Category Archives: For Heart and Mind

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

Martina’s Story

In October of 2016, Martina (once a teen parent needing help) shared her story at a workshop CRIHI hosted in the Riverbend/Terwillegar community. 

“Thank you to [CRIHI] for inviting me to share some of my personal experiences and thoughts related to safe and affordable housing.  I hope I can give voice to the thousands of Edmontonians who seek safe and affordable housing.”

My name is Martina Crory.  I am 23 years old, a mother to my adorable 3-year-old son Jude, a third-year university student at MacEwan, and I was recently accepted into the honours program in political science.

I grew up living with my mom.  She had few marketable skills and as a result we moved from Halifax to Edmonton hoping for more opportunities.  Unfortunately, those hopes never came to be.  We continued to live in poverty with little income and limited housing options.  We moved around a lot and it never really felt like I had a home.  As a young person growing up, it was chaotic and disruptive.  Every time I moved I would have to leave some things behind or things would get lost moving.  It was not a very stable way for a teenager to grow up.

When you don’t have stable housing, your life is not stable.  At nineteen years, old I found myself pregnant; a single parent.  If things were tough, I knew they were going to be tougher.  I reached out to the Terra Centre for teen parents, and for the past three years they have been by my side providing support in so many ways.

My son Jude and I ended up living in a walk up off 107 Ave.  My laundry would get stolen, there was always the smell of pot in the building.  It was noisy, and there was nowhere for kids to play outside.  This is not what I wanted for Jude.  I knew the risks of these environments.  I looked around for a better safe place for us to live, but the rents were beyond my reach.

Although that was a challenge, what seemed even more challenging in finding decent safe and affordable housing were the assumptions and judgements that I faced as a young single parent.  Landlords and the general public did not see me as a young parent with potential and capabilities; they saw me as a reckless, irresponsible and inadequate mom; nothing further than the truth.

It was a difficult time.  I applied for subsidized housing with Capital Region Housing, but with a two-year wait list I felt so defeated.  Terra had just started a new housing partnership with Brentwood Family Housing Society and I was accepted.

When I first went to see what was to be my new home, I was speechless.  It was in a quiet community with other families.  It had playgrounds, and my townhouse had a washer and dryer.  This was like a dream come true for me.  When I moved in, it was the first time I could remember that it felt like it was home.  Because of the subsidy, Brentwood offers, it was affordable, based on my student income.  I started to feel like there was hope.  I started to believe I could pursue my dreams of graduating from University.  For the past two years, I have been living in safe and affordable housing.  Because of that, I have been able to make great gains in reaching my goals.

I am proud of my academic accomplishments, of raising a well-adjusted, happy and healthy child.  I feel like I am part of the community and I am getting ahead.  I am even the proud owner of a ‘mom car.’  I can afford it because of subsidized rent.  It may not look pretty, but if I need to take Jude to the hospital at 2:00am I can do that.  I can drive him to his skating lessons.  I can spend more quality time with him; saving more than two hours a day from riding the bus; time I can spend with him.

Affordable housing gives me security and options.  I don’t have to choose between rent and good food for Jude.  We never owned a home growing up, or had much stable housing.  I think life would have been much different if we had.  I dream of owning my own home one day, and I know pursuing my educational goals will help me to achieve that.  Having affordable housing today is helping me to reach that goal.  I know that subsidized housing will not always be necessary; but I am grateful that I have been able to benefit from it.

As you spend time today listing about affordable housing and the people who need this support, please consider the following:

  1. People who need affordable housing have goals; I don’t think most want to have a subsidy.
  2. We want to give our kids a home and provide them with stability and opportunity.
  3. If you have children, what we want for our children is no different than what you want for your children.
  4. We want to give back, not just take; affordable housing can help make that happen.
  5. We need more people to care about our community; what kind of community are we cultivating for our children and what we can teach our children about inclusion.

Thank you for taking the time for this discussion today and caring about our community.

 

Have You Seen Theo?

A Frontline Hospitality Story

On a cold early spring day in March, my co-worker and I were doing one of our usual routes in the Crisis Diversion van, when I saw a homeless community member who was trudging down the sidewalk with his shopping cart of belongings.   As he bumped his cart across the street, his sleeping bag slipped off unbeknownst to him.  Knowing that he would need it for the cold night ahead – a sleeping bag being a sign that he most likely slept outside rather than harbouring in a shelter for the night – I asked my co-worker to pull around the block so that I could dash out, get the sleeping bag, and return it to its owner.

That was how I met Theo, and had the honour of hearing some of his story.  I was right, he does sleep on the street.  The shelter was not his cup of tea.  Too many people.  A good place to catch a virus as you lay side by side in a large open space with dozens of others.  Too chaotic.  High chance of being roughed up.  At least in the alley where he made his bed he had his own space.  Theo at once struck me as a gentle soul, as he thanked me with kind words for returning his sleeping bag.  He was hungry, and had missed dinner at Hope Mission.  Though it didn’t really matter, as he was only able to keep down soup and other liquids.  He shared with me that he was in the late stages of colon cancer, his thin, frail figure giving away just how progressed the cancer was.

I asked my usual question, “Are you on any lists for housing?”  He had put his name in with Homeward Trust, but that had been a couple years already.  “Let’s look into that,” I suggested. “You can check in with housing at Boyle Street.  I’ll check in as well tomorrow,” as it was Sunday. We looked for him later that night to bring him some soup, but he was not to be found in his usual sleeping spot.

On Monday I stopped in at Boyle Street’s Housing Department and spoke with the manager.  She was very empathetic towards Theo’s situation and managed to change his status in the database to note the urgency in finding him housing.  We agreed that it was only human to be able to die enveloped in care rather than spending your last days on earth in a back alley.  It was what Theo told me he wanted as well.  Sometimes we as workers have ideas of how things should be, without thinking of what the community member actually wants.  The housing manager also put in a phone call to Homeward Trust.  Later that day we stopped in at Bissell Centre, as that was another place Theo frequented, and found that he had a worker there.  So we asked her to keep an eye out for Theo as well.

Within that same week I was contacted by both the manager of Housing at Boyle Street and a Homeward Trust worker with news that they were casting a wide net around Edmonton’s social service organizations to find Theo, and then at last that Theo had been spotted and was in the Housing office.  I don’t know the end of Theo’s story, but I have great hope that because of all the folks asking that question, “Has anyone seen Theo?” he is housed and spending the last of his days warm and cared for, receiving meals as well as meds to control his pain.  I am always grateful when I meet people who care for others as beloved children of the Creator, not as one of many, not as a case to be solved, but as a human being worthy of love and dignity.

Submitted by Heather Tigchelaar, a frontline worker with the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team, under Boyle Street Community Services

 

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

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

 

 

Beyond the Big White House

Jacob and Aafje Prins helped more than 800 Dutch newcomers settle in Canada and the hospitality of their big white Beverly house with lilac hedges became famous on both sides of the Atlantic.

They were immigrants themselves who brought their eight children to Edmonton in 1927. Forever grateful to their new country, they worked tirelessly to pay it forward.

Delighted at the prosperity of their new life in Canada, Jacob Prins began encouraging other Dutch to emigrate and, when three families arrived from the Netherlands in 1936, he found farms for them to live and work near Lacombe. When more families followed, he found it necessary to scout other locations and this turned out to be the start of a remarkable career.

Prins often contacted the Canadian National Railway for information on available land parcels and, in the winter of 1937, the railway sent him to Holland to promote emigration to Western Canada, reports a history compiled by Tina Van Ameyde. After World War II, the Christian Reformed Church’s Synodical Committee appointed him as fieldman for Central British Columbia.

The railway even provided Prins with a pass to travel freely in the west and, on one of those trips searching for locations suitable for Dutch farmers, he discovered the Bulkley Valley. It was a valley ideally situated on the railway from Edmonton to Prince Rupert, where settlers would be assured of work in the lumber industry during winter months. Many Dutch families subsequently settled in the communities of Smithers, Terrace, Houston and Telkwa, B.C.

img_0516Aafje died in 1949 and her daughter-in-law Ann Prins stepped in to help with the workload, getting up before daybreak to prepare a meal for hungry travellers on their way to British Columbia. Jacob received no remuneration and, for a long while, paid expenses out of his own pocket.

Until 1960, when at the age of 74 he had to resign on doctor’s orders, Prins travelled once a month to B.C. to check up on “his” people. Through his efforts, more than 800 Dutch families were welcomed to Canada and many settled in the Beverly area.

Known as “dad” to the hundreds he helped, Jacob died at home on April 12, 1963, while reading a book in Aafje’s favourite corner. The funeral service filled First Christian Reformed Church to overflowing as people travelled from all over Alberta and B.C. to pay final respects to a man who lived his life in the service of others.

See the full article at: http://citymuseumedmonton.ca/2015/11/17/the-prins/

 

Riverbend & Terwillegar Talk Housing

On Saturday, October 29 from 1-4pm, CRIHI invited eight neighbourhoods in Riverbend & Terwillegar to a workshop and conversation called ‘Homes4ourNeighbours’ at Riverbend United Church.

There were about 25 people in attendance, including 15 interested neighbours. This event provided good information on affordable housing, shared frontline stories and experiences, and then gave neighbours a safe place to share their worries, concerns and ideas on how neighbours can respond to new proposals and new neighbours.

riverbend-united-churchAlthough this event had a modest turnout, there was a good cross-section of people and opinions engaged, including representatives from two community leagues (the Ridge and Riverbend), members of the Terwillegar Homeowner Association, Brander Gardens ROCKS, faith leaders, and neighbours at large. It was also a respectful conversation, taking place under rules that stated: Everyone has wisdom. We need to hear everyone’s wisdom for the best result. There are no wrong answers. And everyone will both hear and be heard.

In our December issue of the Neighbourly, and in this post CRIHI summarizes three (out of seven total) key points of conversation and what the group heard from each other. The full report is available below and includes summaries of the presentations and several additional points of conversation.  CRIHI thanks our hosts at Riverbend United Church (pictured) for their provision of space and refreshments! 

Full Report:  report-on-affordable-housing-workshop-october-29-2016-in-riverbendterwillegar

Here are three points discussed by the group:

NUMBER ONE: We need quality consultation!

group-conversationsSeveral participants in the group shared their frustration at poorly done consultation. If the developer doesn’t have a good process for engaging the community, and is unable to address reasonable concerns, that will trigger much higher levels of fear, worry and concern in the local community.

The group highlighted two positive examples of consultation done well: The Right at Home Society for its planned development of the Westmount Presbyterian Church site development in North Glenora. They spent one year in dialogue with the existing local community. It was observed that it takes a strong commitment to dialogue as communities do not naturally want to be inclusive of new/different neighbours. The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta was also highlighted as a positive example in the development of a Permanent Supportive Housing project in the Bonnie Doon area.

A healthy conversation with a diverse group of voices was identified as necessary at both planning tables and in consultations. They also advise Developers to give neighbours some choices, and to take their input into account when fine-tuning a project.

NUMBER TWO: This is What a Healthy Neighbourhood Response looks like:

Assuming the development/property management agency has engaged properly with the existing community, such a response should be:

  1. Inclusive of many perspectives, recognizing that not all are in agreement (accepting that some views may be supportive, others that are opposing, and still others that are questioning)
  2. Willing to be part of the process and to dialogue – meaning there is opportunity for all to be listened to and to be heard – to give and take. Requires respect as not everything may go ‘our way,’ but it doesn’t mean we haven’t heard or been heard.
  3. Welcoming of new neighbours, even if a process or development does not unfold as it should. Positive example: The existing community in the Haddow neighbourhood has come to a broad agreement they will accept and welcome the future new residents of the Haddow First Place development, even though the poor consultation process sparked strong resistance to the project.
  4. Connected to a neighbourhood’s story – where the look and feel of a project fits the surroundingneighbourhood so that community culture is maintained and enhanced and positive outcomes and opportunities are perceived and known.” Related idea:   A neighbourhood could benefit from the development of a “charter” of what is community (a community charter of neighborliness).”
  5. Aware of the need across the city, and our community’s responsibility to help in meeting that need. Ie. “Our responsibilities include that with the inner-city expanding, we need to promote Affordable Housing in all areas of the city” (From a Terwillegar resident)

NUMBER THREE: The Need to be Good Neighbours

“Our responsibilities should be to welcome and include our new neighbours, be open-minded without prejudice – we should assume they are good people – there are a lot of ways to get to know folks”bgrocks-drum-lesson

“We need to find ways to get to know our neighbours. An offer of free topsoil has enabled my family to get to know many neighbours whom we had never met.”

“As in the “Welcome Home (Program),” we need to welcome new neighbours to our neighbourhoods.”

“The success of “Brander Gardens Rocks” results from its being based on a reciprocal relationship between the residents of that Community Housing project and the existing residents of the surrounding community. Over the years, attitudes have changed from “us and them” to just “us” and from “we can do it for them” to “we can do it with them.” “Just because a person has a lower income doesn’t mean they don’t aspire to a better life. Many of these people want to give back.”

Existing neighbours can organize community dinners and block parties to welcome newcomers.