Unpacking the National Housing Strategy; Money and Metrics

Targets and Metrics

  • 530,000 families removed from housing need
  • 300,000 existing housing units repaired and renewed
  • 385,000 households protected from losing an affordable home
  • 100,000 new housing units (60,000 from Co-Investment Fund)
  • 7,000 shelter spaces created or repaired
  • 50,000 households benefit from an expansion of community housing eligibility
  • 300,000 households to receive direct housing subsidy
  • 50% reduction in use of homeless shelters
  • 25% reduction, energy consumption and GHG emissions
  • 20% of new units to meet accessibility standards

Observations:  These targets show a willingness to tackle the challenges of housing affordability and supports from several angles: helping prevent homelessness, renewing existing housing helps, creating new spaces, and moving intentionally away from emergency accommodation (ie. shelters) to stronger and more effective solutions (ie. supportive housing).  The intent seems to be in harmony with efforts currently underway by the City of Edmonton, which seems to be a healthy and well-considered approach.

NHS Targets


Investment Highlights
The NHS describes a total budget of $37 billion dollars in federal funding to support housing and homelessness programs. The funding commitments described in the strategy include:

  • $15.9-billion for a new National Housing Co-Investment Fund
    • $4.7-billion in financial contributions & $11.2-billion in low interest loans
    • Must be supplemented (cost-shared) by Provinces/Territories
  • $8.6-billion for a new Canada Community Housing Initiative in partnership with provinces and territories, and $500 million through a new Federal Community Housing Initiative
  • $4-billion for a new Canada Housing Benefit:
    • To be launched in 2020
    • Up to $2,500 per family per year
    • Assumes $2-billion Federal funds matched by Provincial and Territorial means matching or co-funding
  • $2.2-billion to reduce homelessness:
    • Appears to be a renewal of the existing Homeless Partnership Strategy (HPS) program that is in the midst of a major review that will launch in 2019
  • $300-million in additional federal funding to address housing needs in Canada’s North
  • $241-million for research, data and demonstrations
  • $200-million in Federal lands transferred to housing providers.

Observations:  Some of these dollars will be used to leverage supplementary investments by provinces/territories; so much will depend on the success of these negotiations.  It is wonderful that the federal government is coming to the table with both land and investment dollars in hand.  Now we will look for productive and fruitful conversations at those tables.


NHS vision

To explore the strategy directly, please visit: https://www.placetocallhome.ca/index.cfm

CRIHI thanks staff at the City of Edmonton, Cody Spencer and Daryl Kreuzer for their compiling of numbers and data used in this presentation.

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PSH Feature: Westwood Manor

Innovative Efforts Helping People Heal

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is a frontline concern in our city; with close to one thousand new units desperately needed.  Political backing and funding are lining up at all three levels of government to fill this critical gap in our response to prevent and end homelessness.  These facilities are meaningful and effective solutions; provide safe and supportive community for people carrying some of the most difficult and complex burdens; barriers that continually jeopardize their health and their ability to retain work and housing.  For these folks, a PSH facility is a space to find healing, hope and community.

But as efforts ramp up to build these facilities, questions abound: What might this look like?  How will it fit into the local neighbourhood?  What will be the impact be on the local community?


Today’s PSH story feature is Westwood Manor; located in the Westwood community, east of the old municipal airport.  A few years ago, the Mustard Seed purchased and renovated a small ageing apartment building in the Westwood Community.  It was fairly run down, and an eyesore in this mature neighbourhood.   Today, this newly renovated facility is home and supportive community for twenty people with a range of complex needs, including drug and alcohol addictions, trauma and mental health barriers like schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and chronic depression.

Westwood Manor is rated as a fairly high acuity PSH.  That means they have some higher needs folks living there.  As with all PSH, supports are located on-site; including 24-hour staffing.  Westwood Manor is also a harm-reduction facility, which means that a person’s housing is not dependent on maintaining their sobriety or abstinence.  Tenants have access to sterilized needles and other supplies that will allow them to use safely.

Mustard Seed owns the building, but staffing ratios and operating dollars come from Homeward Trust, with people referred through the Coordinated Access System; that links all such efforts across Edmonton.

Westwood kitchen
A Kitchen Space in one of the apartments

A priority in this facility is the creation of intentional community for their residents; not only within the facility but in the local neighbourhood as well.  The lack of community and healthy relationship has long been recognized as a root cause of both addiction and mental health challenges.  Landon Hildebrand, the facility manager notes that they have seen exciting change already, with significant health improvements.  He says, “Joy, community, attachment…when we provide these things, the addictions have less appeal.””

He notes that mental health concerns are present in every community, but are more raw and hyper-realized in the most vulnerable.  The ability to hide it is just not there.

Their efforts at providing community include building a relationship with local neighbours.  Westwood staff approached the Westwood Community League to learn about getting more involved, and they were welcomed with open arms.  The Community League provided them with a family membership to cover all their residents, and now they are able to participate as volunteers and as full members in community league gatherings.

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Westwood Manor staff also supported the creation of a resident’s committee (much like a condo board) that had authority to consider and respond to concerns.  Staff agreed to take all new policy or rule changes to this committee for their consideration.  This new way of doing things changed how residents related to staff and how they thought about their home.  It prompted a sense of ownership and responsibility in the facility; prompting greater care for the space, the grounds, and each other.  They want their home to be a warm, safe, and healthy environment.  Residents in this kind of leadership role have even helped resolve interpersonal conflicts.  It’s been a win, win, win for everyone!   Landon credits the success of this kind of approach as a direct counter to the myth that people in PSH can’t make good decisions.  “The more authority and leadership we give to our folks, the better they do.”

Westwood’s community-building efforts are a little tricky on some fronts, particularly as they have very little in the way of gathering space to hang out together.  When a suite is empty, the staff will often transform it into a place to hang out, and the office is one place people stop in to chat constantly.  They could also use a secure space where they can have those private and secure conversations, coaching, training, and supports.

But things get much easier in the summer, when they can host outdoor BBQs and feasts, and invite the neighbours.  They also plan to start a community garden this coming year that they hope will promote natural connection between residents and local neighbours.

Is their approach successful?  Landon shares the story of one gentleman whose almost daily ritual was being out panhandling for long hours, stuck in alcohol and substances.  He would get dropped off by EPS almost daily and carried back to his unit.  Now he is there at 3:00 everyday to hang out with the staff during shift change; so he can chat with both those going out and those coming in.  He’s also working to start a local snow shovelling business, and because he is a community league member is able to share some of his posters on the local bulletin board and in the community hall.

Certainly not everyone succeeds, and evictions happen occasionally.  Concerns around safety and difficult behaviors are usually the reason someone has to be removed.  Unfortunately, there are not many places for people to go if they are evicted.  The shortage of PSH in Edmonton means that few facilities are available and equipped to manage and care for people with more difficult behaviors.


Westwood Manor’s story illustrates the value and effectiveness of Permanent Supportive Housing as a meaningful and effective solution.  She provides a place of healing, home, safety and stability for some of our most vulnerable people.  And the efforts by her residents and staff are a lesson in the powerful need we all have for a community where we participate and can take responsibility in shaping.

Based on an Interview with Landon Hildebrand, A Registered Psychologist, Serving as Director of Housing and Clinic development.

What We Did Together at Plenary

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


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

Pastor Stanley


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

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

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


Engage:

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

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

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

Task: Generate videos and media capacity.

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

Task: Host a large-scale event.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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Housing as a Human Right?

For the first time on November 22, 2017 the Government of Canada formally began speaking about housing as a human right.  While this has been recognized by the international community for some time, this marked an important recognition of the obligation we have as a country to ensure everyone has a safe and decent place to call home.

To unpack some of the implications and meaning of this recognition, I sat down with Jim Gurnett, a longtime housing advocate and promoter of housing as a human right.  Here’s some of what he shared with me:

“Human rights are always fuzzy and hard to pin down.  All human rights today are based on UN declarations.  The problem is that they don’t compel any nations to do something.  They simply state an obligation.”

“With housing it gets more complicated.  The rights language gives us a way of thinking about housing, but not a black and white pathway to answers about what governments or communities can do.  Even if Canada signs on to this obligation, what are the measurables of whether that right is being satisfied or not?  The amount of money you have as a state can make it impossible to do much.”

“It also doesn’t directly feed into legal obligation.  For example, Ontario courts have noted of some other rights, that even if something is a right, it’s not something we can enforce.  A legal obligation can materialize if there becomes Canadian legislation to enforce housing as a right.  Our Prime Minister hinted at that possibility in his November 22 announcement, but it was very vague.  Moving forward, the Government will be considering what that might mean.  Currently there is no legisltation in action that you could bring to the human rights commission to say ‘my right to housing has been violated.'”

“But here’s what I like about it.  It makes us uncomfortable with the fact that some people don’t have this basic need met, and gets us exploring how we can work to resolve that.  It gets us talking about the fact that we are not doing a good job.  If a nation has homelessness, it is not doing enough.  It gets us talking together about why some people don’t have the help they need.”

As I concluded this conversation with Jim, I came to the understanding that human rights language serves to remind us of our obligations as citizens of earth; obligations that the world has said together are critical and necessary.  Obligation to protect freedom of speech and religion, peaceful assembly and association, to combat slavery, and to provide each other with basic needs like food, water and yes, adequate housing (Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Interview by Mike Van Boom, CRIHI Housing Ambassador

West Edmonton Talks Affordable Housing

Housing affordability is a growing challenge for many of our Edmonton neighbours.  Wages have risen more slowly than housing costs.  The climb into home ownership is getting more difficult, and many low-income households are paying far more than they can afford in rent, with over 20,000 households paying more than 50% of their monthly income.

Some of our neighbours have a much harder time affording a home; especially those battling mental health challenges, disabilities, caught in an addiction or recovering from trauma.  Over the last few years, we have learned how critical stable and affordable housing is for the health of an individual or family; especially in promoting healing and recovery.  But helping these neighbours requires more than just more money to pay the rent.  They also need supports, and (like all of us) a community of people who love and care.

Most everyone agrees that this work is critically important, but where it often gets tricky is when we are asked to make room in our communities and neighbourhoods.  Then our ideals are put to the test.


The Workshop

On November 18, 2017, the Interfaith Housing Initiative hosted a workshop in West Edmonton called, What’s Your Wisdom on Affordable Housing?   Community league members, local neighbours, non-profit housing providers, and a few faith community folks sat down for a healthy conversation.  We talked about the challenges; looked at some of the solutions; heard from a housing provider and a young mom who needed help providing a home for her son; and then we had a chance to talk about how and where we might be able to make room in our communities for neighbours needing a safe, stable and supportive home in a welcoming community.

What's your wisdom


What we heard:

Those who were present for the conversation expressed that they were not worried about new neighbours.

  • “Affordable housing can be a bridge for a person to improve their life.”
  • “I am open to having affordable housing in my neighbourhood.
  • “We already have Habitat for Humanity in my area.  I like it, and am in favour of the mixed market approach – no ghettos.”

They promoted a healthy posture/response when new developments seek a home nearby:

  • “Tell me more.”  Promoted a willingness to listen, and be curious.  Sometimes saying no isn’t the best option – how can both parties have a win-win?
  • Find out more about why they want to put things in – educate yourself about the project. Find common ground. Could end up bringing good things to the community.”
  • “Find out what has happened in other communities. Canora Place is nominated every year for Yards in Bloom, residents go out and pick up garbage in the area. They bring good things to the neighbourhood! Lots of added value to their community.”

We talked through logistical challenges; what will sensibly fit here?  The group brought forward both questions and solutions.

  • “Challenge around neighbourhood design – fine with new neighbors, but problems with access to services traffic, etc. how can it fit within the requirements for the buildings (architectural guidelines). The area is very restrictive in how things look – fences have to be a certain colour, etc.”  Maybe a senior’s support centre?
  • “Very open in our neighbourhood. Already have quite a mixed market in the area. Problem – very high property values. Would like to see more affordable housing in the area – would like to bring property values down.” – (Note of clarification was given that the research says, units of affordable housing will not impact property values any different than a comparable market development.)
  • “Question around back-lane housing – can we build back-yard suites and offer them as affordable housing? Lots of innovative possibilities exist.  City is more open than it used to be – issue is more the neighbourhood push-back. Can we handle the parking, extra traffic, etc. Lots of people are buying houses in the area and renting them out.”
  • One challenge was noted, that lots of renting in an area leads to a more transient population.  This can be a problem for a community.  Suggested mixed market can help with that – people can transition from affordable to market housing without having to move. Active community leagues and good resources can help people to stay in a neighbourhood. How can we encourage people to stay in a community? Food for good (a program of Jasper Place Wellness Centre) – creating food stability so that people don’t have to leave to get food. Build relationships and a good foundation to keep people in place.
  • Lewis Estates – not much available land.  People would need a certain basic level of income to live here.  But, we can offer subsidized housing to bring more people in. Problem – access to services.  On the flip side, bringing in more people with a need for services, could lead to more services being offered in the community.

The group did discuss possibilities in other parts of the city.

  • Many faith communities have land – it’s a great opportunity for them to be involved in creative new housing project (example from the Right at Home presentation: Westmount Presbyterian Church developed 16 units of large family housing).  Lots of churches are dwindling but have great land packages. They’re often in better areas with more services.
  • What about Northlands? Lots of resources in the area.The group discussed the old Remand Centre – lots of potential with that area. Some housing, also lots of resources and services. Questions about the new arena – what will happen to Hope Mission and some of the other inner-city agencies? Can we build more of these agencies throughout the city so we don’t always have to go downtown to access services?

Some Advice on Consultation

  • There’s a surplus school site in the area; a tense conversation. Importance of consultation with the community – a challenge for the local community to figure out what the right questions are to ask.
  • The group discussed how change and transformation can happen:  Some have been able to acknowledge their fear of change – recognizing the undercurrents in communities. People need a place to express their fears – we can often carry attitudes that we aren’t even aware of (e.g. racism). Once we acknowledge our fears, we can start to wonder why we have them in the first place. We don’t often have a safe place to do that – social media certainly isn’t a good forum for that.

Key Questions and Answers:

Will affordable housing affect neighbouring property values?

  • The research says, quality, well-managed units of affordable housing will not impact property values any different than a comparable market development.”  If someone was to build an apartment complex in your neighbourhood, it may impact your property values positively or negatively; depending on a lot of factors.  The research says it doesn’t matter whether that complex is affordable or not.

On the 10% guideline in every neighbourhood.  “Can we understand the needs of the city on a geographical level? What’s the rationale?

  • CRIHI clarified that the city is working on sorting this out right now – they want to find sensible solutions.  A decision like this is motivated by the desire to create well-integrated affordable housing options in all areas of the city.  Observation by concerned neighbour: We need to figure out what will work in each area (sensible).”

There is more affordable land in industrial areas – how could this be used for housing?

  • Challenge: There’s no infrastructure. Needs planning to make it work.

How can we do better planning?

  • Millwoods was an example – they thought ahead in the planning stages.  The stock is fairly old now, but it did work to provide for the development of a mixed-income community (discussed the loss of inclusionary zoning practice due to court challenge in the 70s).

CRIHI expresses profound gratitude to our hosts at West Edmonton Baptist Church, who took such good care of us.  As well, we are grateful to those who came and contributed to this workshop, sharing with us their ideas, experience, wisdom and insight.  As you can tell, we learned a lot together!

A Message of Love for 2018: “Love All, Serve All”


Start the day with love; fill the day with love; spend the day with love; end the day with love—this is the way to God”.  “Love is the source; love is the path; and love is the goal”.  “The best way to love God is to love all; serve all

These are a few quotes of Sathya Sai Baba.  Sai Baba teaches us to see the oneness of all humanity through selfless service to others.  We are all children of one God, he says.  His quotes on Unity of Faiths, describe this oneness eloquently.  He says, “There is only one religion – the religion of Love”.   He teaches us to follow the religion we have accepted and practice it wholeheartedly as “All Religions are pathways to One God.  If you are a Christian, be a better Christian; if you are a Muslim, be a better Muslim; if you are a Hindu, be a better Hindu”… and so on.

For 86 years of his life, Sai Baba taught through personal example how to Love All and Serve All.  His own life is testament to these words.  Through his teachings and humanitarian work, he has inspired millions of followers in 126 countries around the world establishing 2000+ centers.  The main purpose of the Sathya Sai International Organization (SSIO) is to help one realize one’s innate Divinity by the practice of Divine Love through selfless service.  This Divine love is unconditional, pure, selfless and directed towards God with one-pointedness.

Jesus Christ, also said, “Love thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul and strength; and love thy neighbour as thyself”. The apostle St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians said, “Faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love”.

Recognizing that the people and the planet can only be saved through love, Baba teaches that it is only through individual self-transformation, can we achieve community and national transformation and bring peace to the world.   Instead of proselytizing, he says we should transform ourselves by following the five fundamental human values of Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love and Non Violence.  Each of us must first work on ourselves; confront and overcome our own biases to be an example that others may emulate.  His statement “Be like the rose that speaks silently in the language of fragrance” sets the expectation of personal refinement first.  The following declaration clearly explains this.

“Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world”

Food, clothing, health and education are the fundamental right of every human being, Sai Baba taught. He established completely free educational institutions from KG to PG (post-graduation); free tertiary care hospitals of highest standards to serve anyone in need.  It is said that the only department not present in his institutions is the ‘billing’ department.  Inspired by his example, his followers around the world are continuing to perform selfless service through the SSIO.  The free medical and educational models Baba established can be replicated in the modern world only through selfless love.

This love manifests itself through service to others.  Selfless service is perhaps the single most efficient and universal tool for understanding, experiencing and expressing this Divine Principle of Love. Service is love in action. Sai Baba has made it clear that the quality of service is most important, not the quantity. The motive behind service is the deciding factor. When we render service, we should feel that we are serving God.  Baba says, “Service to man is service to God”.  “The act of service is not to be judged, according to the cost or publicity it entails; it may be only the offering of a cup of water in the depth of a jungle. But the need of the recipient, the mood of the person who offers—these decide whether the act is gold or lead. Fill every act of yours with love. Let no one suffer the slightest pain as a result of your thought, word or deed. Let this be your spiritual discipline”.

Mother Teresa was a stellar example of demonstrating her love for Jesus through selfless service.   Mother Teresa believed, “the miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it” as “each one of them (those she served) is Jesus in disguise”.  There are many examples of others who served humanity and in their own way demonstrated Divine Love.  The prophets and saints of the world’s religions operated from that fiber of Divine Love and served humanity.  Some examples are St. Francis of Assisi, Prophets Mohammad, Buddha, Zarathustra, and the many Avatars of Hinduism.  All these exalted ones served humanity believing in the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man.  Baba further exhorts:

 “Serve everybody with the conviction that God dwells in all. As you serve others, you have to kill your ego. It cannot be called service if it is done with the feeling that “I am serving others”.  Do all actions to please God.  This is the attitude one should have while serving others”.

Here, Sai Baba cautions us about major obstacles that stand in the way of selfless service.  They are ego and attachment.  It is not what you do to others that matters, it is what that service does to you that matters, he explains.  A true Sathya Sai volunteer strives to overcome these obstacles to selfless service through self-inquiry.  The two subjects—love and selfless service—are, therefore, foundational and integrally related to seeing the oneness of humanity and creation.

Once a reporter asked Mother Teresa, as she was cleaning the hundreds of maggots off the body of a homeless person lying helpless in the streets of Kolkata, why she would perform such a repugnant act.  The reporter expressed his disgust saying he would not do anything like that even for a million dollars.  Mother Teresa lovingly responded.  “Neither would I, for a million dollars, but I would do it for Jesus”.  In effect, Sai Baba’s words “Love All Serve All’ has been demonstrated by the pure hearted souls mentioned above.

As we enter 2018, let us pray together to raise our own consciousness through the practice of these words, serve others with that Divine Love within each of us.

Submitted by:
Sathya Sai Baba Center of Edmonton

five truths

Life on Minimum Wage; A Fact Sheet

The purpose of this exercise is to showcase the impossible choices that many Edmontonians making minimum wage are forced to make daily.


We know many low income households struggle to afford housing.  What are some of the numbers? 

In Alberta:
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 308,485
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 15.1%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 36.0%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.4% (Statistics Canada, 2017)City of Edmonton:
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of income on shelter costs: 86,665
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 16.5%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs: 38.1%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.6% (Statistics Canada, 2017)

What do housing affordability issues look like for those making minimum wage in Edmonton?

This section utilizes the calculation guide created by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to complement the 2017 living wage calculation for Metro Vancouver. The calculation guide includes a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the living wage amount after local family expenses, deductions, tax credits, and government transfers have been applied. We replaced the living wage with the current minimum wage of $13.60/hour to recalculate yearly budgets of low wage workers and to showcase affordable housing challenges in the City of Edmonton and the choices that many Edmontonians are forced to make because of their low wages and high housing costs (Ivonova and Reano, 2017).

Single Person making $13.60/hour

For a single person living in a $1,000/month one bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
  • They will have no contingency or emergency fund
  • They will take $150/year off the food budget and may need to go to the food bank
  • They cannot afford cable television, but can have internet and one cellphone
  • They cannot afford health insurance through Alberta Blue Cross
  • They cannot afford to go to night school
  • They must take $500/year off their furniture and supplies budget
  • Even with these cuts, this individual saves only $4 monthly and $50 yearly
  • The single person is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
  • This individual must spend 50% of their income on rent

Single parent with one child making $13.60/hour

For a single parent family with one child living in a $1,106 two bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
  • A single parent will receive the maximum amounts for the Alberta Child Benefit, the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, and the Canada Child Benefit
  • Even with these extra benefits, a single parent making minimum wage cannot afford to go to night school
  • They must take $150/year off their contingency or emergency fund
  • They must cut their furniture and supplies budget by half
  • They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
  • They must take $100/year off their food budget and may need to go to the food bank
  • They cannot afford television but can have internet with one cellphone
  • This family can save $1 monthly and $7 yearly
  • A family of two is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
  • A single parent family must spend 33.9% of its income on rent

Two parent, two child family, making $13.60/hour

For a two parent family with two children living in a $1,377 three bedroom in the City of Edmonton making $49,504 a year:
  • This family receives a significant amount in child and family benefits
  • This family must take $300/year off its furniture and other supplies budget
  • They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
  • This family cannot afford to have one parent go to night school
  • They must cut their contingency or emergency fund by half
  • This family can save $2 monthly and $28 yearly
  • This family must spend 24.7% of its income on rent

Conclusion

The purpose of this exercise is to showcase the impossible choices that many Edmontonians making minimum wage are forced to make daily. A single person making minimum wage must choose between receiving an education or having enough food to eat. While a single parent receives the maximum amounts for a variety of federal and provincial child benefits, they are still unable to go to night school and are forced to take $100/year off their food budget, possibly having to use the food bank. A two-parent family with two children also cannot afford to send one parent to night school, and are forced to choose between buying clothing and furniture or paying the rent.
ESPC logo
By Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator,
Edmonton Social Planning Council


Sources:
Ivanova, I., & Reano, P. (2017). Working for a Living Wage 2017. Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver. Calculation Guide. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2017). About Affordable Housing in Canada. Retrieved from https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/afhoce/afhoce_021.cfm

Homeless Hub. (2014). What is National Housing Day? Where did it originate? What happens on that day? Retrieved from http://homelesshub.ca/resource/what-national-housing-day-where-did-it-originate-what-happens-day

Statistics Canada. (2017). Canada [Country] and Canada [Country] (table). Census Profile. 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa. Released October 25, 2017. http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=PR&Code1=01&Geo2=PR&Code2=01&Data=Count&SearchText=Canada&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=Housing&TABID=1

A Mennonite Reflection; Isaiah 58: on Worship and Social Action

Spiritual Disciplines like fasting, prayer and gathering for worship are important ways people connect with God.  But in the Bible, there is a clear connection between practicing spiritual disciplines and performing acts of compassion and justice.

The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 58 offers a powerful rebuke to the people of Israel for not practicing their faith on both fronts:
In verse three, the children of Israel call out to God wondering why God is not responding to them.  “‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?  Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’   God answers the following, “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, and oppress all your workers.   You fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.”  Finally God says in verses six and seven, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”  In verses eight and nine the result for those following God’s suggestion of right action is described.    “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,  and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”

The key verses of this passage reiterate that faithful fasting is made tangible by breaking the bonds of injustice.   They get very close to “home” (literally) when they state that we are to share bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into our houses, cover the naked, and not hide from relatives.  Our responsibility as faith communities is clear.   The focus in many of our faith communities is often on how we can worship God faithfully.   The answer here is clear that God cannot hear our voices in worship if there is unaddressed injustice we are causing directly, or that we are close enough to do something about.

Could it be that some of us who claim to be worshiping God are trying to address the issue of Homelessness but could be involved in structural injustice that makes us even complicit in the problem?   Whether we are the cause of the problem, or serving our own interest, we are to get right up close in bringing those who are without a home into our houses.  What does that mean for us in our modern society?  It is clear that we need to have real personal connection, perhaps even friendship with those whose housing issues are more complicated than ours.   Bringing someone into our home must mean that they are at least respected as we respect family members.   Does fear make us inactive on this count?   Through our disciplines, God helps us deal with our fears!

Donna Kampen Entz,

Mennonite Church, Alberta

 

No Room in the Inn Campaign – 2017

This year’s campaign is to support a refit of the Northern Arms Apartment complex, Independent living housing with supports provided by Canadian Mental Health Association.


Christian churches in Edmonton are once again joining forces at Christmas to assist those at risk of homelessness through the annual No Room in the Inn (NRII) campaign. This year NRII has chosen to support the Edmonton Region of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

CMHA is a non-profit charitable organization that receives funding through the United Way and other government programs. In Edmonton, the CMHA has seven properties with a total of 146 independent living units. Presently, there is a wait-list and an influx of applications.

The property receiving support through our 2017 NRII Campaign will be the Northern Arms apartment complex (in the Queen Mary park neighbourhood) which CMHA purchased in August 2015. Although a structural assessment deemed the building had good bones, renovations are still necessary to replace ALL the windows and balcony doors. Exterior siding, painting, carpet in common areas will also be updated. In individual units, renovations are also needed to update flooring, appliances, and window coverings. As outlined in this year’s NRII pamphlet, tenants of CMHA’s affordable long-term housing can readily access all the services provided by CMHA-Edmonton including a supportive landlord who can assist them when their mental health is not well.

How to donate:
1) Through your church – make a cheque payable to your church and enter “No Room in the Inn” in the memo line. Drop the cheque in the church collection or mail it to your church. The church will then forward donations to CMHA for the Northern Arms Apartment complex.
2) Making a cheque payable directly to ‘Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region,” enter “No Room in the Inn” in the memo line and mail it to:
CMHA; #300, 10010 – 105 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5J 1C4

This Christmas, please prayerfully consider being a blessing to the Canadian Mental Health Association – Edmonton Region’s Northern Arms complex and its mission through the No Room in the Inn campaign.

Housing Month Highlights

November was a very exciting month on the housing front; punctuated by numerous events, workshops and announcements.  Here’s a little of what we saw, heard and did together this month!

  • We heard excitement around the updated plan here in Edmonton, with numerous front line providers welcoming efforts to fine-tune work on the three fronts of ending chronic homelessness, preventing future homelessness, and better integration and coordination of services.
  • We heard the city of Edmonton formally recognize November 22 as Housing Day in our city, in line with National Housing Day efforts across the country.
  • We heard MLA David Shepherd speak to efforts by the Province to ease restrictions for those seeking help affording a home.  Families owning a vehicle or having a few assets to their name would often find themselves unable to qualify for assistance unless they liquidated these assets and spend what little extra they have in the bank.  New changes will make vehicles exempt, and allow for up to $25,000 in assets.
  • We heard Housing formally recognized and verbally expressed as a human right by the Federal Government.
  • We heard the formal announcement of a National Housing Strategy by the Prime Minister, and by Minster Amarjheet Sohi here in Edmonton.  As Jay Freeman noted, “43 years after the National Housing Act, we finally have a National Housing Strategy!”  We will unpack this strategy more in the next few months, but a few initial highlights are as follows:
  1. A stronger portable housing benefit to take root in 2020; providing rent assistance to low income families.
  2. We will see federal energy and dollars moving into the renovation and creation of new affordable housing across the country.
  3. There will also be new funding agreements created with Housing Coops to replace those set to expire.
  • We heard the city’s desire to integrate affordable housing all across the city; building inclusive, complete, diverse communities with a range of housing choices.  We also heard the need to engage the private sector in this effort, as they are critical partners that currently provide housing that is affordable for 80% of Edmontonians.
  • And of course, CRIHI hosted two major events ourselves: our [What’s your Wisdom on Affordable Housing?] workshop at West Edmonton Baptist Church on November 18, and our Plenary gathering on November 28 at Beulah Alliance.  We will have more detailed reports on these events in our January issue of the Neighbourly.

So much to be thankful for in this season!   New projects are being announced and are finding homes in Edmonton communities, and there is a spirit of welcome growing in many quarters of the city.  Let’s continue to bathe our city in prayer for the future, that the work we are all doing together may bear rich fruit!

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

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