Congregational Workshop on Homelessness and Affordable Housing

We will be presenting an introductory workshop on homelessness and affordable housing for members of local congregations. The workshop is designed to help congregations discern social justice commitments appropriate for their community, addressing homelessness being one possible response. It will be an opportunity to learn about the different strategies suggested in the Congregational Action Guide. It will also be an opportunity to learn more about how members of your congregation can volunteer with the newly launched Welcome Home program. This workshop will be available for use with members of local faith congregations in the Edmonton region. Anyone interested is invited to participate in one of the following sessions:

Tuesday, April 24 from 10 am to 12 noon at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 8421-101 Avenue
Wednesday, April 25 from 7-9 pm at the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, 10804-119 Street

For more information, contact:Brian Kiely, or Bob McKeon, or (780) 469-1010

Ending Homelessness – Changing Lives

Thursday, May 3, 2012
Crowne Plaza, Chateau Lacombe
10111 Bellamy Hill
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Tickets: $49.95 Members (+GST)    $69.95 Non-Members (+GST)
Tables of 8 Available

Ending Homelessness – Changing Lives
Presented by The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the Homeless Commission.

Over the last three years, more than 1,600 people have been housed under Edmonton’s Plan to End Homelessness.  Internationally renowned entrepreneur Frank O’Dea, who founded Second Cup, the largest chain of gourmet coffees and teas in the country, fully understands the struggle of beginning a new life off the streets. In his early teens, Frank’s life went off the rails into a downward spiral. Now, a successful businessman, Frank has always believed in the importance of  giving back to the community.

Join fellow business people at this unique opportunity to hear Frank speak, and have a chance to personally make an impact in the goal to end homelessness

To register, please contact the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce:
700, 9990 Jasper Avenue, World Trade Centre Edmonton
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 1P7 Tel: (780) 426-4620

Housing & Homelessness Educational Resources

Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative

Educational Resources

February 15, 2012

1)      February 2012 fACT Sheet  “Alberta Budget Analysis”

Edmonton Social Planning Council

2)       “Edmonton Area Community Plan on Housing and Supports: 2011-2015”

Homeward Trust

3)      “Poverty Costs: An Economic Case for a Preventative Poverty Reduction Strategy in Alberta”

Report, Executive Summary and short online video

Calgary Vibrant Communities Calgary

4)      “Welcome Home” Program Manual

Program Manual

Training Manual

5)      Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative Online

Facebook at

Blog at

Includes Interfaith Leaders Statement and the Congregational Housing Action Guide

Community Plan Announced

Homeward Trust Edmonton and community partners announce the release of the Edmonton and Area Community Plan on Housing and Supports: 2011-2015 at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton.  This is the third community plan on housing, homelessness and support services to be developed over the past decade, but is the first to include participation from community leagues and businesses, and the first to look at the region as a whole.

General Meeting – Sept 27, 2011

Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative

General Meeting

September 27, 2011   10:00 AM – 12 NOON
Pastoral and Administrative Offices – Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton
8421 – 101 Avenue, Edmonton


Opening prayer led by Audrey Brooks (U of A Unitarian Chaplain, member of the Interfaith Centre for Education and Action)

  1. Welcome and opening remarks delivered by Archbishop Richard Smith who commented that the growing number of participants is a witness of the deep commitment and moral importance of the Housing Initiative.
  2. Bob McKeon provided a brief history of the Interfaith Housing Initiative.
  3. The meeting notes from the May 11, 2011 general meeting have been distributed electronically to all participants.
  4. The following brief updates were provided:

Jay Freeman, Executive Director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission

The Edmonton Homeless Commission is launching a social marketing strategy called “No longer with us”.  Look for promotion on bus shelters, bus benches and at upcoming festivals.  There will be a re-launch next year.

  • Approximately 1500 people have been housed since the start of Edmonton’s 10 year Plan to End Homelessness 3 years ago.
  • The contract to develop the first part of the Welcome Home program, consisting of the program manual and training manual, has been awarded to Catholic Social Services.  The call for proposals to develop the second part of the program, the delivery module, will go out next week.
  • This year’s HOMEFEST, taking place on Nov. 6 at the Transalta Arts Bars, will headline Richard Wagamese.  Richard will also appear at a special function at City Hall on Nov. 7.  Richard is an Ojibway author.
  • Experience is showing that the Housing First Strategy does not work for all the homeless. Some clients have intensive needs that require 24/7 support.   An upcoming summit with front line agencies will look specifically at how to reach the “hidden homeless” and the “hard to house”.
  • The City of Edmonton is recognizing that dealing with homelessness needs to form part of its crime reduction strategy.  Homeless men are 9 times more likely to be victims of homicide.  According to figures from the Hope Mission, 21 of the 33 homicides which have taken place so far this year in Edmonton involved men which were homeless.

Dave Ward, Community Coordinator, Homeward Trust

Blue Quills First Nations College has produced a play based on a study it did on Aboriginal clients’ experiences with the Housing First Strategy.  The play is being promoted to coincide with National Housing Month which occurs in November.

  • The 2012 World Indigenous Housing Conference will take place in Vancouver.
  •  Homeless Connect takes place on October 16,
  • Dave provided a brief explanation of the role of Homeward Trust in the Housing First Strategy.

Don Mayne, No Room in the Inn (NRII) Campaign

The 2011 NRII campaign recipient will be WINGS of Providence, which is building a 29 unit apartment for women and children who are victims of family violence.  The apartment is called Our Home Next Door. The brochures for 2011 NRII campaign will be ready for distribution to congregations in late October. Last year’s campaign raised approximately $74,000.00  from 61 contributing churches.

Rev. Bob Peel,  Anglican Church

  • On September 29, 6 Anglican congregations will begin a 6 month program in partnership with the Bissell Centre aimed at interfacing with the homeless.  In March of 2012, the participating congregations will then report back to Bishop Jane Alexander on its findings/experience.

Rev. Pam Reichenbach, Strathcona Baptist Church

  • Approximately 10% of the City’s homeless are found on the south side.
  • The Do Likewise Society is working to establish a resource centre for the homeless south of Whyte Avenue and is currently working to secure a lease and find funding partners.  Pam is available to come and make a presentation to any interested groups. The Society’s annual general meeting takes place on October 13 and everyone is invited.

Mary Clare Stack, Catholic Social Services

  • Mary Clare was invited to speak on homelessness to the congregation and parish council at St. Thomas More Catholic Church. As a result of this meeting a committee was formed which took on the task of organizing educational homilies,  connecting with local schools to expose students to homelessness, and reaching out to  support Canora Place (a Housing First project).

Welcome Home Presentation

A team from Catholic Social Services, who won the contract to develop the Program Manual and the Volunteer Training Manual, made a detailed presentation.  The manuals were developed based on research of best practices, input from Housing First clients and an e-survey of community stakeholders.  The Interfaith Steering Committee was afforded an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft documents. The manuals are now available at

  • The vision behind Welcome Home is to put a face to the homeless, connect the homeless with the community, build healthy relationships and increase the success of Housing First clients in remaining housed. One of the most significant barriers to successfully housing the homeless is loneliness and isolation.
  • The key components of Welcome Home include:
    • Roles and responsibilities of the volunteer
    • Recruitment and screening of volunteers and clients
    • Criteria for matching volunteers with clients
    • Bundaries and safety protocols
    • Ongoing support/training and recognition of volunteers
    • Closure and evaluation of matches

The first two years of the Welcome Home program will be funded by the United Way with some support from the Edmonton Homeless Commission.  Funding beyond this time frame is uncertain, but there may be the possibility that the agency that wins the contract to run the program may contribute some funding.

  • Recruitment of volunteers will be done through a program coordinator and will include presentations to congregations.
  • Jay Freeman noted that the research work and the training manual will be made available to any agency who would like to use it for its own program development.
  • The volunteer recruitment and training is anticipated to begin before the end of the year.
  • Volunteers will not be allowed to carry over their screening results from other agencies.
  • Volunteers will be asked for an initial 6 month commitment, with the possibility of a 6 month renewal if the match is going well.
  • Clients will be referred to the Welcomed Home coordinator from the Housing First Support Team.
  • Volunteers will go through the screening process before being accepted for training,
  • The following comments were offered as feedback to the presenters:
    • The training schedule should offer flexibility
    • Add a stronger diversity in training beyond Aboriginal
    • Stress that proselytizing is not permitted
    • Can clients be entire families rather than just individuals

6.   Steering Committee Initiatives

Proposed Template for a Congregational Housing Workshop
One of the things requested at the May 11, 2011 general meeting was the development of a template that congregations could use for holding housing workshops. A draft template, prepared by Brian Kiely, a Steering Committee member, was distributed.  It provides a good general framework for congregations to use in planning a workshop and because it is not faith specific it can be adapted to different faith settings.   Anyone interested in volunteering to be part of a team that can help with developing and conducting housing workshops can leave their name and contact information on the sign up sheet.

Proposal for an Interfaith Initiative presence online

Mark Stanley, a Steering Committee member, is currently exploring options for the Interfaith Initiative to have a web presence.  These options include using Facebook and a blog.  Anyone interested in helping Mark on this project is invited to leave their name and contact information on the sign up sheet.

Steering Committee Membership – recruit new members

Broadening the faith composition of the Steering Committee is an ongoing challenge.

Revise Congregational Housing Action Guide

The Guide requires updating and hopefully this can be accomplished early in the New Year.  Please submit any ideas for revisions to Bob McKeon.

  1.  Upcoming Events:

Sunday, October 16         Homeless Connect (

Sunday, November 6       HOMEFEST at Transalta Arts Barns (


Next Interfaith Housing General Meeting

The general meetings have been taking place about every three months.  No firm date was set for the next meeting but it was agreed to avoid scheduling anything close to Christmas.

Date has since been set for Thursday, January 26th at 10 am- 12 noon at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 8421-101 Ave. Edmonton.

Additional Information

The following 3 articles may be of interest to you as they relate directly to our ministry of Social Justice.

In This Together – Ending Poverty in Alberta

Public Interest Alberta, the Alberta College of Social Workers, and the Edmonton Social Planning Council have just released their report, In This Together – Ending Poverty in Alberta.    This report encourages the Government of Alberta to recognize the need for a designed-in-Alberta poverty reduction strategy, to study best practices in other jurisdictions, and to engage in broad-based public consultations in order to create this strategy.  The full report can be viewed at

September 28, 2010


September 28, 2010


9:00 a.m.          Welcome by Bob McKeon, Associate Director, Office of Social Justice

9:10 a.m.          Archbishop Richard Smith: Orientation to the project

  • Task to form consciences
  • Call to compassion and action
  • What is the plan? Where do we go with this? How do we get there?

9:15 a.m.          Prayer by Julien Hammond

9:20 a.m.          Bob McKeon: Follow up from the May meeting

  • in a way the conversation started/ in another way still starting
  • wealth of diversity: faith, social action groups
  • Contact list? Please sign up – list continues to grow
  • today is a working meeting
  • information in folders includes:
    • info of what other cities are doing
    • draft statement – conversation starter
    • draft Welcome Home proposal
    • Should we meet again? How so? Whom?

9:25 a.m.          Introductions

9:35 a.m.          Update by Jay Freeman

  • Year & half since launch of 10 year plan aimed at ending homelessness in Edmonton
  • Plan based on a shift from managing homeless populations to housing first model
  • Video presentation on 1st year of the plan: target 150 homes – 3 times that many in first year

9:47 a.m.          Revised draft Interfaith Statement and Action Guide for Faith Congregations

  • Bob read the text aloud, overview of study guide
  • Is this the right way to go? Is there more or less that should be offered?
  • 20 minutes for discussion at tables

Summary of Small Table Discussion Points

Shared Interfaith Statement – feedback from table discussions

  • Needs stronger Faith – theological statement
  • More of a challenge to be committed and stay active – to keep communities accountable
  • Point people more directly to action guide
  • More commitment around working together. We will work together. Challenge ourselves
  • Where will statement go? Public? Each other? Politicians? Agencies? All?
  • Assist homeless people – more than eliminate homelessness
  • Include an executive summary (key elements/key concepts) of the 10 yr. plan
  • Brochure as an appendix or background document
  • Using the DVD to accompany presentations
  • Good statement – great to talk about the involvement of the greater community
  • Facilitating access to current information about initiatives underway
  • Provide info on ‘theology’ of homelessness and commonality between faith groups
  • Timing of the Interfaith Statement
  • Generally, we agree with this document. We would like to see the ‘why’ or the motivational aspects
  • included: faith/religious motivation – up front
  • Well put together
  • Beginning of 4th paragraph: we are already committed and are coming together; a more positive introduction.
  • Stronger Statement re: shared commitment based on our religious traditions – “All of our [religious]
  • traditions affirm the worth and dignity of each human being and impel us to act in order to serve
  • those in need.”

Action Guide: feedback from table conversations

  • Specifics are helpful
  • Keegano – intentional community, (Mill Woods)
  • Action strategy to address NIMBY
  • Education (show DVD in churches)
  • Support from Private Corporations and Industry
  • Have homeless people in this process join their voice to this process.
  • Strengthen call to compassion
  • Examine our prejudices and our readiness to welcome others
  • Strengthen our belief that we can do this!!
  • Get clergy on board – all groups that have clergy – church leaders
  • What is the best way to reach and share with the wider community
  • First step – start with your own
  • Need to go back and see how the eleven approaches work.
  • Do we need to determine our priorities to help discern the next steps? This group, congregations?
  • Need clearer action statements vs. general commitments
  • Conduct education info sessions over next year
  • Church can change NIMBY
  • Culture – incorporate community groups
  • Utilize ‘expert’ resources to help with conversation
  • Avoid formation of ‘camps’/sides
  • Keep ‘new’ homeless & youth on the table
  • Come together as churches – don’t do it alone
  • Raise Awareness – Borrow Videos/DVDs, see firsthand (listen to the stories)
  • Increase donations (In Kind) e.g. furniture, etc.
  • Clearer way to involve congregations – groups in telling their stories
  • Remind government & social service agencies that housing – though significant is ONLY a first step.

We must continue to address related issues such as addiction, financial stability, literacy, and

integration into the community.

  • We commit ourselves to challenging our faith communities to continue our present initiatives and to
  • find new and creative…
  • Add a study aspect – encourage each [faith] tradition to examine its own commitment to eliminate
  • homelessness.
  • Expand point 8 with more examples of community support – beyond housing and basic social
  • services.

In addition, these points were jotted on the flip chart pages from table conversations:

  • Building on what you said – we need a big‐group check‐in in 6 months. What have we done so far?
  • What else can we be doing that we aren’t already doing?
  • Theology of Human Rights as general start point?
  • There is something in UN Declaration of Human Rights.
  • 10:20 a.m. Return to plenary session
  • Intro to what the statement aims to do?
  • Edmonton city or Greater Edmonton region
  • Opinions from plenary conversation:
  • Hierarchies and personal commitments are necessary for this project to be successful
  • We are stronger together than as individual congregations
  • An Edmonton statement will have effect in the surrounding municipalities
  • This is different; we don’t need to motivate the government, the government is spurring us to
  • action; the statement is great; focus isn’t up but out onto our committees.
  • This statement/project requires us to get to the structural roots of the problem, not just addressing
  • specific issues
  • What questions do we ask of candidates in the civic election?

10:45 a.m.        Break

11:00 a.m.        Jay introduced the ‘Welcome Home’ concept/project.

  • Naming needs is only part of the project; mobilizing the communities is important
  • One barrier/issue to work against: loneliness of individuals and families who are newly housed
  • Sponsorship model – similar to refugee sponsorship – companionship – friendship – not about proselytism.
  • This model has succeeded in many US cities, in Calgary and internationally
  • This plan is doable – looking for approval in principal
  • Requires staff (Volunteer Manager), coordination of volunteers, etc
  • Hopeful signs from the City to commit resources to this project

11:10 a.m.        Small group discussion

  • Stronger faith statement – can we name God in this document? Like the Toronto multi faith
  • statement?
  • Shared statement – could direct people more directly to the study guide – to congregations, to
  • public, to politicians
  • Were looking for measures, targets, goals – built in accountability
  • We can come together or we will…

11:25 a.m.        Plenary – Welcome Home

Summary of Small group discussions

  • It’s crucially important to train/educate volunteers who work with homeless people.
  • Listening Skills
  • Issues of vulnerability for the homeless person and the volunteer. (Look @ C.P.E. educ.)
  • Safety issues
  • Knowing what to expect
  • Screening Volunteers
  • Training Volunteers
  • What is the…connection with current faith based workers – volunteers
  • How can faith communities address the social isolation
  • Homeless – invitations to be included
  • Community – Pot luck dinners?
  • Exciting concrete possibility
  • Opportunities for advocacy
  • Training – volunteers need debriefing, support, to realize it’s a long term commitment – 6 months to
  • 1 yr. minimum.
  • Need to realize richness these people bring
  • Community needs training – awareness – make it less scary
  • Teach – we are better off because they have become part of us
  • Advantage to not be a professional – can become friends
  • Geographic component – match in area
  • Volunteers as families?
  • Volunteers can assist in a ‘cross‐pollination’ of understanding the needs in our city. i.e.: University
  • Area & 118 Avenue (Whyte Ave. & Alberta Ave. speak to each other)
  • Is there an age range for volunteers? Could youth volunteer?
  • Clarification of volunteer training
  • Clarification: emphasis on local, neighborhood faith communities.
  • Who is the interfaith org. that will run ‘welcome home’?
  • Include specific examples of how the program will function & serve
  • Where will funding for staff salaries and programming come from?
  • What will the role of a volunteer in this organization be? [clarify specific tasks volunteers will be
  • responsible for.]
  • How do we differentiate the role of ‘Welcome Home’ from that of social services?
  • Agenda‐free interaction [meeting people where they’re at]
  • Role of volunteer beyond individual interaction to community involvement without proselytizing.

Loneliness will become a major challenge if not addressed now – already signs

Agreement in principle for Welcome Home proposal – affirmed by those present

11:40 a.m.        Next Steps

  • Could we establish an (interfaith) steering committee to provide future leadership?
  • What is the role of our ‘body’? Working group? Board of Governors? Communication Forum?
  • Could we commit to at least the Action Guide? Concrete, practical…
  • Would love to see an interfaith initiative – not just denominational, not isolationist – could lead to
  • other initiatives
  • Likes idea of steering committee – how do we get there?
  • Is there a list of agencies, etc., that could be sent to congregations? (Yes & No)
  • Anglicans are working on a comprehensive list – are willing to share
  • Can we work regionally /in neighborhoods? Already happens – (Yes & No)
  • CSS has assets & resources to lend
  • Contact list will be circulated – people can work/contact each other outside of this forum.

Volunteers for Steering Committee:

Brian Kiely John MacDonald Judy Ganz, Bob Peele, Katherine Douglas, Audrey Brooks, Don Koote, Fraser Williamson, David Kunin

  • If Welcome Home goes forward – Jay will communicate this back through the IF Housing network
  • Possible next meeting? Stay tuned…

Archbishop Smith’s concluding comments

  • Thanks
  • Likes Steering Committee idea – hopes SC will work first on statement and action plan
  • Archdiocesan Communications Office is ready to help
  • Issuing statement is only part of it – message to the City, public – implementation is long‐term
  • If we can really grapple with this issue – other things are possible
  • What is the point of unifying contact for us? City Commission (Exec. Dir. Jay Freeman)

12:00 p.m.        Conclusion/Adjournment

Thanks to Julien Hammond for taking notes and assisting with this report

May 5, 2010

MAY 5, 2010


Archbishop Smith welcomed and thanked everyone for attending. He spoke of his experience as a member of the Edmonton Homeless Commission. He expressed his support for the ambitious goals of Edmonton’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. Archbishop Smith pointed out the potential contributions that faith communities could make in realizing the goal of ending homelessness in Edmonton. He pointed to a specific role faith communities could play in welcoming homeless persons into local communities and serving as advocates. He also asked if there was interest in a public pastoral statement on homelessness and affordable housing that could be signed by leaders of faith communities in Edmonton.

The DVD, “A Place to Call Home,” summarizing the Homeless Commission’s Year One Report to the Community, was shown. Jay Freeman, the Executive Director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission, spoke of the results of the first year of implementing the 10 Year Plan with its Housing First philosophy He described some clear successes including the securing of 424 homes for 546 people who previously had been homeless. He also spoke of some challenges, including reports of loneliness and social isolation, being experienced by those settling into their new accommodations.

Following these presentations, there was a time of open plenary discussion. Several important points were raised:

a) Affirm that while faith communities are already doing a lot around the issue of homelessness, much more can be done.

b) Some spoke of the importance of supporting those who are at risk of becoming homeless. Specifically, the loss of financial support from the provincial Homeless and Eviction Fund was mentioned.

c) Several addressed the possibility of local faith congregations participating in a “Sponsorship Program” similar to the congregational sponsorships for international refugees settling in Canada. One pastor spoke of being part of a successful program in Denver. Another described the “All Roads Lead Home” project in Calgary.

d) There were voices of support for a faith leaders’ pastoral statement. A question was raised about whether this should be a statement made by institutional leaders of faith organizations (say 20-30) or a statement signed by as many faith representatives as possible (200 plus).

e) One leader of a community agency proposed that faith organizations could support affordable housing initiatives through the contribution of underutilized land, closed church buildings, and the creative leveraging of existing physical and financial assets.

f) One leader of a church social service agency spoke of the experience of a local parish that was in the process of working with a non-profit housing agency for the purpose of welcoming those being placed through Housing First in their local neighbourhood.

g) One leader of a faith-based agency providing direct service to homeless persons in the inner city, spoke of educating volunteers who help serve food with their agency so that they could better address affordable housing discussions in their own local neighbourhoods all across the city. Another leader of an inner city faith-based agency spoke of finding better ways for faith

organizations and congregations outside of the inner city to relate to and support front-line faith agencies. It was also suggested that parishes work together to debunk the myths of homelessness and that there be a sharing of best practices.

h) One representative from an ecumenical social action group spoke of his experience addressing the “NIMBY” issue with a proposed affordable housing project in his community. He spoke of how his pastor was hesitant to speak publicly and take a position in a divisive community debate. Others spoke of the possible ways pastors could be part of these discussions through preaching and education without necessarily taking a clear cut position. There was a general agreement that additional conversations and educational resources were needed for faith leaders addressing local NIMBY issues.

i) There was a suggestion that a homelessness/affordable housing resource booklet or catalogue be produced. Reference was made to a catalogue distributed by a Christian international development agency that listed different types of contributions and actions that individuals and congregations could commit to. Such a local resource book could provide a list of possible actions that individuals and congregations (small and large) could support to engage issues of homelessness and affordable housing in the Edmonton region.

j) Several spoke of the need to expand the conversation and widen the representation present at this initial meeting. The need for aboriginal representation was noted.

The meeting ended with a discussion about next steps. There was a consensus that the group should meet again in early Fall 2010 (likely in September). Next time people should bring friends and colleagues to widen the circle. Preparatory work should be done concerning proposals for specific action initiatives and a pastoral statement on homelessness and affordable housing. Archbishop Smith promised ongoing staff support for this project from the Archdiocesan Social Justice Office. Archbishop Smith thanked everyone for coming and indicated his personal commitment to moving this interfaith housing initiative forward.

Meeting summary prepared by:

Bob McKeon
Office for Social Justice, Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton
8421 – 101 Avenue, Edmonton T6A 0L1
Tel 780-469-1010

Religious and spiritual communities working to end homelessness in Edmonton and area

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