IFHI August 2013 Newsletter

CAPITAL REGION INTERFAITH HOUSING INITIATIVE
On the evening of August 22, over 600 people crowded into the hall at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Riverbend for a community meeting on a proposed 60 unit supportive housing development for formerly homeless people to be built in Terwillegar Towne.  The Province of Alberta and Homeward Trust are to provide funding for the 12.1 million dollar project. The land, adjoining Holy Trinity Anglican Church, is to be leased from the Anglican diocese. Jasper Place Health and Wellness Society will be the developer and operator of the project
For more information about the meeting, read Paula Simons’ column in the
Edmonton Journal.
Jasper Place Health and Wellness Centre’s housing development.
August 22, 2013
Terwillegar Community

FOYER PROJECT LAUNCH & PANEL PRESENTATION
Dr. Stpehen Gaetz, Director, Canadian Homelessness Research Network.
Youth Homelessness Event.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre (lower level)
9:30 a.m. Panel Discussion
11:30 a.m. Media & Interviews

CAPITAL REGION INTERFAITH HOUSING INITIATIVE
USED CLOTHING NEEDED
Clothing is one of the busiest services offered by Homeless Connect station and this
coming October 4th, 2013, you can contribute at Homeward Trust and Bissell Centre
the drop off points for clothing items needed for men and women.
For more information, please view poster attached.
Homeward Trust Edmonton is recruiting volunteers to assist in the Fall 2013 Homeless
Connect initiative on Sunday, October 20th. The bi-annual Homeless Connect
initiative provides free appropriate services to people experiencing homelessness
and those at risk of becoming homeless, on one day and at one location.
Participation in this initiative offers volunteers an opportunity to be directly involved in connecting individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness with services that enhance their current situation.
If you are personable, energetic, and are interested in participating in this exciting opportunity, please contact Homeward Trust – Amy Krautt via email or phone – directly at 780.944.2979 or akrautt@homewardtrust.ca.

Volunteer applications must be received prior to Friday, October 11th. All new volunteers must attend a volunteer orientation session to adequately prepare for this project. Returning volunteers are also encouraged to attend.
Volunteers have the option of attending one of two orientation sessions. Sessions will be held at the Shaw Conference Centre on Saturday, October 19th from 10am – Noon and 1pm – 3pm.

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IFHI Update – August 23, 2013

On July 22, 2013 IFHI’s Steering Committee met with David Hancock, Minister of Human Services, at the Legislature.  IFHI was represented by Bran Kieley, Catherine Douglas, Don Koots, Fraser Williamson, Mark Stanley, Audrey Brooks, Pam Reichenbach, Bob McKeon, and Claire Rolheiser (replacing Sr. Mary Clare from Welcome Home/CSS).

Also attending the meeting were the Deputy Minister, Steve McDonald, and Wendy Rodgers (Director of Operations for the Human Services Ministry).

IFHI gave a presentation Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative – its history, vision, members, accomplishments to date, and future plans.  Fraser and Clare spoke in some detail of their experience with the Welcome Home program. The Minister appeared briefed and knowledgeable about our work and he spoke quite positively of our
efforts.  He stated that the Ten Year Plan and Housing First were continuing priorities of his government. 

UPDATES

Housing Action Guide:

  • has been recently updated – copies can be obtained through Maria Baca at mbaca@caedm.ca.

Terwillegar Social Housing Project

  • Over the last few weeks, Edmonton media outlets have had much to say about a proposed social housing development in Terwillegar. This project is sponsored by the Jasper Place Health and Wellness Centre on land to be leased from Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
  • It is a 60 unit project, and designed to assist those seeking housing through the Housing First program.
  • Murray Soroka, the project developer at Jasper Place Health and Wellness Centre, has provided basic information sheets on this project  and has indicated that there will be public information sessions concerning this project at Holy Trinity Anglican Church on August 8th and 15th followed by a large public meeting on Thursday, August 22 at a location still to be determined in the Terwillegar area. Murray is asking for support from members of faith communities for this project. A first step is to learn more about the project. Feel free to contact Murray Soroka at 780-908-6309 or msoroka@shaw.ca for more information.  Jasper Place Health and Wellness Centre also has a Facebook page with updated information. We can initiate discussions in our own congregations and faith community meetings.  Attendance at community meetings can help.

Social Housing in Neighbourhoods Outside the Urban Core

  • The Steering Committee has decided that a major issue for our next plenary meeting in the fall is how faith communities can help facilitate positive conversations about social housing in local neighbourhoods outside of the urban core.  It is easy for positions to get polarized around a specific project proposal; especially if there have not been previous conversations in the local community about this issue.

Welcome Home Project

Follow IFHI on Facebook

 

Congregational Workshop

The Capital Region Interfaith Initiative on Homelessness and Affordable Housing is hosting congregational workshops . These workshops will enable participants to respond compassionately to clients from Housing First Agencies who, upon being housed, are often confronted with
social isolation.
Come learn about the different strategies suggested in the
Congregational Housing Action Guide including opportunities to
volunteer with the Welcome Home Program.
Everyone is invited
Inglewood Christian Reformed Church
12330- 113 Avenue, Edmonton.
March 13, 2013 7:30 pm
For more information contact:
 Sr. Mary Clare Stack at sister.maryclare@catholicsocialservices.ab.ca,

IFHI Steering Committee Meeting Notes – Feb 8, 2013

IFHI Steering Committee Meeting Notes – Feb 8, 2013

Present:          Audrey Brooks, Catherine Douglas, David Faber, Jay Freeman, Carmit Harari, Don Koots, Bob McKeon, Mary Clare Stack, Mark Stanley, Fraser Williamson.

Regrets:           Rick Chapman, Brian Kiely, David Kunin, Pam Reichenbach.

1.  Opening Welcome

Bob welcomed all the steering committee members. New members – Rabbi Carmit Harari and David Faber were introduced and welcomed.

2.  Review Agenda

There were no omissions or additions made to the meeting agenda.

3.  Review Meeting Notes from November 21, 2012 Steering Committee Meeting

There were no omissions or additions made to the meeting notes from the Nov. 21 meeting.

4.  Brief updates since last meetings

Jay Freeman – Homeless Commission Executive Director

Jay informed that for the first time in this year homeless street count, age and gender questions were asked and due to this fact there was a significant increase in certain numbers: 46% with Aboriginal people, and children in youth increased a 10-12% because of the questions.  There is a broad consensus that the number of homeless children is not acceptable.  This is the 4th year of a 10 year plan End of Homeless.  There will be “heavy lifting” ahead of us including providing housing for those with more intensive needs and support.

The count is not fully scientific, but the methodology is consistent year by year.  The total for this last count was 2,174, the numbers dropping for the last two counts.

Some city council members, inner city community league reps, and neighborhood groups are opposed to Non-Market Housing Projects, because of perceived detrimental impacts on neighbors and the local community.  Jay insisted that there is no evidence to support this stance, but providing supportive housing for people with addictions and other challenges is getting to be a bigger challenge every day.

Jay spoke about the new website for the Homeless Commission.  It has provisions for individual and organizational endorsements for the goals of the 10 Year Plan.  One question posed at the meeting was, whether these endorsements are public and can be published together as a list. Jay promised to get back with an answer.

The challenge for the city is to share the message about the benefits of non-market housing.  Faith communities can help to provide a level of education within their communities, but this is not enough because neighborhoods are shutting their doors.

Bob reported on his positive experience as a Homeless Count volunteer and He invited others to volunteer for a 2 hr. shift during the next Homeless Count.

5.  Welcome Home

Progress to date; new video

Next steps, support and more recruitment from Interfaith network

Sr. Mary Clare – Catholic Social Services – Welcome Home: Progress to date and new video:

Sister Mary Clare shared that there is a new WH banner with no pictures, in order to avoid stigmatism.

Paula Cornell is working on a Connecting, Education and Action letter to generate more interest for new members and membership renewals. She is also working to build relationships with the Universities.

WH Volunteers have increased in number and they have been properly trained under a 6 months commitment.

Outreaches to Mormons, Presbyterians, and Muslims are examples of new volunteers.

Twitter account is a work in progress.

The new WH video was viewed. SC members spoke positively about the new video. Additional copies of the WH video will be available shortly.

Stanley Milner Library will have a job fair and Sr. Mary Clare will be there.

Toronto is interested in having a Welcome Home program.

Some suggestions to get to know Welcome Home were shared during the meeting:

– Get the Rotary Club involved

– Connect with community leagues using WH material

– Put WH video on line and interfaith housing

– Put cross link pages (interfaith communities)

WH was nominated on March 7th for the ROOPH Award.  Housing workshop can be a general housing theme or specifically on Welcome Home, if you know people who want to host a workshop, let Sr. MC know.

6.  Congregation Housing Workshops

Report on recent workshops

A new workshop focusing on Welcome Home has been developed.

Next steps

7.  January 31st, 2013 Aboriginal Awareness Workshop with Homeward Trust

Homeward Trust offers an introductory workshop.  This workshop was attended by about 15 members of our interfaith housing network.  Some who attended shared their impressions about how this shop can help us understand aboriginal people.  Agreement that we should try to make it available for others from our network.

The Idle No More issue was brought to the meeting, but because of time line it wasn’t discussed in detail.  It is part of a far-reaching community process.  Aboriginal women were the ones who initiated this movement.

8.  Revisions of Congregational Action Guide

Steps to follow:

– Shorter term minor revision (for the April 9 plenary meeting))

– More complete revision to make guide more Interfaith afterwards by start of September

– Fraser, Catherine, MC and Carmit have submitted recommendations for changes

– Link it within our web pages to make it open to the public

– 2nd edition book more visual and requested to have the Actual IF Statement included

9.  Habitat for Humanity May 2013 Interfaith Build Report

– Report on planning meeting distributed.  Julien Hammond taking a lead – Chair of the sub-committee for the Habitat Build Housing 2013.

– David Faber will join the sub-committee for the Habitat Build Housing 2013.

– April 26th, 2013 Interfaith public launch at Rutherford Park proposed to break the ice within communities and make connections with each other’s as individuals. Date will have to be confirmed.

– It can be a group or a single person activity. It is Tue thru Sat, Sun and Mon is off.

10.  Next Plenary Event for the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative

– Date is Tuesday April 9 from 9:30 – 12 noon, Archbishop Smith can attend

– Location: First Choice: Edmonton Unitarian Church (north side) Audrey to confirm; backup can be the Catholic Pastoral Centre if needed

– Look at new faith community sites to host plenary meetings

– The focus is to look at community welcome and acceptance and address NIMBY concerns

– Proposed title of the event was suggested by Bob “Welcome Home, Welcome to Our Home”

– Start meeting with a faith text study discussion (faith statements into groups from different faiths, then explain to others) (Carmit to take lead)

– Time for future planning for the Interfaith Housing initiative at end (David to take lead)

– Expand membership – bring in new people (ourselves and new comers)

– Promote May Interfaith Habitat Build with plenary meeting participants

– Plenary Event committee Jay, Audrey, Bob, David, Sr. MC, Catherine

11.  Interfaith Housing Initiative Web Presence Implementation

– Mark gave an update concerning the website.

12.  Future meetings

– Next Steering Committee Meeting:

Tuesday; March 19, 2013 9am to 11am NE Boardroom
Catholic Pastoral and Administrative Offices

Interfaith Housing Initiative General Meeting Minutes

November 1, 2012

 1. Bob McKeon welcomed everyone and offered regrets from Archbishop Richard Smith who was unavailable to attend.

2. Introductions of everyone present (approximately 35 attending, several regrets due to bad weather).

3. Updates:

a) Interfaith Habitat for Humanity Build – 120 people from many faith groups participated on days throughout May. Although the planning time was short, the project was judged to be successful. Planning to do this again in May 2013. Jackie from CSS spoke of her experience spending a day working on the Habitat Build site.

b) Homeless Commission – Jay Freeman

– need to stop the demonizing of non-market housing in local neighborhoods

– need to distribute affordable housing in neighborhoods throughout the city:

rental market is heating up, vacancy rate is coming down which can lead to more

homelessness

– need to focus on the distinction between emergency shelters and long term accommodations

– need to talk about prevention strategies related to homelessness

c) Homeward Trust

– Homeless Count took place on October 16

th with 300 volunteers covering 400 shifts

– numbers are still being processed with a final report coming out soon

– Homeless Connect took place on Sunday; October 21st with over 1,800 folks served and 70 service providers participating

– progress to date with Housing First – 2,130 people housed with a 84% retention rate

d) No Room in the Inn – Don Mayne

– December 2012 campaign is in support of renovations at Seniors’ Safe House, an elder abuse shelter in downtown Edmonton operated Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton

– Over $500,000 has been raised through No Room in the Inn over the past 13 years from Edmonton churches in support of affordable housing

e) Homefest

– it is organized annually by the Edmonton Coalition on Homelessness and Affordable Housing (ECOHH)

– posters were distributed for this year’s event which will be held on November 4th at

St. Faith’s Anglican Church.

f) Southside Homeless Outreach – Pam Reichenbach

– new Neighbour Centre is opening

– Grand Opening scheduled for November 12

– partnering with Homeward Trust

– in the process of hiring a new Executive Director, look for the posting

4. Congregational Workshops – Brian Kiely

– have conducted 12 workshops in Edmonton, more to come (with Sister Mary Clare)

– attempting to educate and empower faith community members at the Grassroots

– workshop includes a promotion and volunteer recruitment for Welcome Home

– preparing a “cheat” sheet of homily notes for preachers on the theme of addressing

issues of homelessness and affordable housing

5. Welcome Home – Sr. Mary Clare

– update on progress to date, training sessions underway

– presentations from those participating in Welcome Home

Debbie J. – a Welcome Home participant

Sr. Roseanne Favreau SCE – a Welcome Home volunteer

6. Next Steps for the Interfaith Housing Initiative – Group Reflections

– identify congregational housing “champions” in every congregation

– look to the lectionary of scripture readings to make a link with housing themes

– have testimony/witness talks from Welcome Home participants and volunteers for gatherings in local congregations

– include information on Welcome Home participants and volunteers in Church/faith community newsletters and community newspapers

– come up with a new name for WH “participant” and “volunteer;” e.g. befrienders, good neighbors

– create events and opportunities, where for small congregations to work with larger congregations there is a sense of being part of something bigger

– use City Hall for Interfaith Initiative meetings and public events

– congregational workshops are not enough, need to move out to the wider community

– address challenge to become more multi-faith, break down perceived barriers to working together,

homelessness is not a faith specific problem

– Interfaith stories are good news that are attractive to the media

– many of the members of our congregations are involved in civic service clubs, find ways to reach them out

7. Adjournment at 12 Noon

Next General Meeting to be called in the New Year.

IFHI Steering Committee Meeting – November 21, 2012

Present: Don Koots, Audrey Brooks, Mary Clare Stack, Fraser Williamson, Bob McKeon

Regrets: Jay Freeman, David Kunin, Mark Stanley, Pam Reichenbach, Rick Chapman

Summary of Discussion

  1. Meeting notes from Oct 22, 2012 Steering Committee meeting were approved.
  2. General discussion on the Nov 1, 2012 General Meeting.  Overall feeling that the meeting went well.  Attendance was about 30.  Several called saying that they could not attend because of the bad weather.  The focus of the meeting was on Welcome Home (WH) and the Congregational Housing Workshops.  The high point was the presentation by Debbie J. (Welcome Home Participant), and Sr. Rose Favreau sce (Welcome Home Volunteer).
  3. Sr. Mary Clare provided an overview of the Congregational Housing workshops that have been held in different parts of the Edmonton region in recent months.   Attendance has varied, but there has been good energy at these workshops.  One suggestion was to have WH participants give a personal presentation for congregation members.  Mention was made that it is often difficult to get a participants to speak at multiple events.  Some have significant health challenges.  One approach might be to produce a video at one event that could be used at subsequent events.
  4. Mary Clare spoke about progress to date in the Welcome Home program.  There is a challenge because more participants have signed up than volunteers from faith communities.  There was a discussion about reaching out further to identify potential volunteers.  Some potential contacts:

the Service Learning Network at U of A, the Jewish Community (David and Carmit), Anglicans (Rick Chapman), Christian Reformed (Mike van Boom), Lutherans (Synod Office and Trinity Lutheran), Buddhists, and the Taoist-Tai Chi group.  To reach beyond the Christian groups, it was suggested that a meeting be set up with Netta at the Interfaith Centre.  Mary Clare agreed to make contact and update the list of Interfaith signers of the March 17, 2011 public statement so that they can be re-engaged around WH and the Congregational Workshops. 

1.   To raise the profile of work our Interfaith Housing initiative, there were other suggestions:

  • Encourage  WH volunteers to be “ambassadors” for housing concerns in their congregations
  • Seek to identify a congregational rep/champion in each congregation
  • Name a special annual Interfaith Housing week
  • Use faith periodicals and newsletters to feature stories of WH (e.g. the story on WH in the Western Catholic last fall)
  • Make better use of drama and social media, especially with youth
  • Audrey Brooks will contact a representative from “Make Poverty History” at U of A

 2.  Follow through on Brian Kieley’s initial work to produce a preaching guide on homelessness and housing.

3.  Revise the congregational action guide (a short term update and a longer term revision).  Work to make the guide more inclusive using examples from different faith communities. Present guide is seen as having much of a focus on Christian examples. Bob is taking the lead.

4.  Work with Homeward Trust to put on a workshop on Aboriginal Awareness early in the new year. Late January was proposed as a good time.

5.  Take advantage of the 2nd anniversary of the signing of the Interfaith Housing Statement in March 2013 by involving faith leaders in a special general meeting.

6.  Encourage Steering Committee members, IF statement signers and all supporters of the Interfaith Housing Initiative to become a housing champion and sign on as personal  or institutional supporters of the 10 Year Plan to Eliminate Homelessness   on the new website of the Edmonton Homeless Commission www.homelesscommission.org.  

7.  Remember the Second Annual Habitat Interfaith Housing build is scheduled for May 2013.

Next Steering Committee meeting will be scheduled in 2013. No date was set.

Follow updates at https://interfaithhousinginitiative.wordpress.com and on Facebook.

Welcome Home Program links ‘friends’ with the formerly Homeless

Posted @ 10/10/2012 10:38 AM by Jay | Files in News  RAMON GONZALEZ/WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Debbie Jodoin spent a year living in a shelter and begging for change on the streets. Her situation improved dramatically five months ago when she moved into a brand new apartment through the Housing First program.

Jodoin, 55, is one of about 1,800 people who have made the journey from homelessness to home since Edmonton began its 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness three years ago.

But as Jodoin knows, adjusting to a new life off the streets takes time and is usually a lonely experience. In the beginning, she spent a lot of time alone in her new home, except for casual visits from her children.

Now, thanks to Catholic Social Services’ Welcome Home Program, Jodoin receives weekly visits from a Christian couple who spend quality time with her. She is happy with the arrangement because the couple talks to her, and takes her out for movies and dinner or simply for coffee.

Welcome Home is a volunteer-based program that provides companionship to individuals and families making the transition from homelessness to home. The goal of the program is to reduce the loneliness and social isolation faced by many newly housed people.  Jodoin calls the Housing First program a “real miracle” and thanks Mayor Stephen Mandel for her new apartment. One day, after spending hours sitting on the concrete under the wet rain, Jodoin entered a coffeehouse and asked the mayor for change and told him of her situation.

 In addition to giving her $20, the mayor invited Jodoin to contact Housing First. She did and in a matter of weeks she got her new apartment. It is a one-bedroom apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen, a den and small living room with a sofa and TV set.

NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD

Jodoin was happy there but said she began to feel lonely in her new neighbourhood. She uses a walker so she can’t go far; plus she doesn’t know the neighbourhood well. So she signed up to have volunteers from the Welcome Home program visit her.

She hadn’t seen anybody for months, except for social workers, when the volunteers, a married couple, showed up. “They are a very good Christian people. I do enjoy their company.”

Catholic Social Services has the contract to run the Welcome Home Program, which trains volunteers from various faith communities and then partners them with recently housed individuals who agree to participate.   So far, nine matches have been made – two fully-trained volunteers per participant – and four other matches are pending, said Sister Mary Clare Stack, CSS’s manager of parish relations and the “promotions person” for Welcome Home. Volunteers must undergo nine hours training and clear a police record check before they are matched.  The matches work together for six months and then they are evaluated. If things are okay, they can continue for another six months, Stack explained. At that point, CSS ends its involvement.

Participants and volunteers may continue the relationship after that if they wish, she said.  Stack said the Welcome Home team continues to do workshops in churches to engage more volunteers and to let congregations know about Welcome Home. “We have 15 participants waiting for a match,” lamented Stack. “We need more volunteers.”

Sister Roseanne Favreau, a Sister of Charity of Evron from Pickardville, near Westlock, and Eunice Bland, an Anglican woman from Bon Accord, were matched last July with a 50-year-old man who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the west end.  The trio meet in a small restaurant every week and spend at least two hours together, when the participant shows up. For his birthday, Favreau and Bland wanted to take him to the Imax Theatre for a movie but he didn’t go.

The next time they asked him why. The man said he just wanted to be with them at the restaurant. He has a bad back and the medication makes him tired and sleepy.

“We have a cup of coffee and we talk and he is happy,” Favreau said. “Last week he just poured out his heart but we don’t ask anything; we just accept what he says.”

The women asked the newly-housed man if they were helping him by coming out every week and he said, “Oh, yes.” The man has no friends in the area and said he looks forward to his weekly meeting with Favreau and Bland.  Favreau said he is afraid to take a bus because he may meet one of his old friends and return to his former life.

Favreau, a religious sister for 52 years, is well suited for her volunteer position with Welcome Home. She spent 34 years in mission, including 26 years in the Ivory Coast and eight in Peru.

PRESENCE, FRIENDSHIP

She came back from Peru in 2010 and wanted to do something. One day she accompanied a sister to a Welcome Home meeting and was hooked immediately.  She loves her new ministry. “My thing in mission was to be friends with the people, visiting, listening to the people. Here too. (Newly-housed people) need to feel they are not alone. It’s important just to be there with the person. This is a ministry of presence – presence and friendship.”

Jane, who didn’t want to use her last name, is a well-educated woman who grew up affluent but ended up homeless following her mental health diagnosis and her subsequent divorce.

 MAGNIFICATHer homelessness ended about 18 months ago when, thanks to Housing First, she moved into a two-bedroom apartment in southwest Edmonton. The apartment is clean, nicely furnished and has a pleasant view of a nearby farm. Jane shares her home with Magnificat, her rag doll cat.

The 54-year-old woman had lived in Castledowns for years so she didn’t know many people in her new neighbourhood. She has been attending an Anglican church nearby but hasn’t made any solid friendships yet.

“It’s actually quite lonely here,” she lamented.

But she said the two volunteers from Welcome Home who have been visiting her for the last three weeks have made life much more bearable. “It’s a great program,” she says. “These people have improved my life.”

FARMERS’ MARKET

Two weeks ago the volunteers took Jane to the Farmers’ Market and they were planning a visit to the Muttart Conservatory. “It’s a nice match,” she said of the volunteers. “It has worked quite well for me. It’s nice to know that at least once a week I’ll see them.”

Those interested in volunteering with Welcome Home can contact:

Jacqueline Bass at 780-378-2544.

IFHI Steering Committee: October 22, 2012

Steering Committee

Capital Region Interfaith Initiative on Homelessness and Housing

Monday, October 22, 2012

Present: Audrey Brooks, Fraser Williamson, Brian Kiely, Don Koots, Rick Chapman, Bob McKeon

Regrets: David Kunin, Mark Stanley, Mary Clare Stack, jay Freeman, Pam Reichenbach

Summary of Discussion

1.     Meeting opened with a welcome by Bob McKeon. Because of low attendance, it was agreed to have a more general discussion rather than to follow the prepared agenda in systematic form.

2.   The Meeting Notes from the Sept 18 Steering Committee meeting were approved.

3.   Rick reported on the progress of Welcome Home.  He serves as a member of the Welcome Home Advisory Committee.   He reported that Welcome Home has made a good start with training sessions for volunteers, and with initial matches between program volunteers and participants taking place. He said that one challenge was the need to recruit more volunteers from the faith communities.  At this point there are more participants looking for matches than available volunteers. One problem slowing things down is the delays in getting security checks through the City Police.

4.   Brian reported on the Congregational Workshops that have taken place so far. The workshop model is working well.  Attendance at the workshops has varied. The need to schedule future workshops in different parts of the city, hosted by different faith communities was emphasized. The workshops are serving an important purpose, and can help recruit volunteers for Welcome Home.

5.   There was an extended conversation about what should be the priorities of the Interfaith Housing group, now that it is entering its third year. Many of the goals set out previously have been achieved – initial launch at the Citadel, the first Congregation Action guide, development, launch and start up of Welcome Home, development and conducting of Congregational Workshops, the Interfaith Habitat build, the Interfaith Housing web presence and the meeting with Dave Ward about Aboriginal Culture. So far over 200 people have attended the Interfaith Housing meetings and are receiving emails.

6.   There was a shared sense that the Interfaith Housing network is entering a new phase.  There was a consensus that we should focus primarily on promoting and recruiting for Welcome Home and conducting the Housing Workshops for the coming year. The ambitious goal for Welcome Home for the first year is 80 matches involving 160 volunteers. We spoke of ways of promoting Welcome Home in our faith communities.  Bob pointed to an article about Welcome Home in the weekly Catholic newspaper.  Perhaps there can be similar articles in other faith media. Brian volunteered to prepare homily/sermon notes for pastors to promote Welcome during worship services. There was a suggestion about preparing a FAQ (frequently Asked Questions sheet) about Welcome Home for Congregations.   Steering Committee members are being asked to see if they can make arrangements to schedule Congregation Workshops in their networks.  Rick spoke of identifying 2 or 3 of Anglican parishes that have been active on the homelessness issue.

7.   Work will continue this year with other projects including revising the Congregation Housing guide, the Web Presence and the Interfaith May 2013 Habitat Build.

8.   The focus   of the November 1, 2012 General Meeting will be around Welcome Home and the

Congregation Workshops. The program will include a presentations by a participant and a faith volunteer. There will also be time for table conversations about how to promote better Welcome Home and the workshops.

9.   Next meeting of Steering Committee scheduled for Wednesday, Nov 21 at 10 am.at the Catholic Pastoral Centre.

Welcome Home Links ‘friends’ with the Formerly Homeless

October 15, 2012

RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Debbie Jodoin spent a year living in a shelter and begging for change on the streets. Her situation improved dramatically five months ago when she moved into a brand new apartment through the Housing First program.

Jodoin, 55, is one of about 1,800 people who have made the journey from homelessness to home since Edmonton began its 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness three years ago.

But as Jodoin knows, adjusting to a new life off the streets takes time and is usually a lonely experience. In the beginning, she spent a lot of time alone in her new home, except for casual visits from her children.

Now, thanks to Catholic Social Services’ Welcome Home Program, Jodoin receives weekly visits from a Christian couple who spend quality time with her. She is happy with the arrangement because the couple talks to her, and takes her out for movies and dinner or simply for coffee.

Welcome Home is a volunteer-based program that provides companionship to individuals and families making the transition from homelessness to home. The goal of the program is to reduce the loneliness and social isolation faced by many newly-housed people.

Jodoin calls the Housing First program a “real miracle” and thanks Mayor Stephen Mandel for her new apartment. One day, after spending hours sitting on the concrete under the wet rain, Jodoin entered a coffeehouse and asked the mayor for change and told him of her situation.

In addition to giving her $20, the mayor invited Jodoin to contact Housing First. She did and in a matter of weeks she got her new apartment. It is a one-bedroom apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen, a den and small living room with a sofa and TV set.

NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD

Jodoin was happy there but said she began to feel lonely in her new neighbourhood. She uses a walker so she can’t go far; plus she doesn’t know the neighbourhood well. So she signed up to have volunteers from the Welcome Home program visit her.

She hadn’t seen anybody for months, except for social workers, when the volunteers, a married couple, showed up. “They are a very good Christian people. I do enjoy their company.”

Catholic Social Services has the contract to run the Welcome Home Program, which trains volunteers from various faith communities and then partners them with recently housed individuals who agree to participate.

So far, nine matches have been made – two fully-trained volunteers per participant – and four other matches are pending, said Sister Mary Clare Stack, CSS’s manager of parish relations and the “promotions person” for Welcome Home. Volunteers must undergo nine hours training and clear a police record check before they are matched.

The matches work together for six months and then they are evaluated. If things are okay, they can continue for another six months, Stack explained. At that point, CSS ends its involvement.

Participants and volunteers may continue the relationship after that if they wish, she said.

Stack said the Welcome Home team continues to do workshops in churches to engage more volunteers and to let congregations know about Welcome Home. “We have 15 participants waiting for a match,” lamented Stack. “We need more volunteers.”

Sister Roseanne Favreau, a Sister of Charity of Evron from Pickardville, near Westlock, and Eunice Bland, an Anglican woman from Bon Accord, were matched last July with a 50-year-old man who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the west end.

The trio meet in a small restaurant every week and spend at least two hours together, when the participant shows up. For his birthday, Favreau and Bland wanted to take him to the Imax Theatre for a movie but he didn’t go.

The next time they asked him why. The man said he just wanted to be with them at the restaurant. He has a bad back and the medication makes him tired and sleepy.

“We have a cup of coffee and we talk and he is happy,” Favreau said. “Last week he just poured out his heart but we don’t ask anything; we just accept what he says.”

The women asked the newly-housed man if they were helping him by coming out every week and he said, “Oh, yes.” The man has no friends in the area and said he looks forward to his weekly meeting with Favreau and Bland.

Favreau said he is afraid to take a bus because he may meet one of his old friends and return to his former life.

Sr. Roseanne Favreau

Favreau, a religious sister for 52 years, is well suited for her volunteer position with Welcome Home. She spent 34 years in mission, including 26 years in the Ivory Coast and eight in Peru.

PRESENCE, FRIENDSHIP

She came back from Peru in 2010 and wanted to do something. One day she accompanied a sister to a Welcome Home meeting and was hooked immediately.

She loves her new ministry. “My thing in mission was to be friends with the people, visiting, listening to the people. Here too. (Newly-housed people) need to feel they are not alone. It’s important just to be there with the person. This is a ministry of presence – presence and friendship.”

Jane, who didn’t want to use her last name, is a well-educated woman who grew up affluent but ended up homeless following her mental health diagnosis and her subsequent divorce.

MAGNIFICAT

Her homelessness ended about 18 months ago when, thanks to Housing First, she moved into a two-bedroom apartment in southwest Edmonton. The apartment is clean, nicely furnished and has a pleasant view of a nearby farm. Jane shares her home with Magnificat, her rag doll cat.

The 54-year-old woman had lived in Castledowns for years so she didn’t know many people in her new neighbourhood. She has been attending an Anglican church nearby but hasn’t made any solid friendships yet.

“It’s actually quite lonely here,” she lamented.

But she said the two volunteers from Welcome Home who have been visiting her for the last three weeks have made life much more bearable. “It’s a great program,” she says. “These people have improved my life.”

FARMERS’ MARKET

Two weeks ago the volunteers took Jane to the Farmers’ Market and they were planning a visit to the Muttart Conservatory. “It’s a nice match,” she said of the volunteers. “It has worked quite well for me. It’s nice to know that at least once a week I’ll see them.”

Those interested in volunteering with Welcome Home can contact Jacqueline Bass at 780-378-2544.

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

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