Category Archives: Meeting Summaries

Summary of IFHI’s quarterly Plenary Meetings

What We Did Together at Plenary

CRIHI’s plenary gathering on November 28, 2017 was of critical importance for us as a movement.  New changes and announcements were taking place in Edmonton and even across the country.  So it seemed appropriate for us as faith communities to take a good look at what we have done, what we are doing, and what we would like to do together moving forward.


The Process – How did we get here?
In September 2017, CRIHI Steering Committee recognized that it was time to update their Call to Action and to align their action items alongside the City’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in Edmonton. In October 2017 CRIHI Steering Committee had a planning day facilitated by the City of Edmonton and Homeward Trust Edmonton to help design and organize a plenary that would sustain and grow CRIHI. The focus was to look at where the work of CRIHI fits with the three goals of the Update Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. This planning session generated some new ideas for the movement to consider.  This information was gathered and integrated with the CRIHI September 2017, Revised Call to Action.  The information from the October Planning session and the integrated five approaches of Engagement, Advocacy, Education, Support, and Volunteer were brought to the Plenary Meeting for everyone to hear about, discuss and contribute their ideas.  The goal and focus of the Plenary was to be participatory so that TOGETHER the faith groups would map out the prioritized action items.

Pastor Stanley


The Plenary
More than eighty people representing at least sixteen different faiths and thirteen community organizations came to Beulah Alliance on November 28, 2017 to participate in a plenary gathering of the Interfaith Housing Initiative.  We were greeted by Archbishop Richard Smith and Bishop Jane Alexander, and by our hosts at Beulah Alliance: Pastor Keith Taylor (pictured above), and Pastor Bonnie Hodge. Co-Chair Deborah acknowledged the presence of all the representation from the various faith groups and from the front line agencies. Rabbanit Batya refreshed us on the history of our movement as an Interfaith housing community and the work we have done so far together. She presented the updated Call to Action and informed us of the work ahead after we had heard a summary of the city’s updated plan to end homelessness. Our partners at Homeward Trust introduced us to updates.  And then we moved to working groups to design practical actions in five areas of our work together: Engage; Advocate; Educate; Support; Volunteer.

Here are some of the highlights coming out of our five working groups.  Each group was asked to focus on a specific task and dig into some practical ideas and suggestions.

The full report is available on our website at: https://interfaithhousinginitiative.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/full-plenary-report-november-28-2017.pdf


Engage:

Task: Build Network of faith, coordinated access screening, engage faith communities to become a stop-gap preventing potential homelessness.
  1. The group considered how faith communities can be better equipped to address local needs.
  2. One area that concerned the group was how faith communities could better be involved in preventing eviction; noting the plight of renters grappling with finances, cleanliness and pest control.
  3. Suggested faith communities could provide funding and volunteers to aid tenants in crisis, and help them overcome barriers and gaps in knowledge or local services.

Advocate:
Task:  Alleviate fear and misconceptions of permanent supportive housing.

  1. The group recognized several key challenges, and suggested the best way to overcome fears and worries in the local community is to create opportunities for people to interact on a personal level with possible new neighbours.
  2. Key action idea:  Host a four part speaker series.  Partner with local community league and faith communities to plan and host it.  Learn and laugh together with music, plan and group building exercises   Series to cover mental health, addictions, support for those coming out of prison, and affordable housing.

Task: Generate videos and media capacity.

  1. Bombard people with current information. Outline what you can do and where to donate items eg. Furniture. Use one sentence/message every morning.
  2. Link with city—other stakeholders for support and longer term social marketing plan.
  3. Engage with university campuses, and work toward a segment on Primetime Alberta

Task: Host a large-scale event.

  1. Host forums or presentations framed around a direct question.  Raise awareness of unjust systems; casting light on the roots of homelessness.
  2. Make the event fun and less threatening and advertise to the public. Incorporate music, poetry and theatre and other activities to help bring the message.
  3. A barrier will be finding where the money is to support a large-scale event.

Educate:
Task:  Motivate and equip faith communities to connect with the local community.

  1. Shared ideas and suggestions on how to nurture local connections between different faith communities, and also local organizations like community leagues.
  2. Suggested meeting at different faith centres; finding joint projects (an interfaith version of “No Room in the Inn” campaign was suggested); spending time together so that we get to know each other, and inviting each other to special events and festivals.

Task: Action that will address the question: ‘What is Housing First?’

  1. Identified a need to educate on why we use this approach as a city.
  2. Suggested identifying key individuals to be spokespersons who are more publicly known and respected.
  3. Develop a range of materials, questions, speaking notes and videos for all audiences.
  4. Suggested tapping faith communities to share knowledge, fact sheets and information with smaller groups

Support:
Task: Sustaining and expanding the Welcome Home program (including funding).

  1. Suggested having volunteers and participants be part of the public face of the program.
  2. Considered how the program might partner with Abundant Communities (a city-supported neighbouring movement taking root in over forty communities across the city).
  3. Story telling was identified as a powerful promotion tool, and they suggested utilizing existing faith community networks to promote the program, and find both volunteers and fundraise for specific needs.

Volunteer:
Task:  Actively working together as an Interfaith Community.

  1. Prioritized enabling person to person first contact; equipping people for healthy engagement with people off the street or in social housing.
  2. Suggested using social media to promote more volunteer opportunities, and setting up a calendar with various work taking place in faith communities.
  3. Suggested hosting volunteer block connectors (Abundant Communities) within faith community to help grown and structure networks in local neighbourhoods.

Next Steps

The Governance committee will meet and discuss the full report and bring forward the suggested action items that are doable with suggested timelines and goals to the Steering Committee.  The Steering Committee will then meet and the suggested ideas and decide on how to proceed. Participants are encouraged to watch for updates and opportunities related to this work in upcoming issues of The Neighbourly, and on CRIHI’s website and facebook page.

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CRIHI’s Presentation to City Council Executive, September 5, 2017

Greetings from the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative.  It is a pleasure to be here with you in declaring our firm support for this recent update to Edmonton’s plan to end homelessness.

The Interfaith Housing Initiative began eight years ago as Edmonton began this work with A Place to Call Home; the ten year plan.  As you, the city committed to this task, faith communities also stood up to say, ‘This is important to us too!  How can we help?

We are Roman Catholics, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarians, Anglicans, United Church, Christian Reformed, Zoroastrian, Evangelical, Lutherans, Jewish and Hindu… [we could go on for a while]. We were here in year one, and at year eight, we are still here continuing to work beside you, because there are many things we do not agree on, but we do all agree on the need to love our neighbour, and to care for our neighbour.  At a stakeholder luncheon hosted by Archbishop Richard Smith last week, he spoke to the group; noting that after eight years, it is clear that the work is not done and neither are we.

So we stand here today in support of this update to the plan.  It is absolutely critical that we together find the heart, the resources, and the courage to pursue a wise and compassionate response, and see it done well.

Let me highlight a few things in the update that resonate deeply with what we see.  Early on, we recognized a need showing up in the Housing First approach.  One of the biggest reasons people were failing in the program was loneliness.  They had a home and were getting help and supports to recover from addictions and trauma, or overcome mental illnesses; like trying to claw their way up a mountain, and in many cases, they felt like they were doing it alone.  So we helped develop a program called Welcome Home that matched a few volunteers to come alongside sincerely as a friend; to go for coffee or a long walk, to make that phone call just to check in, to commit to being in regular contact and support for at least a year.  And we are happy to say that this program continues to be very meaningful for both participant and volunteer; with many friendships going well past that one year!

But then their time with Housing First might run out, and without the continuing supports our friend was back on the street.  Needless to say, it was very discouraging for everyone involved!  So we, along with many others raised our concerns…  and we are happy to see that the new update hears and answers them; identifying the need for greater Permanent Intensive Case Management  Resources, and its strong emphasis on filling the paralyzing gap in Permanent Supportive Housing. These long-term helps and supports are critical for people who have been battling numerous complex and chronic barriers.  And we have seen how places like Ambrose Place and Grand Manor and other PSH facilities provide real places of real hope and healing for our most vulnerable.

And on that front, we continue to work hard with you.  Finding new land and welcoming communities as home for all this Permanent Supportive Housing is very difficult and complex work.  We are bringing the challenge of finding land to faith communities, and some are answering that call.  We have been hosting workshops in communities around the city, helping local neighbourhoods generate wisdom on what a healthy response to new neighbours and new units of affordable housing look like.  We want you to know that there are many very reasonable and constructive communities out there, and they have a lot of great wisdom and insight to bring to the table.  And most recently, we have embarked on a partnership with End Poverty Edmonton, and possibly Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues to develop effective community consultation resources to aid developers and local neighbourhoods in sitting down together.

People of Faith have been at this a long time, and we want you to know we are still here and ready to go another round.  Let’s get this right together.

Presentation by CRIHI Housing Ambassador, Pastor Mike Van Boom

Ministry Profile: St. Patrick’s Anglican Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Journey Together in Grief, Healing and Hope

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

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

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

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

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

 

Protocol is Important in the Indigenous Community

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

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

A Journey Together in Grief, Healing and Hope – July 6, 2017

This year the World Indigenous Games are coming to Edmonton on July 2-9, 2017. To align with this event, Edmonton’s Interfaith Housing Initiative and End Poverty, along with partners from the aboriginal community are organizing a gathering with faith leaders, new immigrant community leaders, and members of the aboriginal community. We hope to build bridges for understanding, hope and healthy relationship for our journey together on Turtle Island (North America).

The gathering will take place at: Edmonton Native Healing Centre; 101-11813 123 street.  The event begins at 9:00 am on Thursday, July 6, 2017 and continues until lunch is concluded (around 1:30pm)

Our plan is as follows

1. We will begin with a smudge ceremony/prayer
2. then participate in a blanket exercise; which is a way to experience the major changes in North American History from an aboriginal perspective.
3. We will then move into a talking circle, where we will make space to grieve together, and move toward hope and healing.
4. Afterwards, we will share a meal together (provided).

 

As space is limited to a maximum of forty participants, please respond early in order to ensure you are able to participate.

Send your RSVP to the following email addresses, and indicate any food preferences:
mike@interfaithhousing.ca (Interfaith Housing Initiative)
sam.singh@edmonton.ca (End Poverty Edmonton)

 

On behalf of CRIHI and End Poverty,

Michael Van Boom

Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative

interfaithhousing.ca

 

crihi-logo-full  EndPovertyEDM_2C

 

Brander Gardens ROCKS!

…and so do the many partners (including local faith communities) who have come together to make it possible!

    Going to school in a more affluent neighbourhood can be a tough challenge for kids who are from low income families or are new to Canada.  They watch their classmates regularly head off to Mexico for vacations.  Opportunities like music lessons or getting onto higher level sports teams can be out of reach as their families need to invest far greater energy into paying the bills and keeping food on the table; along with confronting a host of other barriers like language and cultural literacy.  The opportunities for these kids just aren’t the same.

That’s where a program like BG Rocks comes in; a grass root organization involving many of the families living in the Brander Gardens housing complex operated by Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC).  This program offers help, opportunity and builds community far beyond what CRHC is able to provide.  It is the community’s involvement in the program that contributes to the success.  The organization leads away from ‘Us versus Them’ thinking to one of working together in the community.

Brander Garden ROCKS offers after school programs, a music school, community gardens, community meals, Mom and Tot programs, summer programs including camping, academic programs, and adult enrichment programs (including community involvement with WECAN food basket, make tax time pay, art enrichment, providing help with English and opportunities to volunteer right in their community).

What really makes something like this succeed is the strong circle of support they have received from neighbourhood partners. There are nearly thirty collaborative partners such as local schools, community leagues and libraries that have partnered with Brander Gardens ROCKS.  Organizations like Sports Central, KidSport and the local Terwillegar Riverbend Soccer Association support nearly thirty youth each year to participate in the soccer program.  The Community league pays for the use of the Gym at the Junior High and offers space for the Mom and Tots program.  The Terwillegar Riverbend Advisory Council helps by hosting information on their website and is their fiscal partner. The financial support of REACH and the City of Edmonton, and Canada Summer Jobs make this a broad community effort!

One key partner for BG Rocks is the Riverbend United Church.  RUC has a long-term commitment to the local neighbourhood, and that brought them to the table right at the beginning.  The church was quick to open their doors, and became one of the key facilities used by kids and families in the program.  They provide a free room for teaching, which currently hosts a family literacy course.  RUC also began hosting a community meal every year, inviting the broad community including some Syrian families.  BG Rocks families are invited to help do the shopping and cook the meal with the RUC volunteers, and this shared effort makes for a wonderful and special event.  According to the coordinator Sharon Gritter, when she needs volunteers, Riverbend United Church is one of the first groups she approaches.

BG Rocks dinner painting
In the photo above: Volunteers from Riverbend United Church and youth and families from BG ROCKS together paint tiles for the national Canada 150 mosaic; which aims to win a place in the Guiness Book of World Records!

What does success look like?
‘Kids are being mentored!’  Sharon says, ‘When a kid you have been working hard with (and challenging) crosses the finish line at the end of a long race, it is really moving.’  Because of their sports programs they are seeing kids make it onto the local Junior High teams.  They get to do fun things like go camping, and go on field trips.  It strengthens and enriches the lives of the kids and families, and it connects them in a supportive community.   BG ROCKS! is a great example of what a local community can do to ensure all their neighbours have a chance to flourish!

By: Mike Van Boom, based on an interview with BG Rocks director, Sharon Gritter

See Inside: The First Place Housing Program

The rising cost of a starter home, tighter mortgage rules, and a slower growth in personal incomes means that more and more people are having a hard time crossing the threshold into home ownership.

The challenge is particularly pronounced for young people and families in entry level jobs, or those who may be carrying student debt.  For many of these people basement suites, rentals, or a bedroom in their parent’s home may be all they can afford.

One answer to this challenge is led by the City of Edmonton:  The First Place Program
      “Consider how things have changed, even in the last ten years,” says Tim McCargar, who leads the City’s First Place Housing Program. “In 2006, young people entering the housing market could get a 35-year amortization on a mortgage with no down payment.  Recently, there has been greater scrutiny with regard to income verification. Now, the longest available amortization is 25-years, with at least 5% down.  Even with a good income, you can’t qualify without that down payment.”

Conceived by City Council in 2006 in response to rapidly escalating housing prices, First Place was a decision to create greater housing opportunity in Edmonton for young people and families. The goal of the program is to increase the supply of starter homes, and help get people into their first home.  Recognizing that single-family dwellings are becoming out of reach for most first-time buyers, Council directed that administration build townhomes, which is increasingly how young people begin home ownership.

First Place is targeted to help people just outside the market: recent graduates with student debt, young families and young professionals living at home, or in apartments.

How does it work? 
From the beginning, City Council directed City staff to work with the local new home builders and banks to determine how to help people enter the housing market.  Out of that collaboration, a strong program has been developed, and the banks and builders play an ongoing role in its implementation and success.

The City of Edmonton helps by providing the vacant building sites where homes can be built, and requiring builders to engage each community individually in the design of new home.  In 2006, 20 school sites that sat empty for years before being declared surplus by local school boards were selected by City Council to be the building sites where the new homes would be constructed. This too is competitive, as buyers can choose what they like, and where they want to live.

      The two home builders for the First Place program were selected through an open and competitive process.  After design consultations and engagement with the local community and approval of development permits, new home construction starts.

Q: Is the land given, or sold at a discount?

The land is sold to homeowners at current market value, which is determined by professional land appraisers.
Q: Is there continued funding from the city for the program?
There is no tax levy funding associated with development of the First Place townhomes.  The costs of engaging local residents to design the homes and of building the homes is borne by the builder.

        Eligible purchasers pay for the cost of the unit, as well as relevant condominium fees, taxes and utility costs. There is a five-year deferral on the land portion of the mortgage, after which time the owner must pay the City the total amount of the deferred land costs.   This five-year deferral gives the new buyer time to build some equity, gain stability, and increase their monthly income.

Who is eligible to purchase a First Place home?
Local banks supporting the program require that each buyer qualify for the cost of the new home and land.  Interested buyers contact the new home builders directly to learn more about the homes and are advised of the program’s eligibility criteria:

  • Must be able to qualify and obtain pre-approved financing.  (Banks currently require a minimum of 5% down payment, and look for a maximum gross debt service ratio of 32% or total debt service ratio maximum of 42%.)
  • Must be a first-time home buyer in Alberta
  • Must agree to be full time occupants and residents of the home for at least five years
  • Must have a personal net worth less than $25,000, excluding a primary vehicle, lock-in or group RRSP and the down payment saved for the home
  • Must be a Canadian citizen or have permanent resident status
  • Must be employed and have a combined household income of no more than $117,000.  Combine income refers to those holding the mortgage and title to the home
  • Applicants may use a “co-signer” to qualify for and obtain mortgage approval

There is some limited discretion on a site-by-site basis.  One single mom with a divorce behind her did own a home previously.  Program staff considered her situation and were able to waive that one requirement.
There are also a few rules every new homebuyer must follow:

  • All buyers must live in the home they purchase and belong to the condominium association which ensure homes and sites are well maintained.
  • Buyers may not move elsewhere and rent out the home.   After the five-year deferral period, the home buyers have the same rights and responsibilities of ownership as all other owners in the neighbourhood.

What about the surrounding community?
Local communities often have concerns around traffic and parking, and design of the new homes.  When Council approved the program, they built in a requirement that members of the local community be directly involved in designing the new homes.

      The City recruits six to eight residents from the community through an open application process to work with the builder to help design the new homes and ensure they fit well with the surrounding neighbourhood.  The design process usually involves three to four meetings over a two to four-month period, depending on design engagement participants’ schedules.

       At the first meeting, the City and the builder get feedback from the design participants on what they do or don’t want there, and to hear what they might be anxious about, such as height, traffic and sprawl.  During the design process, many initial designs are presented to the participants for review and feedback.  From there, the team works on revising the designs and comes back again for a further round.

In the design process, participants are able to influence:

  1. The number of homes on the site
  2. Orientation: directions they face (inward, outward etc.)
  3. Roofing styles: contemporary designs tend towards variety in the roof line
  4. Homes exterior character and style
  5. Colour schemes that fit in each neighbourhood
  6. Traffic flow in and out of the building site
  7. Parking arrangement: all developments now include drive-under units as part of their plan.

In response to residents’ requests for greater transparency, updates on the status of the design engagement process, including meeting minutes and design options under consideration, are posted online following each design engagement committee meeting for the public to view.

       The local community also tends to have concerns around property upkeep and appearance.  To respond to that, every First Place project is set up with a Condo board.  The board looks after snow removal and lawn maintenance, and helps respond to any concerns arising from within or outside the new development.
       First Place also encourages involvement in the local community.  They do this by providing community league memberships to new buyers as part of the package to encourage local involvement.  As a result, they see these new neighbours getting involved in local community leagues and schools, and helping run community programming.
Success and Failure: Is it working?
Here is one significant and measurable sign of success:  There have been no mortgage failures thus far!
       That doesn’t mean there aren’t situations when things go sideways.  People sometimes need to leave before the five-year deferral had ended.  One story is from a nurse who is a single mom and has a daughter in a two-bedroom townhome.  But then she meets a guy (a cop), and he has two kids of his own.  Now they need a larger family home.  But it could be any number of factors:  A dream job!  A Divorce.  Inheritance!  New babies!
       When these situations arise, staff from the First Place Program are able to meet with them to discuss a few options.  They may be able to sell to another qualified buyer for the balance of a 5-year deferral.  Or they may pay off the deferral.  When these situations arise, the City works with the home owner to determine the best course of action.

       There are also situations where someone breaks the rules and breaches contract.  (Perhaps they move out and rent out the place.)  Fellow First Place homeowners will often see this happen and report it.  In these situations, the First Place staff has some tools with which to respond, including removal from the program and buying back the house.

What does success look like?
One young mom celebrates being able to have a separate bathroom for her teenage daughter.  Home ownership often leads to family and new relationships.  It is surprising how fast the babies come!
Common spaces built into each development help create community with neighbours and other families.
People in the local neighbourhood have to buy more Halloween candy and hand them out to cute kids.  Kids are walking to school, again!

       Parents are often there to co-sign the mortgages, helping their kids find their feet, and often being close enough to share life as a young family begins to bloom.  When parents see their kids become stable and healthy, it is a powerful gift.

They have also seen children from the local neighbourhood able to buy in the neighbourhood they grew up in.

Article by Mike Van Boom, based on an interview with Tim McCargar, Director, Civic Properties, City of Edmonton

Visit the First Place website at: https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/housing/first-place.aspx


What’s Your Wisdom on Affordable Housing? – Mill Woods!

CRIHI is hosting a workshop on Affordable Housing in Mill Woods on Saturday, April 29 from 1-4pm.  We have invited local community leagues and neighbours, faith communities, and local service providers.

If you call Mill Woods your home, or your faith community is rooted there, or you have friends and neighbours living in this area, please encourage them to participate.  We have much to learn from each other when we take time to listen and share ideas and perspectives.

The Muslim Community will be providing refreshments for the workshop, and we look forward to tasting their hospitality.  We hope for a strong and diverse turnout of people and voices, so we can generate some good community wisdom together!

HELP SPREAD THE WORD!

Housingworkshop flyer

 

City updating Plan to End Homelessness

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

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

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

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

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