Great minds think alike… But if we all thought alike there would be no change.

On Tuesday, September 22, over 65 board chairs and CEO’s in the participated in a CEO/Chair Connectivity Breakfast hosted by the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) and The Mustard Seed. Rene Collins of the Metis Calgary Family Services graciously opened the event with a blessing,

The main topic of discussion related to Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness and Calgary’s Homeless Serving System of Care. Attendees brought their innovative ideas, suggestions and potential opportunities to the table.

Diana Krecsy, President and CEO of CHF, spoke about the various Plans as well as the true meaning of ‘Ending Homelessness’. She also discussed the similarities between social service agencies and the value of an integrated Homeless Serving System of Care.

Stephen Wile, CEO of The Mustard Seed, added additional value to the presentation by talking about the System of Care in connection to The Mustard Seed.

The Breakfast showcased great minds coming together to work towards a common goal – ending homelessness. It’s no doubt that there is power to create change in a group like this one. After much thoughtful discussion, the attendees agreed that it was clear that communication and collaboration were the key elements to be developed to continue the success of the Plan.

As a result of the event, is safe to say that we are all on the same page, but there is still room to grow. We can all work together on improving the effectiveness of the Plan to reach our end goal. The Connectivity Breakfast was the first time this many great leaders in the sector came together, and there are plans to host more in the future.

For those that attended the Connectivity Breakfast, please note that a report of the discussions will be sent out at the end of October.

 

 

On October 19, Canada will hold a federal election.

In the homeless sector, voting in an election is not a common practice.

This year, members of the CHF Client Advisory Committee, want to change that. They are planning a ‘mock election’ to take place on Monday, September 21st complete with ballot boxes, screening officers and candidates vying for the votes of those who do not believe their vote counts.

It is the challenge of homelessness.

Another challenge of homelessness and voting… Voting requires identification. Many people living the experience of homelessness do not have that which the majority of us take for granted; a piece of paper that legally confirms we are who we say we are in the world.

At the mock election, there will be people who can support those without identification obtain it.

A group of individuals with lived experience of homelessness are holding this mock election in 4 shelters around the city to encourage those with the lived experience of homelessness to exercise their right to vote. For more information, click HERE.

It is an important thing they are doing, this group of concerned citizens.

They are building the path, walking their talk, creating space for their voice to be heard. And in that space, they will hold space for others to rise up and cast their vote too.

On August 25th, the Calgary Homeless Foundation received a gift from a little girl far beyond her years. She sent us letter, painstakingly crafted in the way of children, with a donation and a touching explanation as to why she chose us.

Having travelled here from Florida to visit our city and the Calgary Stampede with her parents, Hannah described Calgary as a “wonderful place” with the exception of one thing. She was brokenhearted to see all those experiencing homelessness all alone in the streets. “I was so ashamed that I couldn’t help them that I put my head down when I walked by and sometimes I held back tears,” she wrote to us in her letter.

From the sunshine state, Hannah wanted to help bring the warmth of Florida to those living on the streets and has generously donated $101 dollars to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, virtually emptying her piggy bank in hopes of making a difference.

Why $101 you ask?  “The odd sticks out,” Hannah explains in her letter, “the odd people of the world make the difference.”

How true.

Hannah describes herself as a Floridian that likes to bring the warmth of God to the world. Regardless of what drives this little girl’s generosity, we thank her.

We thank her for electing to make a difference and for moving past her feeling of helplessness to simply do what she could.

Thank you Hannah for seeing those individuals that so many see through.

We’ve all been there. At one point or another, we’ve all averted our eyes and walked past those living on the streets, telling ourselves that it’s not our fault. That there’s nothing we can do to help, nothing we could offer. Or we judge, thinking that we cannot help those who “won’t” help themselves.

But young Hannah has proved otherwise.

For one so young to acknowledge her own sense of shame in being unable to help those living on the streets is incredible. To then take action is remarkable. We could all learn a lesson from Hannah about moving past our own judgements to simply feel compassion. We could all learn that every small act of kindness makes a difference. There are no rules or quotas on how to lend a hand. Simply that we do.

If you are like Hannah and looking for ways that you too can make a difference, please contact Sharon deBoer, Director of Development at sharon@calgaryhomeless.com. To view the last two pages of Hannah’s letter, click here: Page 3  Page 4

 

On October 19, Canada will hold a federal election. 

In the homeless sector, voting in an election is not a common practice. 

This year, members of the CHF Client Advisory Council, want to change that. They are planning a ‘mock election’ in late September complete with ballot boxes, screening officers and candidates vying for the votes of those who do not believe their vote counts.

It is the challenge of homelessness.

Another challenge of homelessness and voting… Voting requires identification. Many people living the experience of homelessness do not have that which the majority of us take for granted; a piece of paper that legally confirms we are who we say we are in the world.

At the mock election, there will be people who can support those without identification obtain it. 

 

Other than applying for a passport, few of us have ever been faced with the task of getting something so seemingly simple – proof that while living with no fixed address, or an emergency shelter as place of residence, we are who we say we are.

At the shelter where I worked there is a room filled with belongings clients have left behind. When giving tours of the facility, people would ask, “Why do people leave these things behind? Don’t they want them? Don’t they care?”

It is not so simple. 

Sometimes, someone won’t return to their locker because in the process of going about their daily life, they have been arrested for outstanding warrants. With no ability to pay for jay walking tickets, vagrancy tickets, and a host of other tickets a homeless individual can acquire in daily life, they opt for jail. They have no choice.

Sometimes, they wind up in hospital, too  sick to let anyone know where they are.

Sometimes, a job offer comes up and they grab it, even if it means leaving right now to travel to the oil fields or some other distant place. They do not dare hesitate. Jobs don’t come along often in the world of homelessness.

Sometimes, the burden of the past is too great to keep carrying, and they leave it behind.

Sometimes, in constantly leaving things behind, the things they carried are simply that – things.

There are many, many reasons people leave things behind. Things like clothing. Family photo albums. Bibles and and other books. Certificates, like the certificate of merit from a Scout troupe one person left in their locker. Staff could not throw it out, just as they could not discard or repurpose things like Bibles and family photos and other personal items. For staff, clearing out an abandoned locker was one of the most difficult tasks. The choice to keep it, just in case the person returned, or let it go, was not easy. 

Homelessness fosters a sense of disconnection. Of not being part of ‘your life’ because the fact that this, this place called homeless could be ‘your life’ is hard to grasp. Hard to understand. Hard to believe.

In the disbelief, in the tiredness of having to keep jettisoning the things that once made up your life which you can no longer carry, or bring into a shelter because there is no room for all your stuff, only one suitcase that will fit into a small locker, you let go of holding onto everything.

It’s easier that way.

Just let it go and don’t hold on, to anything.

Especially the belief, you can make a difference.

It’s too hard to hold, that belief. Because if I can make a difference, if for example, my vote might count, then why am I in this place called homeless?

A group of individuals with lived experience of homelessness are holding a mock election in September to encourage those with the lived experience of homelessness to exercise their right to vote. 

It is an important thing they are doing, this group of concerned citizens. 

They are building the path, walking their talk, creating space for their voice to be heard. And in that space, they will hold space for others to rise up and cast their vote too.

They cannot predict the outcome. But they do know,  if they do not walk this path. If they do not take these steps, the way will not magically appear. It must be created with each step.

There are lessons to be learned from these individuals who are walking this path. They are creating a new direction with every step they take.

On Sunday, August 9th, two Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) properties received 55 orchard trees. With the help of REAP and Enactus Calgary volunteers, nine local businesses, tenants and agencies, like CUPS and the Alex, Acadia Place and Abbeydale Place were successfully beautified and transformed into sustainable orchards, with the possibilities of fresh fruit in the summers to come.

Marina Mellino of the Calgary Homeless Foundation was there to plant trees with REAP Calgary and tenants. “I was so proud to participate, “she shares of her experience on Sunday, “there was lots of passion and care for community in this project and I can’t wait for next year’s planting!”

REAP, the non-profit organization responsible for Sunday’s planting, helps locally owned business that care about the community and the planet contribute to creating healthy and prosperous communities. With the help of the Naaco Truck, Leela Eco Spa & Studio, Conscious Brands, Nya Sustainability Consulting, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Yummi Yogis and Greengate Garden Centres as well as Enactus Calgary, orchard trees were purchased for planting at the Calgary Homeless Foundation sites.

Stephanie Jackman, Founder & President of the REAP Business Association is proud of the Community Orchards project and the generous donors who participated. “Thanks to the leadership of The Naaco Truck who brought us this opportunity, Community Orchards help REAP businesses to reduce their environmental impact by creating lasting assets for Calgary communities in need. We’re proud to have facilitated the donation of 200 trees for the creation of eight orchards since 2013.”

The impact of a day like this one are staggering. In addition to beautifying the communities, on average these two orchards will remove 8 tonnes of CO2 from the air, filter 102 litres of storm water and improve the quality of 20 kilograms of air each year. Tenants of each building will also receive a care and recipe book that will teach them about the trees planted and how to incorporate those goods into everyday cooking.

Thank you to REAP and Enactus Calgary as well as all the volunteers, business, tenants and agencies who made this year’s tree planting such a success. We’re already planning for next year and are excited about the possibilities!

For more information about the REAP Business Association and the Community Orchards project please visit http://www.belocal.org/.

Taking care of Mother Nature is everyone’s responsibility; a task that can seem daunting in the midst of our busy lives. Respect for the Earth and All People (REAP) is an organization that is showing Calgarians just how simple taking care of our planet can be. A non-profit association for locally owned business that care about the community and the planet, REAP demonstrates that businesses can make a fair profit while contributing to healthy and prosperous communities. Its latest undertaking, the Community Orchards project, is a collaboration between REAP and Enactus Calgary.

It began in 2012 when The Naaco Truck asked REAP for assistance planting 50 trees in order to cut the carbon emissions of its mobile food business. REAP suggested that The Naaco Truck donate fruit bearing trees in certain areas of the city to simultaneously reduce carbon emissions and food insecurity while beautifying public spaces.

In the spring of 2013, with the help of International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone and Greengate Garden Centres, four community orchards were planted in the greater Forest Lawn area in Calgary.

When REAP shared the story of The Naaco Truck’s donation with other businesses in the network, more local businesses wanted to help. Leela Eco Spa & Studio, Conscious Brands, Nya Sustainability Consulting, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Yummi Yogis added to the donations by The Naaco Truck and Greengate Garden Centres, tripling the size of the program in just two years!

With limited resources to manage complex site approvals and multiple stakeholders, REAP reached out to Enactus Calgary for help. This University of Calgary chapter of Enactus Worldwide – a community of 60,000 student, academic and business leaders enabling sustainable progress through entrepreneurial action – agreed to a 5-year partnership to bring the project to its full potential.

Now with environmental and social impact reporting, strategic community partnerships with the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) and Grow Calgary, and a student support team, REAP and Enactus Calgary are harnessing the generosity of local businesses to create lasting community assets.

Volunteers from REAP and Enactus Calgary will come together on Sunday, August 9th at two Calgary Homeless Foundation locations to plant the 75 orchard trees donated by REAP businesses. Acadia Community Garden and Art Society and Grow Calgary will also be receiving an additional 75 plants, to be planted the same day.

For more information about the Community Orchards or to find out how you can participate, contact Stephanie Jackman, Founder & President of REAP Business Association, at stephanie@reapcalgary.com.

 

 

 

Cameron Bailey is the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s (CHF’s) new Chair of the Board and has served on the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s board since 2010. Cam and his wife Gelaine spent 15 years living overseas and have volunteered numerous times in rural communities in Africa. Some of their most memorable trips to Africa include time spent in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa. Cam has a B. Commerce degree from UBC and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is active with other boards including the Alberta Energy Regulator, the UBC Sauder Business School and Westside King’s Church where he serves as past Chair of the Board of Trustees. Cam also served on the board of the Telus Spark Calgary Science Center from 2010-2015.

Recently, Cam took some time out from his busy volunteer schedule to share his thoughts on ending homelessness, volunteering and his new role as Chair of CHF’s Board of Directors.

Q: What inspired you to begin serving on the CHF board in 2010?

A: When we moved back to Calgary in 2009 after being away from the city for 15 years living overseas, I wanted to re-engage in the community. I spent my first few months back in Calgary  talking to community leaders about what the big leverage points were, and what initiatives were underway that could potentially have the most impact on our city. I kept hearing about the Calgary Homeless Foundation and the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. It became pretty evident that this was one of Calgary’s big, bold, exciting, initiatives and, at the time, quite unique in Canada. I soon joined the board and got immersed in the mission to end homelessness.

Q: You’re retired now and this position is a big commitment. What drives you to volunteer like you do?

A: After several years on the board, I’m even more of a believer in the mission and in the opportunity we have through Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness. After serving for the last two years as Vice Chair, and learning a lot from Alan Norris, it seemed like a logical next step to move into the Chair role when Alan announced his intentions to step down and focus his efforts chairing the RESOLVE campaign. I knew that this was an important opportunity to continue to make a difference.

Q: What do you see as the role of the Chair of the Board?

A: The biggest part of the role is to work with the board to support Diana [Krecsy] as President & CEO, and, in turn, support the team at CHF to deliver on the objectives of the Plan. I believe it’s also the responsibility of the Chair, and of the board members more broadly, to keep the focus on delivering against the Plan, to make sure that we’re out in the community, talking to people, supporting this important initiative. We can’t forget that through the excellent work of all the agencies in Calgary’s homelessness serving sector, people’s lives are changed, one at a time. And the clock is ticking. We all feel the sense of urgency to get people off the street and into supportive housing, with the services they need to get back on their feet.

Q: What are your top three priorities as Chair?

A: Our first priority is to support Diana and the management team establish the new Community Council (CC). With the creation of the CC, CHF can refocus on what our original role was intended to be – to serve as the orchestrator of the mission to end homelessness and to be the backbone entity that tracks sector progress towards this goal across the overall system of care. Our second priority is to focus on encouraging more connectivity and collaboration within the homeless serving sector. Because homelessness is a large and complex problem to solve, as a community we will be much more impactful working as a collective whole, sharing resources and capabilities rather than working independently of each other, often without the scale necessary for significant impact, and in some cases even duplicating services and “competing” for clients, staff and funding. And our third priority is to bring us as a Board closer to understanding and appreciating the front line experience and successes that agencies are having in Calgary. Beginning in September, we’re looking at having our board meetings on-site at different agency locations. By being “on-site” we hope to be able to tour the facilities, hear directly from a staff or a client about the work they are doing and invite the agency CEO and board chair to tell us about their strategic direction.

Q: Where do you see CHF in a year to three years?

A: In these next three years, our biggest goal is just driving full steam ahead to achieve the goals of the Plan to End Homelessness. It’s an all hands on deck approach to deliver on the commitments of the Plan. The key to success will be through community ownership of the Plan, hence the priority on getting the Community Council established. Beyond that, as a board we have begun the process of thinking through the role of CHF post 2018. We don’t have those answers yet.

Q: What are some impressions that you’ve taken away from your time in Africa? Are there any parallels you’ve noticed from your volunteer work there to your work here in Calgary?

A: My wife and I have spent a lot of time in Africa, in remote places, getting exposure to people who are the most in need and the most at risk. We’ve had the chance to sit in classrooms in rural schools, and to see the joy on children’s faces as they describe what their dreams are. In many respects, you hear the same career aspirations that you would sitting in a Calgary elementary school classroom – the kids in rural African communities want to grow up to be engineers, doctors, teachers, scientists and nurses. But because of the birth lottery, the kids in Africa don’t have the clear pathways to these careers like our own children do here in Canada. Bright, ambitious young kids in these rural African communities may never have the chance to get through grade school, let alone attend a college or university. It’s wasted talent, and an incredible amount of untapped human potential. Progress in being made, but the pace is frustratingly slow. Again, in trying to solve a large and complex problem, scale is important. Large, well run organisations like World Vision do great work, and have significant impact, by working at the community level, empowering a whole village to move out of poverty and become self sustaining. Here in Calgary, in this city of immense wealth, we take pride in working together as community to look after our own, to ensure nobody is left behind. And, in parallel, as a community, we can extend a helping hand beyond our city borders to help those in need elsewhere, to make the world a better and safer place for those less fortunate. The Plan to End Homelessness is one important aspect of our broader obligations.

Documentary on human rights and discrimination on the streets of Calgary. Video can be viewed below.

By Rachel Campbell

In 2013, the Calgary Homeless Foundation received funding through the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund to explore issues related to human rights within the homeless community. To investigate the  dynamic and multi-faceted issue of both homelessness and human rights, CHF initiated a 2-year participatory action research project to identify areas of concern within the homeless community related to issues of discrimination  and human rights – particularly related to service access – as well as assess the level of awareness and appropriateness of information related to issues of human rights, service access and appeal/grievance processes. Critical to the initiation of this work was engagement and collaboration with the Client Action Committee.

Many sectors were consulted as part of the project, including police services, bylaw services, health services, shelter providers, outreach teams, lawyers and law students, and Aboriginal service providers. Most importantly, the Client Action Committee (CAC), a group of clients with lived experience of homelessness facilitated by CHF for the last 3 years, was integral in providing client perspective on the project. A core group of 9 clients helped to organize focus groups and interviews of people experiencing homelessness to share their stories and bring to light what rights were most often being violated. Through this process, over 100 clients were consulted. Many of the items in the charter were included as a result of actual experiences of real people. It has been incredible to see the pride the members of the client committee rightfully have in the work they’ve done on this project. They are empowered to stand up for not only their own rights, but the rights of others experiencing homelessness.

An exciting part of the process of developing the charter was the creation of the documentary, “Do you see me?”. This powerful short film increases awareness of the discrimination faced by those experiencing homelessness – often in accessing services and tools that they need to end their homelessness. It poses the question to which the Charter is part one of the answer. Of particular note: the documentary received two Alberta Media Production Industries Association Rosie nominations. One for Best Director, Non-Fiction under 30 minutes, the other, Best Soundtrack for non-fiction under 30 minutes.

The charter pulls together existing rights that are a current part of legislation. It asserts that all citizens of our community – regardless of housing status – are equal in dignity, rights, and responsibility. The Charter is the first of its kind in Canada and is being unveiled in Calgary on June 18. It will be a starting point for discussion about rights and discrimination and how we can all work together to stand up for and promote the rights of those experiencing homelessness. Follow along and participate in the launch from afar using the hashtag #homelessrights.

The next phase of the project will include lots of work strengthening relationships with health, law enforcement, service providers, as well as the community at large – organizing training sessions to start working together to stand up against discrimination on a micro and macro level – both standing up for  community members when we personally witness discrimination and working to end discriminatory policies and practices – and empowering clients to know their rights and what to do if their rights have been violated.

It was a day of hope  and possibility and new paths and new directions.

It was a day to celebrate and open new doors to bright new futures.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

The kick-off for Aurora on the Park and Providence House, two new affordable housing projects that will become home for 49 formerly homeless Calgarians went without a hitch.

The dignitaries arrived, the guests crowded around the stage and the media stood by and listened and learned and felt drawn into the possibilities and hope of a better future for all people who will call Aurora on the Park and Providence House home. 

And through it all, the sun shone, the birds sang and people felt optimistic and engaged in what we can do and are doing as a collective to end homelessness.

Alan Norris, President and CEO of Brookfield Residential and Chairman of the Board of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and the RESOLVE Campaign summed it up well when he said that the 11 homebuilders who were there representing RESOLVE are competitive in their day jobs but very committed and collective in their desire to work together to make a difference in our city.

Getting to this moment, where all the pieces came together to create such an exciting and successful event takes a lot of hard work and a lot of people.

There was a lot to be grateful for at the Aurora on the Park and Providence House kick-off event.

Here are just a few of the things we are grateful for:

  • Grateful that, as a city, we have a shared vision of ending homelessness and are working collectively to make it happen
  • For Casey Eagle Speaker who opened the ceremonies with a reminder of our shared humanity and our right to have a place to call home
  • For people like Linda Olsen, Co-anchor of Global News Hour at 6  who volunteered her time to act as Emcee for the event
  •  For greetings read on behalf of the Honourable Michelle Remple, Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre-North and MLA Calgary – Acadia, Brandy Payne for speaking strongly in support of ending homelessness and the need for affordable housing
  • For PC MLAs Sandra Jansen and Mike Ellis and Leader of the Liberal Party, MLA Dr. David Swann who  stood in support of ending homelessness and affordable housing
  • For Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi for speaking so clearly of excellence and vision and commitment and what it means to work collectively to create a great city for everyone
  • For Glynn Hendry, Regional Vice-President, Qualico who  on behalf of Streetside Developments: A Qualico Company spoke with such pride and passion about their role in helping to make Aurora on the Park possible 
  • For Rob Kennedy, Vice-President, Morrison Homes. Like Streetside and 9 other Calgary homebuilders, Morrison Homes donated $1.4mil to the RESOLVE Campaign to support building of 8 new affordable housing projects in Calgary to ensure we have the necessary homes to end homelessness
  • For all the homebuilders who came out to lend their voices and support to the RESOLVE Campaign and the kick-off events
  • For the communities of Hillhurst Sunnyside and Crescent Heights who were open to the possibilities these two projects represent and welcomed them into their communities with such grace
  • For all the people who came and listened and learned and supported the project and added their well-wishes for the future tenants of Aurora on the Park and Providence House 
  • For the artists of This is My City who created the masterpiece of the yarnbombed house that stood so colourfully and proudly at the centre of the celebration
  • For all the Calgarians who came out to celebrate and to support 
  • For Diana Krecsy, President & CEO of CHF for her passionate leadership of ending homelessness collectively
  • For all staff at CHF for turning up and being part of the event, for bringing their best to support what we are working to achieve together
  • For the RESOLVE team for contributing their best to help make it a great event
  • For the CHF Housing Team who worked so hard to ensure the property was well-tended and ready for the event, and who continue to work so hard every day to ensure CHF properties make great neighbours
  • For the CHF Communications and Fund Development teams for giving their hearts to creating a day that truly did touch hearts, open minds and set possibilities for a better future, for all of us
  • For a neighbour named Pedro who lives down the street who came back with his camera because he’s a documentary film maker and he wanted to record the events for us as a gift.
  • And for everyone who came and stood in the hot blazing sun and took a stand for building homes for those who have lost their way.

 

You make a difference!

 

Mayor Nenshi’s remarks at the kick-off event. (Thank you Pedro Parada)