Category Archives: Volunteer opportunities

Interfaith Habitat Works Project 2020 – Cancelled for Covid 19

Hello everyone.  Unfortunately we have to cancel this year’s Interfaith Habitat Works Project.  Habitat for Humanity has had to make some tough decisions around volunteering and how they can do that moving forward.

Please let’s keep each other in prayer as we find our way through this difficult time.  We look forward to continuing this important Interfaith collaboration in early 2021.

You can see updates from Habitat for this project at:

Seeking Jubilee – Interfaith Table exploring a 0% mortage program

“The word “jubilee”—literally, “ram’s horn” in Hebrew—is defined in Leviticus 25:9 as the sabbatical year after seven cycles of seven years (49 years). The fiftieth year was to be a time of celebration and rejoicing for the Israelites. The ram’s horn was blown on the tenth day of the seventh month to start the fiftieth year of universal redemption.”

“The Year of the Jubilee involved a year of release from indebtedness (Leviticus 25:23-28) and all types of bondage (vv. 39-55). All prisoners and captives were set free, all slaves were released, all debts were forgiven, and all property was returned to its original owners. In addition, all labor was to cease for one year, and those bound by labor contracts were released from them. One of the benefits of the Jubilee was that both the land and the people were able to rest.”

Inspired by these teachings from the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and from Muslim teachings on debt and Usury, CRIHI is assembling a table to design and carry forward a 0% mortgage program.  A first draft of this program has been completed and is tentatively titled the Jubilee Mortgage program.  The idea is that such a program would provide a path into home ownership for low and middle income families who have demonstrated an ability to retain stable housing.

Instead of charging interest, this program would require participants to pay a service fee up front for participation .  This fee would cover:

  1. the costs of staffing and administration, program promotion etc
  2. stress tests and risk management
  3. and a significant percentage to grow the funding pool for the program.
CRIHI currently has Christian and Muslim voices at the table already to work together on this, but are seeking more participants from other faith communities.  Additional Muslim or Christian voices are also welcome.  CRIHI believes a strong Interfaith team backing this is critical to this program having success in developing relationships with financial institutions and private and public partners in business or Government.

If interested to participate in this program, please contact CRIHI’s animator at

Interfaith Habitat Works 2018; the Wrap-Up Party!

On May 31, 2018 CRIHI members gathered at Habitat for Humanity’s Carter Place build to celebrate the work Interfaith volunteers were able to accomplish this year.

Here are the rough numbers:

OVER 300 Volunteers; 48 lunches served!

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to do this work together!  Here are some of our celebratory faces from the Wrap Up Party:

Here are a few of the names and faces above:  We heard faith community representatives from Muslim, Jewish, Sai Baba Centre, Ismaili, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Christian Reformed, Quaker, and Anglican.

CRIHI was pleased to welcome five dignitaries to this event:
Dolores Peterson, Habitat for Humanity Board
City Councillor Mike Nickel, Millwoods
David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-Centre
Denise Woollard, MLA for Edmonton-Mill Creek
Hon. Richard Feehan, MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and Minister of Indigenous Relations

Of special mention is CRIHI’s own Fraser Williamson, who we honoured for his tireless efforts the last seven years as coordinator for this Interfaith Habitat Works project.  Fraser, we cannot thank you enough for all your work to make this project so successful!

April Action Highlight: Invite Welcome Home to Visit your Faith Community

This past month, Beth Israel Synagogue hosted Claire Rolheiser from Welcome Home at Rabbi Daniel Friedman’s monthly class.

This month featured “Don’t pass over your neighbour this Passover.” Rabbi Friedman taught that in the Haggadah which we recite at the Passover Seder, we say a special prayer to welcome all those in need. Claire along with volunteer Maria shared their experiences with Welcome Home. Maria told us about her new friend Gloria who now feels comfortable going to the movies on her own when at first she felt scared in going out with anyone let alone by herself.

Claire is ready to present at your place of worship to discuss this meaningful opportunity for volunteers to share the simple gift of genuine friendship to someone coming out of crisis.  Drop her an invite so that folks from your community can learn about and participate in this beautiful program.

For more information, please call:  (780) 378-2544
or visit Home

Befriending Dustin; a Welcome Home Story

Elizabeth and Richard’s [Welcome Home] participant, Dustin has struggled for many years with depression and an addiction to alcohol. When they first started meeting together, he struggled to keep their appointments, wondering if his volunteers were going to judge him because of his addiction. It was hard for him to believe that they really enjoyed his company, and he was often very quiet and withdrawn.

After many months, Dustin began to attend some of the program functions with Elizabeth and Richard, and found that he really enjoyed meeting others from Welcome Home. He felt accepted for who he was, which helped him to develop more self-confidence.

Recently, Dustin took a big step, and went into detox. As is often the case for those with a serious addiction, he had a relapse soon after getting home. However, instead of feeling ashamed and spiraling into depression, he called Elizabeth, and let her know. His willingness to share this part of his journey with his volunteers demonstrates the amazing level of trust that they have built together. Elizabeth and Richard reassured Dustin that they were still there for him, and encouraged him to try again when he felt ready.

Since that relapse, Dustin has applied to a longer-term treatment program, which will help him to address both his addiction and his mental illness. He continues to look forward to the next Welcome Home social, and knows that he has found true friends to journey with him through the many ups and downs of his recovery.

Volunteer with Welcome Home!Welcome home logo
One of the biggest reasons people struggle or fail as they come out of homelessness into housing is loneliness.  Welcome Home assembles and trains a small team of volunteers to walk with someone as a friend.  This is a one-year commitment to go for coffee, go bowling, take long walks, to encourage and pray for a fellow human being on a tough stretch of the road.  ​To find out more information about volunteering contact the Welcome Home Coordinator at 780-378-2544.


The Plan to end homelessness: Unpacking the first goal of the new update

We are eight years in on the ten-year plan.  “It’s time to look under the hood and see how we’re doing,” to use the words of Jay Freeman.  Certainly, we have some things to be happy about. The Housing First program has been very successful, and has given over 6,000 people a home, and in many cases some solid supports as well.

But the work is certainly not done, and there are a few areas identified as needing a lot more work.   That work is identified in the new update to the plan.  For the next few months, we at the Interfaith Housing Initiative will be walking through some of the key learnings and goals set so that we can better understand where we as a whole city need to focus more of our energies as our work continues.


update goal one

Creating an effective network of helps, supports, services, and housing options is a tricky business.  In the new update to the plan we see an intensive push to give people more permanency in their supports and housing situations.  One area of concern that CRIHI, Welcome Home volunteers, and other partners expressed with the plan thus far was that people would often finish out a period of housing support in the Housing First program and then end up back on the street.  This was really discouraging for both the people losing their housing and those walking with them.  A major reason identified for this loss is a lack of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), and longer term supports.

As you can see in the chart below, the plan recommends strengthening Permanent Intensive Case Management (PICM) resources to provide better support to people long term, and to greatly increase our supply of PSH.

Update chart change in emphasis

One of the biggest shortfalls in the plan so far has been that while the original plan called for 1,000 units of Permanent Supportive Housing, only 200 were actually built.  PSH is fairly expensive to develop and run and requires major Capital investments, as you can see by the costs associated below.  But it is still cheaper than the cost of providing emergency responses to people living on the street, and it provides real and effective help for people with numerous complex barriers!

update chart cost of psh

Concluding Summary: a lack of both Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Permanent Intensive Case Management (PICM) resources is credited with causing shortfalls in the overall response system.  A person may be very successful and making progress, but if their supports are not permanent and come to an end, they often fall back very quickly into the same place of crisis.  So CRIHI applauds efforts to fill these gaps in our housing response.

Three keys to success in meeting these goals, and how faith communities might help: 

ONE: Committed Funding and Consistent political backing.  Stable operational dollars are needed to maintain supports, and Capital funding is needed to create new units of Permanent Supportive Housing.  Currently, appeals are being made to all levels of government to pitch in.  But people of faith can ensure our leaders know that finding meaningful helps and solutions to homelessness is important to us.  When you run into your City Councillor, MLA or MP, broach the topic of poverty and affordable housing.  Can Faith Communities and other community partners play a significant role in this fundraising?  CRIHI’s Advocacy committee is talking about how we might help collaborate for that opportunity.  Curious to explore that with us?  Drop Mike an email at

TWO: Finding available land in communities all over Edmonton.  This is complicated work.  There are many factors to consider when finding land, including access to local community resources and transportation, and if that land is expensive, creating housing that will be affordable is more difficult.  Faith communities sometimes have parcels of land, and have offered that as a contribution to the development of affordable housing. Westmount Presbyterian Church provides an excellent example of this.  Read full story here:

THREE: Gaining support and a welcome from the local community.  This too is complex work.  A key to success is a healthy consultation process.   This is a need identified both by CRIHI and End Poverty Edmonton, and our two organizations are beginning work together on some great resources to aid both the community and developers in sitting down together. The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues also sees the need for this, and is willing to share their wisdom and experience, and hopefully some of their volunteers to aid in this task.

Plan Update Reflection by Mike Van Boom, CRIHI Housing Ambassador

Artwork for the plan update (top) was painted by Chipewyan artist Michael Fatt, and features the Cree word for home, ‘wikiwin.’

What can I do?

“We get it!”  Housing is not affordable for so many people!  Rents are high; times are hard; money is tight; and supports are few.   It is a struggle for our seniors, our young families, for people battling addictions or mental illnesses, and our young people …but we don’t have a lot extra ourselves.  How can we help make things better?

It’s always the number one question we hear?  What can I do?  How can I make a difference in helping our community create better options for our most vulnerable people?  On this site, we’ll do our best to highlight particular initiatives and opportunities to help out and make a difference.  So please tune in with us to hear more.

But here is the link to the resource we’ve put together to help answer the big question.  This is the full-meal-deal answer with numerous ideas for how people from faith communities (or just concerned Edmonton neighbours) can get involved.  Come join us in the work.  We can totally do this!

2015 Congregational Housing Guideaction guide 2015