Category Archives: Meeting Summaries

Summary of IFHI’s quarterly Plenary Meetings

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/

Mark talks Housing

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

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

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

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

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

habitat-interfaith-most-recent 

 

Homeless Count 2016 brings some good news!

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

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

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

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

70% of these are chronically homeless.

Indigenous: 48% (Pop 5%)

Veterans: 70 veterans of military or RCMP

Unsheltered:  22% 374

Emergency Sheltered: 43% 745

Provisionally Accommodated: 36% – 633

Men 74%

Women 25%

LGBTQ 1%

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

Youth – 240 counted in 2014; 129 counted in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Interfaith Recruiters’ Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

When: Jan 23 OR Jan 24

Time: 6-7pm

Location: 14135 128 Ave NW

RSVP: Batya@interfaithhousing.ca

interfaith-works-flyer

 

 

Edmonton’s Response in 2016: Hospitality

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

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

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

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