of partners.
  • We celebrate the example of Millbourne Community Life Centre – who invited a circle of partners to use their space together to provide medical care, cultural training, youth ministry, faith community gatherings, and on and on.
  • We celebrate those faith communities (Beulah Alliance and West Edmonton Christian Assembly) in the West End showing love and care to women in prison, and helping them find their feet again afterward.
  • Westmount Presbyterian Church got all of us thinking as they tore down their aging facility to make room for sixteen large families with a smaller church building next door.  And now we see more than a few faith communities asking the question: How can we create something similar?

And we could go on and on… We haven’t even got to Catholic Social Services, Islamic Family and Social Services Association, Jewish Family Services, or Mennonite Centre for Newcomers

  • Jasper Place Wellness Centre has their medical centre, and a range of different social enterprises helping people rebuild their lives with good work opportunities.
  • We can celebrate the Mustard Seed and their investments in supports and services across the city so that people don’t have to come downtown for help.

We see political alignment on housing solutions at the federal, political and municipal level; with strategies, policies, land investments and dollars moving forward.  Painfully slow, perhaps.  But with people in all these places showing will, heart and courage to make things go.  Our City of Edmonton was recently highlighted internationally as a vanguard city on the front of addressing homelessness for her efforts; an effort which formally recognizes affordable housing as a necessary ingredient for ‘inclusive, diverse and complete communities.’

After nine years, the landscape has changed, and we have plenty of reason to be thankful!

Interfaith Work and Pray Gathering at City Hall, March 27, 2018

Rev. Nick Trussell (Anglican) and Mike Van Boom (CRIHI Housing Ambassador) planned this event at the invitation of a group of five Moravian and Anglican churches journeying together over Holy Week.

Nick remarked on the fittingness of a gathering like this over Holy Week, saying, “just as Jesus lamented over Jerusalem in the days before His crucifixion, so we may lament over our city and the tragic living situation of many of its people. And just as His resurrection brings hope, so we can look forward with hope to better things to come.”

About thirty people from numerous different faith communities came to participate in this gathering, including representatives from Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Wesleyan, Moravian, the Salvation Army, Sai Baba Centre, United, Lutheran, Anglican, Evangelical, Reformed Church of America, and the Christian Reformed Church.

The event was organized around three reflections on the work being done to address homelessness, with an opportunity for people of faith to respond with prayers of thanksgiving, wisdom, courage and hope.

Pictured above: Three of the eight presentations and prayers offered in support of the work being done to address homelessness in Edmonton

CRIHI shared three reflections at the event, focusing in turn on the work past, present and future.  As Mike Van Boom explained: “These are designed to highlight all the work we are all doing together as a city; and not just the work of CRIHI or faith communities.  The emphasis is on the wide circle of partners working together including faith and community groups, service providers, and all levels of government. “

The three reflections will be shared in separate blog posts on CRIHI’s website.

See additional writeups of this event at:

7th Annual Interfaith Habitat Works 2018!

This year’s works project begins on February 27, and goes until the end of May.  Come join us for the kick-off and wrap-up, and for all that is in between!

Habitat interfaith kickoff

Come join us as we gather people of every faith and no faith to work together side by side building homes with Habitat for Humanity.

To register as an individual or group for this project, please consult the link below on the Habitat for Humanity Website:

Interfaith Habitat Works at HFH.org

West Edmonton Talks Affordable Housing

Housing affordability is a growing challenge for many of our Edmonton neighbours.  Wages have risen more slowly than housing costs.  The climb into home ownership is getting more difficult, and many low-income households are paying far more than they can afford in rent, with over 20,000 households paying more than 50% of their monthly income.

Some of our neighbours have a much harder time affording a home; especially those battling mental health challenges, disabilities, caught in an addiction or recovering from trauma.  Over the last few years, we have learned how critical stable and affordable housing is for the health of an individual or family; especially in promoting healing and recovery.  But helping these neighbours requires more than just more money to pay the rent.  They also need supports, and (like all of us) a community of people who love and care.

Most everyone agrees that this work is critically important, but where it often gets tricky is when we are asked to make room in our communities and neighbourhoods.  Then our ideals are put to the test.


The Workshop

On November 18, 2017, the Interfaith Housing Initiative hosted a workshop in West Edmonton called, What’s Your Wisdom on Affordable Housing?   Community league members, local neighbours, non-profit housing providers, and a few faith community folks sat down for a healthy conversation.  We talked about the challenges; looked at some of the solutions; heard from a housing provider and a young mom who needed help providing a home for her son; and then we had a chance to talk about how and where we might be able to make room in our communities for neighbours needing a safe, stable and supportive home in a welcoming community.

What's your wisdom


What we heard:

Those who were present for the conversation expressed that they were not worried about new neighbours.

  • “Affordable housing can be a bridge for a person to improve their life.”
  • “I am open to having affordable housing in my neighbourhood.
  • “We already have Habitat for Humanity in my area.  I like it, and am in favour of the mixed market approach – no ghettos.”

They promoted a healthy posture/response when new developments seek a home nearby:

  • “Tell me more.”  Promoted a willingness to listen, and be curious.  Sometimes saying no isn’t the best option – how can both parties have a win-win?
  • Find out more about why they want to put things in – educate yourself about the project. Find common ground. Could end up bringing good things to the community.”
  • “Find out what has happened in other communities. Canora Place is nominated every year for Yards in Bloom, residents go out and pick up garbage in the area. They bring good things to the neighbourhood! Lots of added value to their community.”

We talked through logistical challenges; what will sensibly fit here?  The group brought forward both questions and solutions.

  • “Challenge around neighbourhood design – fine with new neighbors, but problems with access to services traffic, etc. how can it fit within the requirements for the buildings (architectural guidelines). The area is very restrictive in how things look – fences have to be a certain colour, etc.”  Maybe a senior’s support centre?
  • “Very open in our neighbourhood. Already have quite a mixed market in the area. Problem – very high property values. Would like to see more affordable housing in the area – would like to bring property values down.” – (Note of clarification was given that the research says, units of affordable housing will not impact property values any different than a comparable market development.)
  • “Question around back-lane housing – can we build back-yard suites and offer them as affordable housing? Lots of innovative possibilities exist.  City is more open than it used to be – issue is more the neighbourhood push-back. Can we handle the parking, extra traffic, etc. Lots of people are buying houses in the area and renting them out.”
  • One challenge was noted, that lots of renting in an area leads to a more transient population.  This can be a problem for a community.  Suggested mixed market can help with that – people can transition from affordable to market housing without having to move. Active community leagues and good resources can help people to stay in a neighbourhood. How can we encourage people to stay in a community? Food for good (a program of Jasper Place Wellness Centre) – creating food stability so that people don’t have to leave to get food. Build relationships and a good foundation to keep people in place.
  • Lewis Estates – not much available land.  People would need a certain basic level of income to live here.  But, we can offer subsidized housing to bring more people in. Problem – access to services.  On the flip side, bringing in more people with a need for services, could lead to more services being offered in the community.

The group did discuss possibilities in other parts of the city.

  • Many faith communities have land – it’s a great opportunity for them to be involved in creative new housing project (example from the Right at Home presentation: Westmount Presbyterian Church developed 16 units of large family housing).  Lots of churches are dwindling but have great land packages. They’re often in better areas with more services.
  • What about Northlands? Lots of resources in the area.The group discussed the old Remand Centre – lots of potential with that area. Some housing, also lots of resources and services. Questions about the new arena – what will happen to Hope Mission and some of the other inner-city agencies? Can we build more of these agencies throughout the city so we don’t always have to go downtown to access services?

Some Advice on Consultation

  • There’s a surplus school site in the area; a tense conversation. Importance of consultation with the community – a challenge for the local community to figure out what the right questions are to ask.
  • The group discussed how change and transformation can happen:  Some have been able to acknowledge their fear of change – recognizing the undercurrents in communities. People need a place to express their fears – we can often carry attitudes that we aren’t even aware of (e.g. racism). Once we acknowledge our fears, we can start to wonder why we have them in the first place. We don’t often have a safe place to do that – social media certainly isn’t a good forum for that.

Key Questions and Answers:

Will affordable housing affect neighbouring property values?

  • The research says, quality, well-managed units of affordable housing will not impact property values any different than a comparable market development.”  If someone was to build an apartment complex in your neighbourhood, it may impact your property values positively or negatively; depending on a lot of factors.  The research says it doesn’t matter whether that complex is affordable or not.

On the 10% guideline in every neighbourhood.  “Can we understand the needs of the city on a geographical level? What’s the rationale?

  • CRIHI clarified that the city is working on sorting this out right now – they want to find sensible solutions.  A decision like this is motivated by the desire to create well-integrated affordable housing options in all areas of the city.  Observation by concerned neighbour: We need to figure out what will work in each area (sensible).”

There is more affordable land in industrial areas – how could this be used for housing?

  • Challenge: There’s no infrastructure. Needs planning to make it work.

How can we do better planning?

  • Millwoods was an example – they thought ahead in the planning stages.  The stock is fairly old now, but it did work to provide for the development of a mixed-income community (discussed the loss of inclusionary zoning practice due to court challenge in the 70s).

CRIHI expresses profound gratitude to our hosts at West Edmonton Baptist Church, who took such good care of us.  As well, we are grateful to those who came and contributed to this workshop, sharing with us their ideas, experience, wisdom and insight.  As you can tell, we learned a lot together!