Category Archives: resources for communities

End Poverty’s Indigenous Circle talks: Reconciliation work in the local neighbourhood


“When I talk to my indigenous neighbours, they express their concern that everybody seems to be watching their house.” 

Fear and suspicion over concerns related to race, class or culture often show up in our communities, even if they are consciously unwanted and rejected in hearts and minds.  What can be done to overcome this unwelcome undercurrent at play in our communities?  How can we find our way to healthy relationships with local neighbours, especially when there are barriers between us?

CRIHI recently had the opportunity to visit End Poverty Edmonton’s Indigenous Circle to seek their wisdom and ideas on how people can pursue practices of reconciliation in their local neighbourhoods.

Here were some of their insights and observations:
“It takes work…  give and take from both.”  As with all relationships, it can be complicated.  Efforts to connect may not always go smoothly.  It may require some commitment on both sides to say this is important and to give it the time and attention it needs.

There are some communities that are thriving already on this front!  One member of the circle shared her experience of a great relationship with her neighbours.  They talk over the fence; shovel each other’s walks (even racing to see who gets there first); weed each other’s gardens and share vegetables; and keep an eye on each other’s places when someone goes away.  People know and support each other.

But others had a very different experience… of local neighbours being cold and unkind.  Another shared the experience of being followed around in a store.

What can people do to build relationship with local neighbours?

  • When you are going into a new community, “look for kind people!”
  • “Become Colour-brave!  Start a conversation and hear my story.  See me as a Cree man, who has been through a lot and struggled…  And let me hear your story of your life and your struggle.”
  • “Say Sorry!”  Share your regrets at what has happened in the past and what another has faced.  Sharing tears can be very healing.
  • Keep extending the welcome!  Continue to reach out with an open hand.  Treat people with kindness and respect.
  • Walk with each other and work together as Allies!  Do things together.  Go with each other to talk to a neighbour or to help someone.  If just one person goes, it will be heard differently than if we go together.
  • And of course, respect each other as equals.  Share food.  Go for Coffee.
Reconciliation won’t always happen the same way or to the same degree between people, but even small steps in the right direction move us forward.
By Mike Van Boom, CRIHI Housing Ambassador
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Faith-Based Collaboration Highlight: Jasper Place Wellness Centre

Here’s how this story started:  Recognizing growing needs and struggles experienced by their neighbours in West Edmonton, several Christian churches (large and small) met together with the City of Edmonton to consider what they might collectively do to help out.

From that first meeting, West Edmonton Interfaith coalition formed, starting in 2005; gearing up to address social issues locally.

The coalition met with Murray Soroka, who was working with a few others doing some street work in the community.  Together, they agreed that a drop-in/resource centre was needed.  So they went and did it!  A society was formed, a lease was signed, volunteers donated time, money and expertise in renovating and preparing the space (including Plumbing, drywall, finishing carpentry, painting…), and they opened in June of 2006 on Stony Plain road.  Their starting goal was simple:  “Building community through relationships.”  They made a place where vulnerable community members could come and build relationships with the faith community.

At the beginning, Soroka says, “we were heavy on relationships, but light on everything else.”  But they provided laundry, showers, shopping cart storage (a safe place to put your stuff during meetings or appointments), and lots of meals.

A year in, they started helping people experiencing homelessness find housing.  In 2007, they helped house 100 people across West Edmonton.  They helped provide a damage deposit, and a utility deposit and helped people get settled.  Some of these people needed just that little bit of help, and are still housed today from that initial work!

In 2008, they ran two pilot projects exploring Housing First, a new strategy to start by housing and then providing supports to people.  Then in 2009, Housing First took off, and they have been involved ever since.  Through their own efforts and housing first, have housed over 1100 people.

In 2010, they secured funding to build Canora place; an affordable housing complex with 24-7 on-site support.  For help with more difficult issues like mental health and addictions, residents are connected with outside agencies and services.  Ongoing donations help keep Canora a safe and affordable home.

In 2011, they started a social enterprise, employing vulnerable populations paying a living wage, providing job training and experience; part of their employment program.  Today, they operate five for-profit businesses that pay a living wage (around $17/hr).  The hope is that these businesses may some day provide wealth for the organization to help sustain the work they do.  Through these businesses, they provide for forty full-time jobs and put 1.5 million in wages back into the community!

CBC News featured a story on one of these businesses at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/mattress-recycling-edmonton-homeless-1.4120502

Food security is also one of their five pillars.  They are a founding member of Food4Good, that helped start over forty community gardens.  They host Collective kitchens, with opportunity for food education and awareness.  Food4Good supports pop-up markets, selling groceries up to seventy percent below market.

In 2016, JPWC made inroads into Wellness Education with the goal to ‘build resiliency into the lives of community members through education.’  The Edmonton Public Library provides basic computer training.  An Art teacher produces art therapy.  Financial institutions come in to provide financial literacy.  They also have a mental health worker, an addictions counselor, grief counseling, and assistance with tax returns (right until the end of October); which is a critical way to lift people out of poverty.

In September 21, 2017, they officially opened the Jasper Place Wellness Centre (celebration picture below), a Medical Centre where they provide primary care to vulnerable populations.  Currently, they have two doctors on staff, and they hope to eventually be a full-time clinic with hours from 9am-9pm, six days a week with five to seven doctors.
JPWC opening

Today, JPWC serves around 800 people every year in West Edmonton.   Murray Soroka says it matters that “we are outside of the core.  Vulnerable people can reside in all parts of our great city.  We need to have supports where the people are.”

Starting with a coalition of caring communities that saw the need and wanted to respond; JPWC has become an incredible hub for help.  They see themselves as a community development organization, and a wellness centre; a place where people can find help with the basic things, get over some big hurtles, and become contributing members in their local community!

Who are the faith communities supporting Jasper Place with time, money, volunteers, hospitality and genuine care?  They are many!  Beulah Alliance, West Edmonton Christian Assembly, Hosanna Lutheran, Trinity United, West End Christian Reformed, Covenant Christian Reformed, Annunciation Catholic, West Meadows Baptist, Jasper Place Baptist, Gospel Centre, and many more.

Other partners:  Edmonton Public Library, City of Edmonton, Edmonton West Primary Care Network, Parent Link, Bissell Centre, and Homeward Trust

Look what’s possible when we work together!

To further explore Jasper Place Wellness Centre, please visit: http://www.jpwc.ca 

Serving Edmonton’s Immigrant Communities

Edmonton is increasingly becoming a destination city for immigrants entering Canada. In 2011, 20.5% of the population in Edmonton were immigrants. Based off a recently published report by Statistics Canada, that number is estimated to rise to 31.7% by 2036. As a result, efficient and effective integration of incoming immigrants and refugees is a crucial priority for Edmonton. Luckily, there are a number of organizations, private and public, whose mission is to help newcomers to Edmonton find their place in their new home.

Alberta and City of Edmonton Services
Both the City and the Provincial governments host centres specifically catered towards orienting and providing information services for newcomers to Edmonton. The Citizen and New Arrival Information Centre, located at City hall, offers information on and assistance in accessing the City’s services in over 150 languages. Simultaneously, the province runs 4 separate Alberta Supports centres across the city. Similar to the New Arrival Information Centre, Alberta Supports connect newcomers with essential services ranging from the International Qualifications Assessment to Alberta’s Child and Health Care services.

Edmonton Immigrant Services Association
For over 30 years, the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association (EISA) has been providing a variety of programs for newcomers to Edmonton. These include their “English as Another Language” classes, the In-School Settlement Services program, the New Neighbors program, and general translation and interpretation services. The EISA places a focus on helping newcomers access existing services and learn about Canadian customs and expectations. Their service helps immigrants with everything from finding and applying to jobs, to obtaining a driver’s license, to just finding some new people to interact and make friends with.

Catholic Social Services
Catholic Social Services (CSS) is the pre-eminent Catholic charity in Edmonton and works to provide a number of services for immigrants in the city. Their primary services focus on settlement and orientation, helping newcomers understand the process of acquiring citizenship, employment, and generally how to integrate with their new communities. CSS also runs the Language Assessment, Referral & Counselling Centre, which runs the officially recognized Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) and Language and Vocational Assessment (LVA) programs.

ASSIST Community Services Centre
ASSIST is another long-running immigrant support centre, having operated in Edmonton for 40 years. Having expanded from its roots in the Chinese community, ASSIST now provides orientation, legal and mental health counselling, aid with employment, and LINC classes. ASSIST is remarkable for providing services in 12 languages: Arabic, English, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Kakwa, Punjabi, Russian, Tagalog and Urdu.

Changing Together: A Centre for Immigrant Women
The Changing Together agency is specifically focused on helping immigrant women. They provide a variety of self-improvement services, including ESL classes, basic computer courses, employment counselling and support, and family support services. Edmonton has the dubious honor of having the third highest unemployment rate for women in Canada, with a correspondingly large gap between women and men’s unemployment rates (8.6% to 5.9%) and average wage (women make $0.59 for every dollar made by men).

Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op and the Multicultural Family Resource Society
These two sister groups focus on bringing multicultural communities together to solve the isolation and lack of support in immigrant communities. Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op began as a response to research indicating immigrant mothers were having difficulty with pre-natal healthcare. The organization trained women in those communities as “brokers” to provide pre-natal health care education in the languages and formats amenable to immigrant mothers. Since then the organization has grown to address senior and youth health concerns, and to generally provide a holistic health service for Edmonton communities. The Multicultural Family Resource Society was built on a similar foundation, but targeted at providing social programs and discussions for families from different cultures. They run programs and consultation groups focusing on multicultural parents, immigrant youth, and on English classes that specifically involve youth in the classroom.

ESPC logoBy Maxwell Jenkins, Research Support Assistant
Edmonton Social Planning Council


Sources:
Morency, J-D., Malenfant, E, C., MacIsaac, S. (2017) Immigration and Diversity: Population Projections for Canada and its Regions, 2011 to 2036. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-551-x/91-551-x2017001-eng.htm
City of Edmonton. (2017) New Resident Programs. Retrieved from: https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/programs-new-resident.aspx
Alberta Government. Alberta Support Centres. Retrieved from: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-supports.aspx
Edmonton Immigrant Services Association. (2017) About Us. Retrieved from: http://www.eisa-edmonton.org/
Edmonton Immigrant Services Association. (2017) Services & Programs. Retrieved from: http://www.eisa-edmonton.org/
Catholic Social Services. (2017) Our Ministries, Immigrant & Refugee Support. Retrieved from: https://www.cssalberta.ca/Our-Ministries/Immigrant-Refugee-Support
ASSIST Community Services Centre. (2017) About Us. Retrieved from: http://assistcsc.org/en/
ASSIST Community Services Centre. (2017) Immigrant Services. Retrieved from: http://assistcsc.org/en/
Changing Together: A Centre for Immigrant Women. (2017) Services. Retrieved from: http://www.changingtogether.com/index.html
Statistics Canada. (2017). Labour Force survey estimates (LFS), by census metropolitan area based on 2011 Census boundaries, sex and age group, annual. CANSIM Table 2820-0129.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (2016). The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2016 – the Gender Gap in Canada’s 25 Biggest Cities. Retrieved from https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2016/10/Best_and_Worst_Places_to_Be_a_Woman2016.pdf
Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op. (2017) Our History. Retrieved from: http://mchb.org/
Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op. (2017) Programs and Services. Retrieved from: http://mchb.org/
Multicultural Family Resource Society. (2017) About Us. Retrieved from: https://www.mfrsedmonton.org/
Multicultural Family Resource Society. (2017) What We Do. Retrieved from: https://www.mfrsedmonton.org/

Ministry Profile: Millbourne Community Life Centre

Many faith communities wonder how they might go deeper in relationship, and in helping address needs in their local neighbourhood.  Often they will have their own building, and wonder what might be possible if they could just open their doors a little wider.

MIllbourne Community Life Centre, supported by the South Edmonton Alliance Church provides some great food for thought on this front.  They are a faith community who pursued the community centre model of engagement.
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Millbourne Community Life Centre is a busy place!
Close to twenty local partners collaborate with the centre to provide a dizzying array of programming and opportunities in service to both the immediate and larger community in Millwoods.  The local community they minister to is very diverse, and is home to people from a vast range of faiths and cultures, such as, Punjabi, Urdu, Latino, Chinese, Filipino, Hindi, and Arabic.  The socio-economic needs of the surrounding community are also significant, with over 1,400 households that fall within the lowest income bracket, as well as 2,500 subsidized housing units within the eleven communities that make up Millwoods.
Working to respond to those needs, the Millbourne Community Life Centre has become a hot spot in the local community, with many partners coming together to provide: immigration support services, a youth ministry centre, We-can food baskets, conversational cafes to aid in learning conversational English, Pre-natal classes, a food pantry and food bank outlet, a refugee medical clinic, a Community mother’s drop-in, a summer community sports camp, cultural fluency seminars, long distance seminary courses in Cantonese, and cross-cultural internships with the University of Hong Kong.
It is also home to three church communities: City South Church (Pentecostal) – 10am-12pm on Sundays, The Multicultural Alliance Church – starting at 12:15pm, and the Light of Life Filipino church, worshipping at 4pm.
It is open seven days a week, and is a hub for all kinds of help and services embedded in the local community. 

So how did this happen?

Ten years ago, the large brick building at 2101 Millbourne Road was home to the Millbourne Alliance Church.  The congregation had met together for over fifty years, and done much good work together, but they had become an ageing and dwindling congregation.  It was becoming clear the time was upon them to close their doors.
Local Alliance Churches began meeting to consider what to do with the building.  After a time, South Edmonton Alliance Church stepped up to sponsor the building as a community outreach, and in 2011 opened it as a community centre for the very diverse neighbourhood.  From the start, they elected to treat any potential organizations as partners, rather than renters.  They decided all their partners would have a seat at the table, and that they would meet regularly.  Together with new partners, they could help to address challenges faced by people in the community.

As the Centre found its’ feet, those partners gradually came to the table.  One of their anchor partners is Youth Unlimited, who run a youth ministry centre out of the basement.  A few years ago, as a partner they renovated the space as a venue for concerts and other types of programming for their youth, many of whom are from immigrant families and learning together under their Christian mentors, how to be Canadian, and caring citizens in their new home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
There were certainly some difficult transitional moments.  One of those was the decision to take down the large cross that was on the outside of the building.  There were strong feelings on both sides of the decision.  The purpose for doing so, was to facilitate the coming and going for Muslims and other groups who could access ministries in their building.  Those serving today in the MCLC facility are very mindful and deeply appreciative of the tremendous work and sacrifice of those from the original church family, Millbourne Alliance Church!
One significant shift that happened was in how they saw the building.  Tim Cook, the director at MCLC describes this change as moving from a posture of “protecting our stuff,” to “let’s use this building together.”  That posture has made so much possible, with partners willing to invest in upgrades and some renovations.

Certainly, not everything is simple.  The centre is self-sustaining in operating costs, but currently the building needs some larger repairs, including a new roof and parking lot, and investments to make the upstairs accessible.  Finding the money and resources to effect those major repairs is still in the works, but these are normal challenges.  It is likely solutions to this will be generated out of the continuing fruit of the relationships and partnerships built.  Perhaps they will be able to tell that story too in the days to come.

Where is the heart that drives a community ministry like Millbourne community Life Centre?
That heart is expressed well in their vision statement:  “Millbourne Community Life Centre is a place where all, regardless of ethnic or economic background can come to receive an expression of God’s love and find hope that comes through knowing the gift of life that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

      This vision fuels a spirit of warmth and welcome that permeates the place.  There is no pressure employed, or any strings attached to any of the help.  But sometimes prayers are shared, and if anyone wants to understand the heart that drives their hospitality, there are several partners there to walk with them on that journey.

See Inside: Metis Urban/Capital Housing

Not-for-Profit Social Housing providers like Metis Urban/Capital Housing play a crucial part in the work of providing home and help to populations in extreme poverty.

Description and brief history

Metis Urban Housing Corporation (MUHC) was formed thirty-five years ago to manage a subsidized housing program targeted to aid low-moderate income aboriginal families. Individuals and families were able to afford a home, paying 25% of their rent geared to income (RGI).

Ten years ago, as housing stock aged, and government subsidies began to fall away, a sister company, Metis Capital Housing Corporation (MCHC) was formed in order to renovate, build and manage affordable Units.

Today, between the two sides of the organization, MUHC/MCHC is the largest Aboriginal Housing operation in Canada; owned by the Metis Nation of Alberta. They have 14 locations in Alberta, both Urban and Rural, ranging from Medicine Hat to Grande Prairie.

Here’s what MUHC/MCHC is able to charge for a three-bedroom unit: their most common housing stock:

Metis housing rents

MUHC/MCHC does have a few apartment complexes, but the vast majority (90%) are single dwellings; houses all across the province. Some are bungalows and 4-plexes. Their units are spread throughout the city, which reduces the likelihood of a home becoming a target for negative activity.

As MUHC is not a charity, their operational dollars come in part from the Province of Alberta (80%) and in what they receive from Rent (20%). As they do not receive any dollars for infrastructure, or renovation, they have to squeeze those dollars out while trying to keep rents low. This can be difficult.

Not your average landlord

Many of MUHC/MCHC’s tenants can often face significant barriers and require some kind of supports. Marilyn Gladue, Director of Housing for Edmonton and Rural North says, “We are not funded to do that, but we have to.” She says, “many tenants are from reserves or settlements, so are not familiar with renter responsibilities such as neighbouring, mowing lawns, being good tenants. We can’t take it for granted that people know the basics.” And many come in to large centres like Edmonton to access medical needs or pursue educational opportunities.

MUHC/MCHC works hard with tenants, doing far more than the average landlord; assisting families with budgeting, or repayment plans if they get behind on their rent. They try to be somewhat patient and flexible as they want people to succeed. They also do lots of workshops.

Housing is meant to be short term as people move up the spectrum to greater stability or even home ownership. But that road is longer for some than others, and not everyone is able to move forward in the same way.

Successes and failures:

MUHC/MCHC has seen some very good results with people turning lives around; responding to their efforts to work with them. They have been able to help some move up the ladder from Subsidized housing to affordable, and then even into Home Ownership. They have a great relationship with Habitat for Humanity and have seen many of their families move forward and succeed in their program.

One success story involves a single mom with three kids. Her husband left her, and she was really struggling to provide for her family. She was able to rent with MUHC, and with their support, she fought her way out of debt, managed to feed and clothe her children, and is now back in school. She’s moving forward!

Another family was raising four children. When the husband got a plumbing ticket and a job upgrade the family no longer qualified for subsidized housing. MCHC was able to transfer them to affordable units, and from there they were able to make the leap into home ownership.

But not everyone succeeds. The way can be a steep uphill climb for many. Families can face lots of pressures, including economic, addictions, peer pressure and lifestyle choices. People can’t be forced to make changes, and it all has to be voluntary. Some are not willing or able to accept the helps offered.

Marilyn observes that the Truth and Reconciliation process is important and crucial to help people heal and confront negative pressures, and to move forward with positive choices.

Long Wait Lists

Like other providers of Affordable Housing, MUCH/MCHC has a very long waiting list. They have 1800-2000 famlilies on their wait list at any given time. (that calculates to between 8000 and 10,000 people.)

While they wait, people struggle to get by, paying far more rent than they can afford (up to 60%), doing whatever they have to in order to survive. And there are many problems that come from being under-housed. Affording transportation to your job is hard. Some families are staying in motels.

In today’s housing market, there are some rental spaces available, but not nearly enough that are supportive. As well, landlords will generally choose a person with a stronger income and rent history over someone who is low-income. And unfortunately, not everyone is willing to rent to aboriginal families that are struggling.

Often people with no other choices will sometimes end up in slum landlord situations where properties are not well-maintained by the landlord. This has a very negative impact on the family, including souring relations with local neighbors.

Moving Forward…

Because of the financial realities of contemporary property development, MUHC/MCHC is forced to move beyond single dwellings to building townhouses or small apartments. Currently, they are building four or eight-plex townhouses in order to keep costs affordable and sustainable.

There are some serious concerns on the radar as subsidy agreements are expiring and not being renewed. This has resulted in approximately 40% of units lost nationwide. Today, 160,000 families are being subsidized across Canada. By 2032 (15 years), all these subsidies will disappear.

But MUHC/MCHC sees reason for hope. The Federal Government today is the first in almost forty years to work on a National Housing Strategy. They are looking at different models as the current model is considered unsustainable. Some of the ideas being considered are:

  1. Tying funding to families rather than units.
  2. Recognizing the need to renovate current inventory and add/build new.
  3. Amending some of the National Housing occupancy guidelines so they are able to respond to the need in a more flexible way.

By: Mike Van Boom, based on an interview with MUHC Executive Director, Larry Scarbeau and Director of Housing, Marilyn Gladue.

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.

 

 

The Good Neighbour

What is a good neighbour? These days, we tend to think of a good neighbour as someone who keeps their yard trim and tidy, their walks cleared, the noise down after ten, and their beer bottles on their side of the fence (not mine!). But is this really what a good neighbour looks like?

neighbourq

People of Faith most always aspire to some form of good neighbour code. Love of God and neighbour are marks of righteousness. How does that love show itself? We often say it involves: hospitality, generosity, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice, underscored by a commitment to be there for each other.

In my neighbourhood, I am pleased to know many good neighbours. Certainly, it is not all smooth sailing as relationships never are. But on my street, I am happy to know that if my family or I have a crisis, we have at least five different households who would be there for us in a heartbeat. Taking the kids on short notice; bringing food; grieving with us; saying prayers for us; coming to visit us in the hospital. And of course all the little things: borrowing their lawn-mower, or a few eggs. I’ve even had one of my eighty-year-old neighbours bring his snowblower and clean my sidewalk after a heavy snowfall!

Opening my door to my neighbour continues to be a source of incredible treasure. Along the way, my wife and I have had the opportunity to share life with single parents caring for their kids; seniors grappling with the demands of age; with families for whom money is always an issue, and who need help occasionally in getting to appointments or talking to their social worker; and people grieving significant loss or battling mental illness. Our door is open to our neighbours, and in return, their door is open to us. When we are there for them, they are there for us!

In the last few years, I was privileged to be part of one very powerful neighbour story. A family with small kids was going to lose their home only two weeks before one family member was to undergo treatments for a serious cancer diagnosis. In response to this need, our neighbours and my church community together raised around $3000 to get them caught up on their rent, and helped negotiate a renewed lease for another year. It gave them time and space to heal!neighbour6

Recently, several local households celebrated thanksgiving together as many didn’t have family close by. We ate turkey, stuffing, Asian noodle dishes and springrolls, Kenyan flatbread, trifle…yum!   So this neighbouring thing… Give it a go!

By Mike Van Boom, from Edmonton’s McCauley Neighbourhood

 

I Need Help! Who Do I Call?

Whether this is you, someone you know, or a neighbour battling in the cold; here are a few key resources to help you get help.

If this is an emergency, call 911!

If you see someone in distress, and you are concerned their life may be threatened in any way, don’t mess around; call 911 Emergency to summon immediate help.

If this is not an emergency, and someone’s life is not visibly threatened, call 211!

This service is able to mobilize many different kinds of responses, including the 24/7 Crisis response teams, which can help someone in a non-emergency situation.  The 211 service is also able to connect or refer you to places that will be able to provide help.

If you need more long-term help for yourself or a neighbour and don’t know where to go, here is a resource with good information on different frontline service providers.

The Winter Emergency Response Guide 2016/2017   winter-emergency-response-resource-guide-2016-17-final-d

It explains what services are provided, hours of operation, contact information, etc.  These places provide everything from simple shelter from the cold or a safe place to sleep, to helps with identification, doing taxes and finding housing.

Finding Home at Ottewell Manor

“…these are just normal people who want what anyone else would want: a good quality of life.”

Kim Ruzycki remembers her first visit to Ottewell Manor. She recalls touring the building, walking through the dining room and seeing all the rooms in the building that she and her neighbours would be living in. She had spent the previous year living at Rosary Hall and many of her neighbours there were also making the switch to Ottewell Manor, so she wasn’t nervous about moving. In fact, as she settled into her new home, she was surprised by what her living conditions were like.Ottewell Manor

“We can make all of our own decisions and do things for ourselves,” Ruzycki says. “But there is a strong support system here.”

Ruzycki is one of 38 residents currently living in Ottewell Manor. And like all the residents at Ottewell Manor, she’s living with conditions that would make living completely independently almost impossible. Residents at Ottewell Manor live with a range of different conditions from depression and anxiety to bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Ottewell Manor was built in 1962 and was a seniors lodge for many years. In 2010, negotiations between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Greater Edmonton Foundation Seniors Housing (GEF Seniors Housing) began with the intention of dedicating Ottewell Manor strictly for seniors struggling with mental health conditions. In May of 2012, Ottewell Manor’s first new residents started moving in.

“None of us had any background in mental health before Ottewell Manor opened,” explains Shelley Fox, Assistant Manager with GEF Seniors Housing who spends the majority of her time overseeing the operations of Ottewell Manor. “We received some training from AHS before we opened, but we also set some clear guidelines in our agreement as to where the mental health support would be coming from.”

GEF Seniors Housing’s partnership with AHS focuses on the operations and support for its residents. Therapists, case workers, and even some homecare providers work directly with GEF Seniors Housing to ensure that everyone living in Ottewell Manor is receiving the mental health support that they need.

“AHS are the experts in mental health, we know and respect that and we wouldn’t want to try and replace that,” says Lisa Bereziuk, Manager of the larger Ottewell portfolio of buildings for GEF Seniors Housing. “What we as supportive living are doing is ensuring that the other side of that quality of life equation is being met. We’re making sure that the food we serve is of the best quality, the recreation options are things our residents are interested in, that the building is clean and well taken care of, and that the day to day of living here is the best it can possibly be.”

Like all GEF Seniors Housing supportive living sites, Ottewell Manor features a full commercial kitchen with a Red Seal chef on staff, a designated recreation coordinator setting up programs for the residents, and the freedom for the residents to choose what they want to take part in.

Both Fox and Bereziuk attribute a large part of Ottewell Manor’s success to the open communication they continue to have with their partners in AHS. With each organizations’ roles so clearly defined, there’s very rarely any disconnect between them, and that helps keep the operations in Ottewell Manor running smoothly and ensures that all the residents have a great quality of life.

“Hospital visits are considerably down for our residents, and most of the time you can’t even tell our residents are living with any sort of condition,” says Fox. “The work being done here is helping a lot with breaking the current stigma around mental health. Even within GEF Seniors Housing, new staff will be hired and not realize what Ottewell Manor does and they’ll be visibly uncomfortable about it until they actually visit Ottewell Manor and see how wrong their misconceptions were. That these are just normal people who want what anyone else would want: a good quality of life.”

What’s most important for Fox and Bereziuk every day is that the residents are happy with where they live. And they get to see their efforts help people with everything from just getting comfortable with where they’re living to helping with larger issues such as hoarding. The residents often show their appreciation for what the staff with GEF Seniors Housing does for them; some a little more vibrantly than others.

“There was one resident who became especially attached to the Ottewell portfolio’s previous manager Susan Scott and during our opening this resident actually hugged [Scott] so hard that she needed to see a chiropractor afterward,” says Bereziuk with a laugh. “But I think that resident expressed what a lot of the other residents were feeling that day and still continue to feel. And when we see our residents express that level of happiness, we know we’re doing a good job at giving them a good quality of life.”

Article and accompanying photo provided compliments of GEF Senior’s Housing.

 

Affordable Housing Edmonton

In recent months, the City of Edmonton launched an information campaign to help people understand what affordable housing is, why it is so needed here in Edmonton, and why we all benefit from living in diverse neighbourhoods.

 

Access the campaign by visiting their website:  http://www.affordablehousingedmonton.ca