Kootenay Lodge - 40 Calgarians will be moved out of homelessness and into long-term housing
Kootenay Lodge

Approximately 40 Calgarians will be moved out of homelessness and into long-term housing by March 31, 2021, thanks to a new bridge housing program in a Martindale apartment building. The program will see individuals receive temporary housing at Kootenay Lodge with on-site support services so they can quickly and successfully move from the emergency shelter system into independent living. As part of the Diversion Bridge Housing Program, this 10-unit building’s bridge housing program is made possible as part of a collaboration between Calgary Homeless Foundation, HomeSpace Society and The Mustard Seed, and is especially important given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Sept. 17, 2020, The Mustard Seed began receiving referrals to the building with staggered move-ins to follow. Individuals who have experienced homelessness for less than one year will move from an emergency shelter to Kootenay Lodge before relocating to a home. The program is targeted at individuals who face financial barriers, or low to moderate physical or mental health challenges. During their stay, a diversion advocate will provide on-site support with system navigation, help individuals secure financial supports, look for appropriate accommodation, and connect them with landlords to support their journey into independent housing. 

Diverting people out of their experience of homelessness into a home is the best solution for the health of the individual and the community as a whole during the health crisis presented by COVID-19.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that, now more than ever, housing is essential for health. As an immediate response, we have strengthened our partnerships in community to create collective solutions through coordination and collaboration to prevent and end homelessness for Calgarians as quickly and efficiently as possible— including this partnership with The Mustard Seed and HomeSpace,” says Matt Nomura, Vice President of Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care, Calgary Homeless Foundation. “No two stories or pathways into homelessness are the same. An individual’s journey towards recovery requires a spectrum of services to support their successful exit out of homelessness. These services include a range of supports, from abstinence to harm reduction, and housing with intense supports to independent living,” Nomura continued.  

The Mustard Seed will support the individuals during their time at the Kootenay Lodge, and throughout their transition as they move to their new home. 

“The Mustard Seed is proud to offer multifaceted wraparound services to quickly facilitate moving individuals out of homelessness. We have a Resident Engagement worker on site to facilitate move-ins and move-outs, as well as ensure adherence to COVID precautions in place to protect residents. We also have a Diversion Advocate on site, who will assist in the housing journey, providing resources and system navigation for clients to smoothly transition into permanent housing,” said Samantha Lowe, Health and Wellness Manager, The Mustard Seed. 

The Diversion Bridge Housing Program estimates that individuals will stay  at Kootenay Lodge before moving into stable long-term housing.  

“HomeSpace is committed to creating more affordable housing so vulnerable people can rebuild their lives from a place of dignity and safety,“ says Bernadette Majdell, CEO, HomeSpace Society. “This new bridge housing program at HomeSpace’s Kootenay Lodge is a perfect example of innovative collaboration to help address the urgent needs of our city.”

What does diversion mean?

Diversion means that people are directed away from emergency shelters into some form of housing.

What does diversion look like?

Diversion programs exist for people who have recently become homeless and have only just entered Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care. It often happens at the shelter door as a conversation with a case worker. The caseworker will talk with the client to determine how they entered homelessness and see if there are any natural supports they can lean on, such as family or friends. Some of the programs even work with families to repair broken relationships. They can connect the individual with assistance in applying for financial supports, damage deposit, rental arrears relocation or rehousing, or a few months’ rent.

Why is diversion important?

Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care works to provide tailored support for everyone. Even though there are some similarities amongst the homeless population, everyone’s needs are different, and we collectively offer a spectrum of services to help.

Imagine if our health care system was only made up of hospitals. People don’t always need to visit the ER if a trip to the pharmacy will do. It’s the same with the services our sector provides to clients; diversion is one offering on a spectrum of services.

If the difference between someone being quickly rehoused or staying homeless is simply assistance with a damage deposit, rental arrears, or applying for Alberta Works, diversion programs aim to make up the difference, addressing someone’s homelessness in the moment, or quickly after it starts. We utilize diversion to decrease the number of people in the homeless-serving system of care and reduce time spent in a shelter, which can be challenging and traumatizing, and potentially further entrench them into homelessness.

What would happen if appropriate diversion did not happen?

Shelters are a vital part of our homeless-serving system. They are there for people who have nowhere else to turn. The experience of being in a shelter is also a big adjustment from the experience of having a home. It can be very traumatizing for people and has the potential to increase the complexity of an already challenging situation. It disconnects them from the relationships they usually rely on and forces them to rely on a system, which can be destabilizing. It means that someone else cooks for them, shows them where to sleep, and tells them when to wake up—and it means they don’t have an address or a place to store their belongings. Shelters can also be a health risk, especially in our current COVID-19 context. The purpose of a shelter is to provide emergency space while people wait for more permanent housing.

How does diversion work contribute to reducing and ending homelessness?

Diverting people from shelter ensures that they move into housing quickly instead—which means that people can rely on themselves and their natural supports rather than the homeless-serving system of care. That means that many people can be spared from utilizing emergency shelters—and if they do enter a shelter, they are moved into housing quickly, ending their experience of homelessness.

What agencies are currently involved in diversion work?

The Mustard Seed, Calgary Drop-In Centre, Aspen Family and Community Network Society Children’s Cottage Society, Calgary Alpha House Society, Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary (BGCC), and Centre for Newcomers.

Has diversion work been impacted by the pandemic?

The homeless-serving sector’s diversion work has increased as it’s now considered a health measure to reduce exposure within congregate settings, or large gathering spaces. As part of our COVID-19 response, we’ve launched a transitional hotel with the Calgary Drop-in Centre that diverts individuals from shelters and moves them into permanent housing, and we are also in the midst of launching a place-based diversion program with the Mustard Seed.

What is CHF’s role in diversion?

CHF primarily funds these programs, and we also collect data from these programs—such as the number of people accessing them, their current barriers to housing, and the kinds of solutions that are available within our community. We analyze the information so the sector can better serve other individuals who may be facing a similar situation. We also provide training opportunities, mentorship, and programs for caseworkers who work within these programs.

What are the results?

Since January, 284 people have been diverted from shelter into housing, and all of these individuals are exceeding our goal of remaining in housing for 3 months without re-entering the shelter system. Diversion programs are a recent development with the collection of diversion data began in 2019. The information will continue to be reviewed, and will inform more successful diversion work as we continue.

Originally published 08/14/2020 by Calgary Herald
https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-we-cant-talk-about-societal-change-without-talking-about-homelessness

Patricia Jones, President & CEO, Calgary Homeless Foundation
Photo: AZIN GHAFFARI / Postmedia

Twenty-seven years ago, I began my career serving people as a social worker with Catholic Family Service. During that time, I developed a deep reverence for those experiencing vulnerability. From mental health programs, affordable counselling, and marriage preparation, to teaching life skills to teen parents and helping adult learners complete their GED – every day, we worked to build strong families in Calgary.

Yet, while I passionately believe that education, mental health and addiction support is key to moving individuals and families out of poverty, it was one of our signature partnerships that taught me that people cannot move on in their lives without a literal foundation – that is, a place to call home.

That program was the Louise Dean Centre, a wraparound service and school for pregnant and parenting teen mothers and fathers. We were proud of our graduates and worked hard to promote their healing and wellness, but the reality was that our participants and their children would leave our programs with no safe place to land.

Approximately twenty per cent of the students were homeless. They were completing their homework in the back of cars, taking their newborns to friends’ couches, and stuffing their diplomas into suitcases. Over half had been accepted into post-secondary school, but the thought of figuring out childcare, paying for school and groceries was understandably paralyzing. And, if they were connected to housing, often they did not have the skills to maintain it. How can someone build a strong family without a place to kiss their children goodnight? Sadly, this is the daily experience of many people in our city, with 100,000 households projected to be in need of housing in the next five years.

During the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also never been more evident that housing is our first and best line of defense when it comes to addressing crisis. People cannot self-isolate without a home. 

In response, Calgary Homeless Foundation coordinated the efforts of Calgary’s established and well-respected homeless-serving community – agencies, shelters and government partners – who came together to launch an isolation centre as a temporary emergency response to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within and outside the city’s homeless population. Since early April, over 305 medically at-risk individuals have been given the ability to self-isolate for two weeks and nearly 100 of them have been moved into permanent housing to date.

Despite these extraordinary efforts, on any given day, pandemic or not, there are approximately 2,911 Calgarians experiencing homelessness — which means there are 2,911 stories where systems have potentially failed. In addition, our shared challenge in Calgary continues to be an availability of appropriate housing for vulnerable populations.

It is because of these kinds of stories that I chose to step into the role of President and CEO of Calgary Homeless Foundation. I believe that any personal, familial, and societal transformation begins with – and requires – a place to call home.

Solving homelessness underpins every other development effort in our city. Societal change is not created by any one foundation, agency, individual, or government alone. For that reason, I look forward to working together to provide a continuum of housing options with the right supports so Calgarians have a foundation upon which healing and recovery can happen.

When we talk about caring for vulnerable families and individuals, our community health – or any of the social issues we’re facing in our city today – we will continue to fall short if we’re not also talking about how to create housing and homes for the people we’re caring for.

Patricia Jones - President & CEO, Calgary Homeless FoundationCalgary Homeless Foundation’s (CHF) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Patricia Jones as CHF’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, effective August 10, 2020. Following a Canada-wide recruitment process led by Leaders International Executive Search, Patricia was identified as the ideal visionary leader to propel CHF’s mission forward during this pivotal time.

Patricia comes to CHF from a dedicated 27 years with Catholic Family Service, where she focused on the delivery of programs and services to break cycles of generational vulnerability and build strong families. With a great appreciation for CHF’s mission-focused future, she was drawn to the role by our focus on collective action, evidence-based outcomes, and a strong personal belief that every Calgarian deserves a place to call home.

“CHF has an incredible future before it with a strong board and exceptional leadership team and staff, and with Patricia leading the way, we will deliver excellence and value to Calgary and our Homeless-Serving System of Care, and ultimately, we will continue to deliver the best care for Calgary’s most vulnerable,” says Gerald Chipeur, CHF Board Chair

Collaborative leadership, innovative, big picture thinking and a firm belief in system planning, and evidence-based practice guides Patricia’s work as she begins her journey with CHF. Under her leadership, we will continue to chart our path forward towards the end of homelessness and we are confident that her leadership will be transformative in scope and scale. It is with her strong, capable leadership and innovative community driven focus, that together, we will end homelessness in Calgary.

06/17/2020

On the week of June 15, the Selection Committee of CHF’s Board of Directors announced the Appointment of CHF’s new President and CEO.

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05/06/2020

On the week of April 27, the Selection Committee of CHF’s Board of Directors met with Leadership International Executive Search.

The search firm has identified a list of candidates from across Canada, from both the public and private sectors, who possess key qualifications including leadership, strategic thinking, ability to work with multiple stakeholders, government relations, and knowledge of homelessness and the homeless sector. Over the first week of May, the Selection Committee will be evaluating the list of candidates to identify a short list, and first and second round interviews will commence shortly thereafter.

02/13/2020

The Board of Directors has retained Leaders International Executive Search to conduct a Canada-wide recruitment process for a new President and CEO. Leaders International Executive Search is a leading executive search firm with over 30 years of experience placing senior leaders in the not-for-profit sector.

The job profile for our new CEO has been finalized and posted by Leaders International, and can be found here

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