longest night

 

There are a thousand roads leading into homelessness, but only two leading out of it. One leads home. The other leads to the grave.

On Monday, December 21 we will gather as a community to remember those whose road out of homelessness ended with their last breath.

We will remember. And together we will say, “You are not forgotten.”

It is hard in this place called, ‘homeless’ to remember that there are those who miss you, remember you, want to know where you are. It is hard to remember where you are, let alone who you are, when every street you turn down becomes a dead end leading you nowhere but back to where you came from, and that’s the road that lead you here, to this place called homeless.

It is the dichotomy of the place and state of homelessness. You have to lose everything you’ve got to get there yet, it takes everything you’ve got to get out of it.

For some, getting out of it is only achieved when their heart stops beating and breath no longer passes over their lips.

For some, the only road out is the road they so desperately tried to avoid with every breath they took to stay alive.

And then they are gone and there is no marker, no ceremony, no memorial to say, “I was here. I existed. I made a difference.”

A walk through the unmarked graves in Queen’s Park Cemetery in Calgary tells the story. The city provides land to bury those of no fixed address, but there is no money to mark the names on a headstone. When the grave is dug, a city worker places  cardboard tag affixed to a little metal stick with the deceased’s name scribbled on it with a black sharpie in the ground to mark the location of each burial plot.

If you’re lucky, the stick will still be standing up and the tag will still be affixed.

But mostly, the sticks have fallen over, the tags have gone blowin’ in the wind and all the flowers, if there were any, are gone.

It’s hard for those who want to remember to come and visit. Just as so often happened in life, they do not know where to find their loved ones in a field of unmarked graves.

This Monday, we will stand together and remember. Please come and stand with us. Come and remember and listen to each name called out, each candle lit.

And in our remembering, let us say together, “You are not forgotten.”

Namaste.

Guest Blog Written By Louise Gallagher

This winter, on Monday, December 21st in James Short Park, Calgary will hold a city-wide memorial service for those who have passed away while experiencing homelessness in our city. Coordinated by the Client Action Committee (CAC) at the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), this memorial, called the Longest Night of the Year, will give a space to many to remember those they have lost. For most individuals, this candlelight memorial will be the only commemoration of their lives lost due to homelessness.

The Longest Night memorial service is open to every Calgarian. The Aboriginal Friendship Centre will share a blessing, singing and drumming. Committee members of the CAC will share a few words and there will be an opportunity for those who have lost friends and family to the streets to write down the names of those they have lost.

Please join us for our candlelight memorial on Monday, December 21st. Lend your voice so that others take notice that there are still people without a home in our city.  Come share your light and your silence so that those who have passed on are not forgotten.

Date: Monday, December 21st

Time: 5:00pm-7:00pm

Location: James Short Park, 115 4 Ave SW, Calgary AB

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Forever set in time.

Guest Blog Written by Louise Gallagher December 8, 2009 in memory of James Bannerman


And as we wind on down the road,
Our shadows taller than our soul,
There walks a lady we all know.
Who shines white light and wants to show…
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all, yeah, to be a rock and not to roll.
And she’s buying a stairway… to heaven.

-Led Zepplin, Stairway to Heaven

It was cold when I arrived at the hospice. Cold and frosty. A clear winter’s night. Stars littered the sky above. Glistening white in the black blanket of night. The half moon lying on its back low on the horizon. Snow covered the ground. Pristine white. It wrapped the earth in a wintry blanket. In the dark night, the hospice glowed like a beacon. Of hope. Of peace. Of little possibility of more life on earth for the man I’d come to see.

I had called around 7:30 to see how James Bannerman, father, son, brother, uncle, nephew, photographer, gardener, handyman, labourer, homeless, was doing.

“He won’t last a great deal longer,” the nurse told me.

I wondered aloud whether it was appropriate that I come.

“It’s up to you. You don’t have to,” she said. “As he nears the end, we will check on him regularly. We’ll do our absolute best to ensure he’s not alone when the time comes.”

When the time comes.

I thought about that time. That time when death descends and life is exhaled on one last breath. That moment in time when the physical body releases its spirit to the night. I wondered about James being alone. What if… Someone else called at that exact moment and the nurses couldn’t be there. What if… they timed it wrong? What if… he was alone?

I decided to drive the forty-five minutes to a small town south of Calgary where he had been taken earlier that afternoon.

It had been the only time I’ve ever heard James complain. We were in his apartment. The apartment we’d moved him into when he’d been released from hospital a few weeks before. The cancer was terminal. The doctor’s didn’t give him long to live. He wasn’t on any meds. He wasn’t in any pain. He just needed a place to stay. The main shelter wasn’t appropriate. Too busy. Too noisy. Too uncomfortable for him. Because we own an apartment building for senior’s, we had the luxury of affording him a place of his own to call home for his final days.

I had gone over in the morning as soon as I received the call. “They’re taking James to a hospice. We’re just organizing it now,” the staff member at the apartment building told me.

When I arrived James was failing fast. I sat with him and held his hands. They were cold. I warmed them with mine. We sat as people came and went. I didn’t want to let go of his hands. I wanted to warm them with mine, even a heart of stone is warmed in loving hands.

I’d written that line in a fairy tale for my daughters years ago. But James’ heart wasn’t of stone. It was a warm, kind, loving heart. A gentle soul, he was constantly on the go. “Cleaning up the river bank,” he’d tell me on my morning walk into work when I’d meet him on the river path, knapsack on his back, large plastic garbage bag in one hand. “I’m doing the city a service,” he’d smile.

Sometimes I’d see him in the garden at the shelter. Constantly weeding, moving plants, mowing grass. Or on a sidewalk of a downtown high rise office tower, shovelling snow, clearing up the mess.

It’s what he did.

Picture taking was his ‘retirement plan’, he’d told me once. “I’m getting kind of old for labour.”

He was fifty-two. The years of hard living lined his face like ridges of bark rippling across a tree trunk. He always wore a ball cap. Always carried his backpack with him. It held his precious camera, laptop and photo files. It had been stolen once from the shelter. “Someone obviously needed it more than me,” he said. And when it was returned by the police, he smiled. “I really only wanted the files back. I was kinda hoping I’d have to buy new gear. That one wasn’t doing the best job for me anymore.”

He never complained. Never whined. Never bemoaned his fate. “I’ve had a good life. The life that suited me,” he said.

And yesterday he whispered. “Cold.”

It was the only complaint I ever heard from him. It would be the last.

Early this morning, at 12:45 am James A. Bannerman passed from this realm to another. I sat beside him as his laboured breathing quietened. I held his hand. Spoke softly reassuring him he wasn’t alone. 80’s rock played on the radio. He’d asked to not be alone and that “Stairway to Heaven” be played. The closest we could find was, “Like a Rock.”

And he was. A rock. A quiet man of gentle voice and manner. A great man. A man of wondrous eyes. A man who saw the beauty in the angle of the sun hitting the corner of a building. A man who captured the awe of water dancing in the river as it passed through the downtown core to places far away. The man who saw a doggie in the window, and set him forever in time in a photograph.

James’ memory will be forever set in time.

May he rest in peace.

CHF is proud to be one of the 14 agencies benefiting from the 2015 Calgary Herald Christmas Fund.  The funds raised through the Calgary Herald’s Christmas Fund Campaign will be used to support Coordinated Access and Assessment (CAA).

What is CAA?  Homeless individuals are not a homogenous population, and various interventions are necessary to successfully meet the needs of the individuals within this demographic.  CAA provides a single entry point into the homeless serving System of Care that helps identify the needs and interventions most appropriate for individuals within each target group through the use of a standardized assessment tool. CAA improves coordination among homeless serving agencies while reducing redundancies in services as information and data becomes centralized and standardized. CAA works to improve the client experience within the System of Care through improved access and support for system navigation. Furthermore, a more robust assessment process allows for more effective and accurate program placements. It ensures the most vulnerable people in our community are referred to housing programs equipped to meet their needs. CAA operates based on a triage model, targeting and prioritizing individuals with highest needs.

For more information or to donate click here.

Everyone deserves a place to call home which is safe, affordable, secure and appropriate. Please help make this a reality for everyone!

CHF Annual Giving Campaign

Since 2008, when Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness was launched, the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) and its partner agencies in the homeless-serving sector have worked together to bring Calgarians home. Since the launch of the Plan, almost 7,000 people in Alberta have been housed with essential supports to help them thrive in our communities.

This November, multiple families experiencing homelessness in Calgary would have gone another Christmas without a home if it weren’t for the collaboration between CHF and six partner service agencies working with the Calgary Residential Rental Association (CRRA) and several Calgary landlords. Instead, these families will move into a home of their own starting this November through a campaign called “Hope for the Holidays, Celebrate the Season at Home”. This campaign has been specifically designed to permanently house more than 20 parents and children currently living on the streets or in shelters.

“Home provides kids with that sense of security, that sense of belonging,” shares Dustin, a client recently housed through Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness with his two young children. “Now…we walk down the street and we come up to our building and we can actually say Oh, we’re home. The home is everything to a child, right, just like it’s everything to you. Home is like, the foundation of your family.”

This is just one example of how our community, our homeless-serving agencies and CHF are making a big impact in our fight to end homelessness in Calgary.

There is still much work to be done. We know that close to 16,000 Calgarians are at risk of homelessness. We know we need to house an additional 3,200 people to ensure those experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness do not remain trapped with no way home. And, we know, we cannot do it alone.

Every Calgarian has a role in ending homelessness. In Calgary’s updated Plan to End Homelessness released in March of this year, 14 Key Actions were identified that directly impact our success in ending homelessness. Action 14, Empower Calgarians in the movement to end homelessness, invites every Calgarian to take action and get involved. 

This holiday season, please consider making a gift to Calgary Homeless Foundation, to ensure all Calgarians have a place to call home.

Together, we will end homelessness in Calgary.

Give Hope for the Holidays Now!

Thank you for your generosity of spirit!

“We often look at the society we live in [in Canada] as being a peaceful and tranquil place where we can go about our lives. It’s not always evident, except on Remembrance Day, as to how it came about. Taking part in battles, fighting for our freedoms, being involved in peacekeeping missions and working through our international partners such as United Nations, make a more peaceful world as well as a secured Canada. I am thankful every day for that sacrifice, that service – putting themselves in harm’s way to keep our society largely democratic and free. We owe them [veterans] a deep gratitude – it’s up to us to remember that on November 11 that this didn’t just happen. People fought and gave up their lives and were committed to the cause, to see that we live in this age of peace and tranquility here at home.”

-Kent Hehr, MP Calgary Centre and Minister of Veterans Affairs

A blog by Darcy Halber

Since I was little I’ve worn a poppy in the first two weeks of November, pinned to my coat just over my heart. I stood in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in the gym at school while someone read aloud “In Flanders Fields” and our school band played “The Last Post.” I held my minute of silence at that eleventh hour and felt an ache in my heart for those I could never really thank, who sacrificed for a generation they would never meet. I remember wondering if our offering of gratitude was enough.

As I graduated and left school, I would occasionally wear my poppy and sometimes I would remember to go to a Remembrance Day ceremony. I would see the displays in the malls and glance at them as I walked by. Sometimes they would stir me, other days they blended in with the scenery and Christmas decorations. If the T.V. was on and the news broadcasting a ceremony, I would pause on it for a few seconds before moving on.

But despite my vague commitment, every year on November 11th, at that eleventh hour, I remembered my moment of silence and that familiar ache would settle into my chest.Cenotaph

Why, I couldn’t tell you. Or myself for that matter. No one in my family had ever fought in a war. There used to be a military base in the small B.C. town that I grew up in, but it closed and moved up north when I was young. Perhaps it was because of all those years in grade school, when they packed us all into the gymnasium and gave us no choice but to remember and to reflect on those who fought for a freedom we took for granted. Or perhaps it was because my mother, ever a scholar and indignant that it was no longer part of our school curriculum, had us each read Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” in our grade 7 year.

Perhaps.

And then two and a half years ago, I met the man who would become my husband. And I knew.

I met a man who enlisted at seventeen years of age, who became part of a Special Operations Unit at eighteen, who deployed when he was nineteen and who turned twenty in the middle of a desert in a country whose people were not free. I met a man who had seen 5 friends die before the age of twenty-one, who at twenty-two had to present a folded flag to the wife of a friend who would never come back and who escorted a fellow warrior’s body to his burial amidst name calling protesters shouting for “peace.”

I met a man who joined for love of country, but who stayed because of the man to his left and to his right. I met a man who came back quieter than he was before he left, a man who accepts thanks, not because he considers himself deserving, but for those who can no longer accept the thanks themselves. Who has good days and sometimes bad days when the memories become too much.

I met a man who helped me understand that ache in my heart for men and women I didn’t know. A man who helped me understand that I felt, not because I truly understand the value of my freedom, but because there were those before me who did. He helped me understand that I mourn for those like my husband who have buried friends, and for those wives who have buried husbands all so that I would not have to.

He helped me to understand that it is not a crime to not truly understand the incredible value of our freedom. How could we? We’ve never had to fight for it.

Someone else did.

He helped me to understand that our crime is not in not understanding.

It is in forgetting.

So remember that your freedom is not free. Hold that ache in your heart and let it help you to remember those we can never truly thank.

And let that be enough.

A blog by Darcy Halber

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The Calgary Homeless Foundation thanks those who have sacrificed for our freedom. Homeless veterans are a reality in Calgary. We work hard with our partners to ensure they have a place to call home. To learn more, click here.

On October 15, 2015 NGX (a subsidiary of TMX Group) hosted their 2nd Annual Charity Trading Day, which raised $250,000 for three amazing Calgary charities: The Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Special Olympics and you guessed it – the
Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF).

NGX’s charity day initiative started last year in memory of long-time NGX employee Gary Gault. All of us at the Calgary Homeless foundation are honoured to continue Mr. Gault’s legacy’s by using the funds raised to support the Working with Homeless Populations (WHP) Scholarship program and other greatest needs as they arise.
The Working with Homeless Populations (WHP) certificate program is a collaboration between CHF and the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary that supports learning and skill development for staff and volunteers working in the homeless-serving system of care. The certificate covers a broad range of topics from working with compassion to addictions and its co-concurrent disorders.

This certificate program prepares professionals with the knowledge to work effectively, competently and ethically with clients who experience homelessness, knowledge that is also brought back to their respective agencies.  It educates them on how to navigate a complex system composed of government, mental health, medical, social service and community based agencies.

From all of us at CHF – Thank you NGX! We also want to acknowledge all of NGX’s customers for participating in the Charity Day.

 

Homecoming Party draws attention to the epicentre of homelessness

No matter the times, Calgarians give so it hurts a little less for someone else.

Calgary. Alberta – November 3, 2015 — Corporate Calgary has long been known for its commitment to giving back to community. “Giving and supporting one another is the Calgary way,” says Sharon deBoer, Director of Fund Development of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “Even though times are tough right now, Calgary’s business community continues to turn up in support of events such as our annual fund-raiser. They may be giving less and buying fewer tickets, but they still believe in the Calgary way and are giving what they can.”

Like most charities in the city, the economic turmoil precipitated by the dramatic and sustained fall in oil and gas prices has impacted CHF’s ability to raise much needed funds to support ending homelessness. “You have to get really creative, especially with events,” says deBoer. “You not only need a compelling case for support, you have to find a unique angle that intrigues people enough to buy a ticket and come out to your event.”

This year’s Homecoming Party is no exception. “In previous years we didn’t have to do much other than send out the invites,” says deBoer. “We could always count on a strong presence from all members of the community, including representatives from our municipal, provincial and federal governments.”

“When we learned that key government representatives were unable to attend, we had to broaden our scope. We’re pleased to have a video from the Premier which Calgary-Klein MLA, Craig Coolahan, will be introducing. We’ll be focusing on celebrating Calgary’s amazing philanthropic spirit and the ability of our community to come together to support vulnerable Calgarians,” says deBoer. “We know everyone is hurting and while we aren’t expecting as big a turnout as previous years, we are grateful Calgary’s corporate community is still committed to ending homelessness. Like so many in our city, they are giving what they can to help lift the burden for others.”

Calgary represents 53% of the province’s homeless population. Since 2008 when Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness was launched over 6,000 people have been provided housing with supports, saving tax-payers millions of dollars through decreases in interactions with Calgary Police Service, EMS, hospital emergency rooms and justice.

The Homecoming Party, to be held at Civic on Third, Calgary’s hottest new event space, will feature a video message from Premier Rachel Notley and the world premiere of Calgary musician Aaron Pollock’s, “Blue Sky Won’t Break”, a song he has written to support Calgary’s shared vision of ending homelessness.  

The Homecoming Party will also feature “Do You See Me?” a short documentary by Calgary-based NurFilms which wowed audiences at this year’s Calgary International Film Festival and was nominated for two ROSIE’s. “Do You See Me?” director, Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi will share highlights from his experiences filming the documentary.

This year’s Homecoming Party is presented by NOVA Chemicals.

WHAT:                  The Homecoming Party

                                Annual Fundraiser for the Calgary Homeless Foundation

 

WHO:                    Since 1998, CHF has held an annual fundraising event, which over time has become one of Calgary’s most      popular networking events of the year.

 Speakers:

  • Diana Krecsy, President & CEO, Calgary Homeless Foundation
  • Craig Coolahan, MLA Calgary-Klein (NDP)
  • Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi, Documentary film-maker, Director, “Do You See Me?”
  • Aaron Pollock, Calgary Singer/Songwriter

WHEN:                 Thursday, November 5th, 2015

                                5 – 7pm

                                Formal Program (5:15-6:00 pm)

WHERE:                Civic on Third

                                130 3 Ave SE

                                T2G 0B7

 

TICKET INFORMATION:                  http://calgaryhomeless.com/get-involved/events/

 

About CHF

The Calgary Homeless Foundation is a catalyst and enabler for Systems and Service Agencies to optimize client success. CHF focuses on four strategic pillars of work; Advocacy, Research and Development, Systems Planning, and Funding (outcomes). In addition, CHF addresses gaps and identifies best practices to improve the system of care and enhance desired client outcomes. Through mobilization of collective impact, CHF is committed to moving forward in partnership with the many homeless-serving agencies, the private sector, government partners, local communities, the faith community, other foundations and all Calgarians to end homelessness in Calgary.

For more information, visit www.calgaryhomeless.com .

 

Media Inquiries

Calgary Homeless Foundation

Darcy Halber

Communications Specialist

Media Line: 403.615.7607

darcyh@calgaryhomelessness.com

The beats were spinning, the sun was shining, the crowd was cheering. And people were making a stand for what is right.

HAD 1

Homeless Awareness Day is dedicated to promoting greater knowledge and understanding of issues relating homelessness and the steps being taken to end it in Calgary. This year it featured two speakers who have lived experience of homelessness and who are active members of the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s (CHF’s) Client Action Committee (CAC). This group has planned events such as the Homeless Charter of Rights Launch, been integral in the development of the award winning Do You See Me? Documentary and is currently planning Calgary’s first ever memorial for those who have died while living on the streets.

Hilary Chapple was one of those speakers. Dressed professionally to show that the stigma of homelessness is just that, a stigma, Hilary blew the crowd away with her impassioned speech about the actions each of us can take to end homelessness in our city. Her rallying cry was one of community and together-only as a committed whole can we truly affect change.

“I love doing this work and will do it for as long as I can. I am a very passionate woman and wanted to… show that energy to the crowd. Yes, being homeless sucks, but with all the supports at my shelter, there was a huge opportunity to grow, empower myself, love myself and then love others.”

Agencies and the community came together to show their support of those in homelessness and to make a stand for affordable housing and Housing First in our city. Soft Cure, a young band out of Calgary, finished off the entertainment for the lunch hour. The lead vocalist of the band closed out by expressing his thanks for being iHAD 20nvolved “in something as impactful and important as this.”

To all of you who came out and showed your support, we thank you. We thank you for your desire to stand up, be counted and make a difference. We thank you for your willingness to stop and listen, we thank you in advance for what you’ve been inspired to now go out and do. And thank you Randy and Hillary for being brave enough and strong enough to lend your voices and your story.

Together, we ARE the difference.

Justine and Lee Dowd recently moved back to Calgary to be closer to friends and family. In celebration, the couple hosted a Housewarming Party with a philanthropic twist. In lieu of gifts, the Dowd’s asked their guests to consider giving a donation to the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF).

The evening of the housewarming, Saturday, September 12 was beautiful- one of the last perfect summer nights before the transition into fall and the effort put into the party was extraordinary. The yard was peppered with colourful umbrellas and cocktail tables; the deck housed talented local artist, Aaron Pollock and his band, and a plethora of food and beverages. A friend of the Dowd’s even constructed a dance floor for the evening, which resulted in guests dancing the night away. People laughed, they danced, and they gave to those in need. It truly was a perfect evening.

We want to thank the Dowd’s for inviting us into their home, and for thinking of those that we serve – Calgary’s most vulnerable population. The thoughtfulness of this gracious couple and their wonderful friends and family resulted over $10,350 being raised!  We sincerely want to thank all of the Dowd’s guests for their generous donations, their insightful comments and their continued support of our mission.

If you are interested in inviting us to your next event, whether it’s a holiday party, Halloween party, or Housewarming party please contact alison@calgaryhomeless.com for more information.

On Monday, September 21st, we saw an incredible thing. We watched 500 people line up to vote.

And it wasn’t even a real election.

It was a fake.

A mock election.

And those who lined up?

They live on the streets.

They have no home.

So we organized a mock election to help them get their voices heard.

These are often people whose voices we ignore. They speak to us on the street and we pass by them, barely acknowledging that they’ve spoken.

If almost everyone you spoke to in a day ignored you, why would you think that your voice counted enough to vote?

What would motivate you to search out the information required to make an informed decision if every time you work up the courage to speak you were rewarded with silence?

And if you don’t have a fixed address?

What then?

You have no home and therefore no way to register to vote. What riding do you belong to if you live nowhere?

So the Client Action Committee (CAC) of the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) organized a mock election. Ten members of the CAC, all with lived experience of homelessness themselves came up with a way to remove barriers to voting that this community faces.

They built it.

And 500 people came.

Designed to simulate the exact process of voting in an election, the mock election was held in four shelters around the city. The Alex, Alpha House, YWCA Mary Dover House and the Calgary Drop In & Rehab Centre each hosted a mock polling station for voting participants.

Designed to mimic a polling station, the mock election gave those who attended an overview of what is required to successfully vote as well as a simulation of the process itself. Resources with information around what constitutes a valid piece of identification, how many pieces are required and how to register to vote were all provided.

As for a registered address?

The Drop In Centre provided letters of stay; these letters act as one piece of valid identification and also serve as proof of address for each client to be able to register to vote in the Calgary Centre riding.

People lined up before the set up was even complete.

As reproducing a ballot with candidates prior to an election is illegal, clients instead voted on issues that they deemed most important to them in this federal election. The issues were: affordable housing, mental health, minimum income and harm reduction. They were also given the option to choose “other” and add an issue.

Information on party platforms was provided by the Drop In Centre as candidates will be visiting independently prior to the election. Elections Canada was present at the Drop In Centre to register clients to vote between 4pm-6pm.

And to what end? This project began with a desire to spark conversation, to give a voice to the voiceless, to back our words “You DO matter” with action.

And now?

Elections Canada is placing a polling station in the Drop In Centre on October 19th to give access to those who use its services.

This is the first time in Canada that a polling station has been placed in a shelter for a Federal Election.

Overall 472 clients participated with 60% of them selecting affordable housing as the issue they deemed most important to them in this upcoming federal election.