News Items for June 08, 2017:

  1. Ending the Homelessness Crisis for Gay, Bi, Trans Youth
  2. Regina’s Housing First program to expand through federal funding boost
  3. Calgary police host new addictions clinic for city’s homeless
  4. Maple Ridge: B.C. town divided by homeless crisis
  5. Less justice, more support: CPS touts Housing First data for homeless
  6. Four Principles that Can End Chronic Homelessness
  7. Addictions and mental health clinic opening at Calgary police SORCe centre
  8. More low-income housing needed
  9. New funding allows Housing First program in Regina to expand
  10. #Chrissysentme: Canadian woman killed in London terror attack inspires outpouring of good deeds
  11. Fortney: London terror victim cared for Calgary’s most vulnerable
  12. ‘Listen to the youth’: Edmonton housing program highlights success at conference
  13. Calgary Housing shutters 50 affordable housing units
  14. ‘We don’t have tons of time:’ Nenshi reacts to Calgary Housing closure

Ending the Homelessness Crisis for Gay, Bi, Trans Youth
The Tyee, May 29, 2017
By: Katie Hyslop

Advocates for the homeless have increasingly battled to move beyond shelters as a solution, arguing for prevention, rent banks and affordable housing. But for up to 16,000 youth in Canada — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirited and others who don’t fit a gender or sexual binary, also known as LGBTQ2S+ — there is a desperate need for youth emergency shelters just for them. That’s just one of the key messages from a new book, Where Am I Going to Go? Intersectional Approaches to Ending LGBTQ2S Youth Homelessness in Canada & the U.S., published by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness this month. While the 40,000 youth who will find themselves homeless in Canada this year are discriminated against for their housing status, “queer and trans youth are especially marginalized because they’re experiencing homophobia and transphobia,” said book co-editor Alex Abramovich, who researches the issue for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The limited data available shows 20 to 40 per cent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S+. Stigma against their sexuality and gender expression add to the barriers they face. Some face multiple barriers. “Being a person of colour who is also trans, you’re also experiencing racism, transphobia, and sometimes homophobia as well,” Abramovich said. That stigma follows LGBTQ2S+ youth inside homeless shelters, too. Along with book co-editor Jama Shelton, a professor at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work in New York City, Abramovich has spent more than a decade researching LGBTQ2S+ homelessness and solutions. The United States has made progress, with targeted youth shelters, a federal LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative and non-profits like Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund. But Abramovich has had a hard time convincing Canadian policy makers and service providers that LGBTQ2S+ youth homelessness is even a problem. “The response that I’ve always received from government and key decision makers is, ‘Well, we don’t have enough evidence. We need more evidence-based research,’” said Abramovich. That’s what makes Where Am I Going?, the first academic text on LGBTQ2S+ homelessness in North America, so important. But Abramovich adds the book isn’t just for policy makers and academics. “We wanted to make this book really quite accessible… to the public, because we understand that a lot of people don’t understand that this is a serious issue both in the U.S. and in Canada,” he said. Both Vancouver and Toronto have transitional housing beds, a more permanent option, for LGBTQ2S+ youth who go through an application process. What’s missing are emergency shelters to offer a safe alternative to the streets. The “independent-style living” of transitional housing might not suit all homeless LGBTQ2S+ youth, particularly those with mental health issues, Abramovich said. “Those needs may not be met in a transitional housing program, and that person might not even be accepted into that kind of a program because their needs might be too high,” he said. Alberta is a bright spot in Canada. In 2015, the Progressive Conservative government reached out to Abramovich for help in establishing a provincial homelessness strategy for LGBTQ2S+ as part of Alberta’s overall youth homelessness plan. In consultation with communities, Abramovich developed recommendations for government: support the delivery of LGBTQ2S+ youth housing options, as well as intersectional youth programs; create provincial and regional shelter standards for those youth; develop an integrated training program for all youth service providers, promoting LGBTQ2S+ cultural competency; develop the capacity for research on homelessness and this group; and create a specific homelessness prevention plan for LGBTQ2S+ youth. All but two recommendations — prevention planning and intersectional programming — are currently being implemented by government according to an Alberta case study included in Where Am I Going to Go? Abramovich would like to see other provinces follow Alberta’s lead and a national strategy to ensure LGBTQ2S+ youth are supported. But he notes you don’t have to be in government or youth services to help end LGBTQ2S+ homelessness. Actions like calling out transphobia and homophobia when you see it — and learning what it looks like if you don’t — have big impacts, Abramovich says. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia “are a major cause of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness,” he said. “A significant way for us to end LGBTQ homelessness is for people to understand these problems and to really step in.”

Regina’s Housing First program to expand through federal funding boost
Global News, May 30, 2017
By: David Baxter

The Regina Housing First program will be expanding, as Carmichael Outreach is being brought on to run a second housing first team. Phoenix HOMES is the original team, and they will also be expanding the existing program. Regina’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) director Blair Roberts said this expansion comes from necessity. “Every organization will have their own flavor and way of doing things, but I know Carmichael is really basing their on what Phoenix has done, because Phoenix has been so successful with what they’ve done,” Roberts explained. Total HPS federal funding is pegged at $1.78 million. Of this, $1.2 million will be directed to housing first initiatives. The housing first model involves providing homes for chronically homeless people, and building them up to living independently. This involves placing them in apartments run by partner landlords and getting people the help they need through mental health care, counselling, addictions support and other care to address reasons why the individual was homeless. At this point, evidence supporting the success of housing first in Regina is anecdotal. However, the first anniversary of the program is approaching and this will include a report on hard data relating to the program. Roberts anticipate this report will be released in late June. Phoenix HOMES runs 24 housing first homes, and six people have graduated from the program. Roberts said there are currently around 90 people on the waiting list. The HPS stresses quality over quantity in finding placements for clients. “We’d rather that then double their case load and have people falling through the cracks,” Roberts said. “The whole goal is to make sure people are successful.” The Circle Project will be playing an increased roll in the HPS going forward. They will provide cultural support to Indigenous housing first clients. The 2015 point-in-time homeless count identified 75 per cent of Regina’s homeless population is Indigenous. “They’ll be able to meet these clients where they are and offer holistic supports, instead of the one size fits all approach,” Roberts said. Other HPS organizations include Street Culture Project, YWCA of Regina, Street Workers Advocacy Project and the North Central Family Centre.

Calgary police host new addictions clinic for city’s homeless
CBC Calgary, May 31, 2017
By: Colleen Underwood

A new mental health and addictions treatment clinic designed to meet the needs of Calgary’s homeless population will open its doors this summer and operators say there are few other facilities like it in North America. Twenty-five staff members, including psychiatrists, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and social workers, are being brought together under one roof as part of a new initiative by Alberta Health Services and Calgary police. “It’s very forward what’s going on in this city for this complex, high-needs population,” said Julie Kerr, a senior operating officer for community, rural and mental health services with AHS. “I think that there’s a shared understanding that these folks often come from histories of traumas with often complex needs, that actually approaching this from a health lens is the compassionate thing to do.” The clinic, called the Cross Roads Centre, sits empty right now, waiting for furniture and staff. It’s located inside the Calgary Police Service’s administration building, next to the central library and along the C-Train line. The facility is part of an expansion of another multi-agency program for the city’s homeless called Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre (SORCe) which sees police officers working with 17 different community-based organizations that do assessments and provide referrals, housing supports and counselling. But it’s the heavy police presence that makes SORCe and the new clinic unique, according to Staff Sgt. Frank Cattoni, who is the executive director at SORCe. “We actually work with the population to try to deal with their justice problems beause we don’t want the justice system to get in the way of getting treatment for them,” said Cattoni.

He said the idea for the clinic came about last year after he and his staff noticed a large percentage of their clients were dealing with trauma-based issues and mental health concerns while medicating themselves with street drugs. “So that creates some very complex people that have complex health issues and so we’re trying to take a different stance,” Cattoni said. “Instead of looking at this population through a justice lens, we need to look at it through a health lens.” Kerr says the problem is clients at SORCe will often be referred to a psychiatrist or a physician but for a variety of reasons don’t follow through with treatment. “If they’re struggling, it’s sometimes hard to get organized to take a referral and get to a clinic,” Kerr said. “So what we’re hoping is that by offering the services right here, we can do a warm hand-off, someone from SORCe can actually bring them over to the clinic, we can offer a flexible schedule so they don’t need an appointment to get in here.” While the clinic is focused on addictions and mental health issues, Kerr said it will also have staff to address medical problems and provide some types of medication as a form of harm reduction, but it won’t be a supervised injection site. Cattoni said he hasn’t been able to find a similar type of medical clinic in the country, but believes there may be a few in the United States. Last year SORCe had about 2,500 client interactions, a 28-per-cent increase since opening its doors in 2013. Cattoni said recent research in Calgary shows this type of multidisciplinary model works. “There are two big impacts,” he said.  “You get better client care because it’s now client-centred service and you have big impact on the system in terms of savings.” Cattoni says SORCe will also be offering more cultural supports for its Indigenous homeless population when the clinic opens. “We know that they represent about 2.5 percent of the city’s population but they represent about 38 per cent of the homeless population in Calgary.” He adds SORCe is also behind efforts to set up a problem-solving court for people with addictions, those with mental health problems and homeless people to try to steer them away from jail, and instead get them the supports they need.

Maple Ridge: B.C. town divided by homeless crisis
CBC – The Current, May 31, 2017
By: Anna Maria Tremonti, Liz Hoath and Josh Bloch

The closing of a temporary homeless shelter in Maple Ridge, B.C., has heated up a contentious debate over how to address homelessness and addiction in the community. The shelter was set up in an old mattress store as a stop-gap measure while the municipal and provincial governments tried to come up with a longer term solution.  The shelter manager says the conditions are not adequate. “You can see the walls don’t go to the ceiling. There’s not really anywhere to have deep conversation. There’s nowhere to call your dad. Or to cry. Let your guard down,” says Ash, the shelter’s manager. “Every day. It’s awful. I wouldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it. It’s terrible.”  Ash — whose last name we have agreed to withhold because he fears for his safety — says that residents of the shelter have been attacked. “Cars have been keyed. People hit with pipes, run off the roads with their bicycles. Smoke bombs thrown into the shelter to flush people out,” he says. “I think it’s been disgusting. I don’t know how people can turn their backs on the most vulnerable members of their own community.” But other residents of Maple Ridge say they are fed up with the drug use they associate with shelters like these. Ramona Stimpfl’s condominium is located between the homeless shelter and a tent city that sprang up last month in a nearby city park. “Every day we are cleaning up needles, drug packets,” she points out. Maple Ridge is a community of more than 75,000 people about an hour’s drive east of Vancouver. The numbers of homeless is increasing across Metro Vancouver. A recent count showed a 30 per cent increase over the numbers in 2014. The problem is complicated by the high cost of housing, lack of addiction treatment spaces and treatment for the mentally ill, not to mention the opioid crisis that has gripped the region. Eva Bardonnex is one of the people living in a tent city. She first found herself homeless in January 2015. When the house she was living in was sold, she had nowhere to go and ended up living at the river.  She found housing after living at another tent city camp in Maple Ridge, but was kicked out two months ago after being accused of having too many visitors and not going to counselling. Bardonnex is homeless once again, but she says the tent city is better than living at the river. “They’re watching my stuff when I go out. I don’t have to worry about someone ripping things off or cutting up my tent or anything like that … It’s a lot better in a group … A lot safer,” she says. Last month, Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read went into hiding after the RCMP warned her there was a credible threat to her safety. They have not disclosed whether the threat is related to this issue, but the mayor has been the target of anger from Maple Ridge residents who take issue with her support of the homeless in her community.  “At the end of the day we don’t go to the community and ask if we locate a cancer facility in their backyard. They need housing and health-care supports,” says Read.  “As a human being, I’ve never backed away from these issues — may not be politically expedient. At the end of the day, I have to put my head on the pillow instead of being concerned about being re-elected.”

Less justice, more support: CPS touts Housing First data for homeless
News 660, May 31, 2017
By: Lucas Meyer

Less days in jail and in hospital. Those are the findings from the Calgary Police Safe Communities and Resource Centre (SORCe), after tracking more than 400 clients over a 12-month period. The Housing First strategy consists of SORCe working with almost 20 community agencies to assess clients for addiction, mental health and other issues, instead of the alternative of just putting them behind bars. Executive Director and Staff Sgt. Frank Cattoni said it’s further proof the approach is working. “There is nothing you can do to enforce your way out of mental health, addiction and homelessness,” he said. “Taking those people off the street and saying we’re going to stabilize you, we’re going to put you in some programming and we’re going to make sure you get some help so that you’re not constantly interacting with the justice systems or with the health systems.”

At a recent Calgary Police Commission meeting, Cattoni presented data from April 2015 to March 2016, showing their clients experienced:

  • 82 per cent reduction in days in jail
  • 79 per cent reduction in days in hospital
  • 73 per cent reduction in police interactions
  • 61 per cent reduction in EMS usage
  • 61 per cent reduction in emergency room visits
  • 44 per cent reduction in court appearances

Calgary Homeless Foundation VP of Strategy, Kevin McNichol, said the information is critical. “I’d say it’s more than promising,” he said. “It confirms what we knew when we started the plan and pursuing Housing First as the fundamental principle in which we were going to ground all of our work to address homelessness in the city.” The CHF is a major partner with SORCe, which started in 2009, and there’s been a lot of effort of establishing communication and collaboration protocols. “It’s totally worth it in the end,” McNichol said. The old system of ticketing and processing people through the justice system not only kept them in a perpetual state of homelessness, but also left a huge cost to public services, Cattoni said. He cites the example of Randy, considered a ‘super-system’ user from over 20 years ago, who Cattoni interacted with when he was a sergeant in District 1. Cattoni said over time, he racked up $93,000 in tickets, 3,000 documented contacts with police and tons of community and mental health orders. “This guy has probably cost us in the range of $2 to $2.5 million just in police resources, that is one person,” he said. But he also cites a recent example of a young woman who was brought into SORCe, struggling with addiction and involved in the sex trade. She was connected with a mental health clinician to deal with trauma from her early life and an addictions counsellor. “Within two weeks she was off the street, housed, stabilized and in a program getting counselling,” he said. With SORCe located at the City Hall LRT platform, the next step is a new addictions clinic opening right next door, run by Alberta Health Services. There’s also plans to open an Indigenous support centre, which Cattoni said despite making up 2.5 per cent of the overall population, is over 30 per cent of the homeless one.

Four Principles that Can End Chronic Homelessness
The Tyee, Jun 1, 2017
By: Stefania Seccia

A New Jersey county with a population of 1 million people hasn’t had a chronic homelessness problem since January. It didn’t ship homeless people out or lock them up. Bergen County embraced a national approach that puts the onus on communities to house their most vulnerable residents. Bergen County, across the Hudson River from New York City, is the first community in the U.S. to end chronic homelessness. Its success is confirmed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Bergen is one of 70 communities taking part in the Built for Zero campaign to end chronic and veterans’ homelessness. The county proved it reduced its chronic homeless population to two or three people — down from 3,000 in its most recent annual homeless census. In fact, county officials say, everyone who was chronically homeless has been housed. Beth Sandor, Built for Zero director, says the success rested on four critical interventions: permanent supportive housing; rapid rehousing; a Housing First approach; and not criminalizing people experiencing homelessness. “We solve for the impossible,” she says. “What gets me up in the morning is the idea that what most people think are impossible problems are absolutely within our reach to address and solve.” “I think that’s really important for all of us to know the interventions are evidence-based,” Sandor says. The 70 communities, including Bergen, invested in a “problem-solving toolkit” designed to offer flexible solutions that respond to evolving challenges rather than the “static set of interventions” often used to address homelessness. The toolkit offers solutions based on four categories: data analytics; human-centred design; quality improvement; and facilitation. They sound simple, Sandor says, but they are key to a successful, systematic approach to chronic homelessness. Data analytics sounds complicated. In fact, it’s simply about constantly gathering information so those working on solutions understand what’s happening in a community’s housing system and homelessness population. It allows fact-based communication with stakeholders to drive change and encourage action. It’s not abstract or general — “by-name lists” provide real-time, person-specific data that’s gathered and constantly updated. With the information, communities can “zoom in on what the heart of the problem is,” Sandor says. That information helps support a focus on “human-centred design” — a system that works to provide housing based on the person’s need, rather than forcing an individual to conform to the housing system’s requirements. “It’s starting with the user,” Sandor says. It works by using the data to map the experience of an individual moving from the streets into permanent housing. Then the team zooms in on those steps and designs responses around the person’s needs to make it easier to find them a home, she says. The data also helps make continuous quality improvement part of the process. “We use data to know whether the changes we’re making need improvement and we adjust in real time as we see what that information is telling us,” she says. It’s about removing all the barriers to end chronic homelessness, Sandor notes, and understanding and responding to individuals’ needs rather than trying to fit them into an existing system. “What would it take from this person’s abilities to get into housing and what do we need to do in order to make that work, to make that shift?” she says. Since homelessness involves a complex set of issues that affect individuals in different ways, facilitation is needed to bring together organizations and groups with a shared aim “to work together and collaborate,” Sandor says. “We create a condition for groups to innovate collaboratively,” she adds. What matters most, is measuring and looking at the data — the names and number of people on the list who are still in need of housing. Treating the homeless as individuals lets agencies understand their situation — whether they’re new to homelessness, have recently left housing or have a longer history without shelter. It also lets them keeps track of the outflow — people helped into housing — and the inflow of new homeless people. “They’re never going to get there on accelerating housing placements alone if they don’t understand their inflow,” she says of communities that place people in homes without any support or staying in touch with them. “It’s vital to understand the inflow — who’s homeless every month, in real time.”

In January 2016, Built for Zero decided that annual data like homeless counts couldn’t be relied on to set housing placement targets. “That was not real-time enough to be able to respond… or move the needle on active homeless numbers,” Sandor says. Basically, it was taking too long to know if the changes being made to the system were creating the desired results, she adds. Bergen County created a way to capture real-time, person-specific data on homelessness, made Housing First a core principle and targeted its housing resources to achieve its goal. It also created a command centre model, which is a one-stop shop to increase collaboration across its many housing and service providers that had been working in isolation. They were even physically working in the same building. The model is likened to a disaster response strategy. It was easier for multiple agencies to work together on supporting the same people in need of housing, and the groups committed to using the same tools and resources. About 95 per cent of those housed in the county never returned to homelessness. “What’s exciting is we know what it will take to end chronic homelessness for an individual,” she says. “Homelessness is a very complex problem, it’s very dynamic — not static — it requires us to have skills as a local team doing this work and leaders nationally who are as sophisticated as the problem is itself.” While Bergen County was the first to get there, a few other communities have also recently eliminated their chronic homelessness problem, while others are closing in or working toward absolute zero. Tim Richter, president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, says he is encouraged by the results in the U.S., and is confident that they can be achieved in Canada. He noted that his organization’s 20,000 Homes campaign can learn a lot from Built for Zero. “There are some really important lessons from [their] experience,” he says.

Addictions and mental health clinic opening at Calgary police SORCe centre
Metro News, Jun 1, 2017
By: Lucie Edwardson

Vulnerable and homeless Calgarians will soon have a one-stop-shop for their housing, mental health, addictions, health and justice related needs. SORCe opened its doors in 2013 and currently offers a housing first approach as well as mental health and addictions resources to Calgary homeless and vulnerable. But, come July, SORCe is expanding with the opening of the Alberta Health Services (AHS) run Cross Roads Clinic that will staff 25 addictions and mental health workers that can directly refer clients to treatments—medical and psychological— available onsite. It’s the first model of it’s kind in Canada. “I don’t know if people really understand how forward thinking this is, in terms of SORCe really wanting to meet the needs of people who otherwise just cycle through our justice and health systems and don’t have their actual health and service needs met,” said Julie Kerr, senior operating officer for community, rural and mental health services with AHS. Kerr said they know this population has difficulty getting from place to place and keeping appointments. “There are lots of barriers to them making scheduled appointments. We’re hoping that this will reduce the barriers to them accessing the services they need without having to make an appointment or going to another location,” she said. SORCe is lead by Calgary Police Service Staff Sgt. Frank Cattoni with in-kind contributions of staff from 17 agencies including AHS, the Calgary Homeless Foundation, local shelters and the provincial government. Cattoni said they know the model of a multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary approach is extremely successful with homeless and vulnerable populations.  “The data proves the success you have when you put someone in a housing first apartment with wrap around care. The impacts to the health and justice system are massive,” he said. “When I got that data I just about fell out of my chair. I thought, ‘Holy-moly, we’re having a big impact.’” During a 12-month period between April 2015 and March 2016, Cattoni said clients reported an 82 per cent reduction in days in jail, 79 per cent reduction in days spent in hospital, 73 per cent reduction in police interactions, 61 per cent reduction in EMS and emergency room usage and a 44 per cent reduction in court appearances. SORCe (and soon to be Cross Roads) is located next to the Calgary Central Library on the City Hall LRT platform (316 7 Avenue SE).

More low-income housing needed
Daily Herald-Tribute, Jun 1, 2017
By: Kevin Hampson

Close to 600 additional affordable housing units are needed for low-income families, particularly those headed by single mothers, says Katherine Schmidt, the city’s homelessness initiatives supervisor. The federal and provincial governments are currently rolling out funding for affordable housing builds across the country. Schmidt told the city’s community living committee on Tuesday that low income families should top the priority list if funding comes to Grande Prairie. According to census data, lone-parent families make up the majority of Grande Prairie households in “core-housing need,” CMHC’s standard for whether someone can afford their rent. Schmidt said it’s easy to see why that is. “If you’ve got two people living in a household, both with low income, you’ve got double income so you’re going to be able to manage a lot better than that single lone parent trying to raise children.” According to the census data, 60% of Grande Prairie’s core-housing need households in 2011 were lone parent families, up from 42% in 2006 (data from the 2016 census will be released later this year). Schmidt said most of those are single-mother families, which account for more than 80% of lone parent families nation wide. Schmidt’s report also said there’s a need for more than 280 affordable housing units for seniors, 29 for aboriginals, and 10 for youth. In preparation for the expected rollout, Mayor Bill Given moved that council direct administration to make a list of potential low-rent housing builds for low income families and seniors. The way the builds work is that the province rolls out capital dollars to fund construction; anyone receiving the funding is then mandated to keep rent below market value. Grande Prairie already has about 820 residents living permanently in low-rent housing, according to the city’s 2017 Housing Inventory. In addition, the city also runs the Housing First program, which pays people’s rent using a $3.3 million provincial grant and Alberta Works welfare money. New builds, two local providers of subsidized housing are already planning new builds, Schmidt said. The Canadian Mental Health Association, which already manages Willow Place Manor, is in the process of building an affordable housing apartment with 65 units. Of those, 24 will be for “complex needs individuals,” people who need 24-hour support from agencies such as Alberta Health Services due to problems such as drug abuse and mental illness. Community agencies identified 40 such people in Grande Prairie in March, Schmidt said. CMHA has already purchased land in the area of Rotary House, she said. Also, the Elders’ Caring Shelter, which currently has 16 rooms, is looking at building a second shelter.

New funding allows Housing First program in Regina to expand
Regina Leader-Post, Jun 4, 2017
By: Jennifer Ackerman

Quality over quantity is the idea that drives the Housing First program in Regina. But now, even more people who suffer from chronic homelessness will be able to receive the personal care they need to change their lives. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy announced an expansion of the program Monday. The program will receive an increase in funding and bring community organization Carmichael Outreach on to run a second Housing First team. The expansion comes in the wake of a successful first year of the program according to Blair Roberts, director of HPS communications at the YMCA of Regina. Funding will increase from $650,000 to $1.2 million. The Phoenix Residential Society runs a team which currently serves 24 clients in Regina. With the addition of a new team, Roberts hopes Carmichael Outreach can take on a similar case load. “With the folks that we are going to be working with moving forward in this program, we’re going to have the opportunity to really actually be a part of their journey,” said Tyler Gray, public relations officer at Carmichael Outreach. Carmichael has had a housing program since 2011 that helped individuals connect with landlords, find affordable housing, make budgets and more. The program served 535 people last year, but Gray said with so many people, it’s hard to spend quality time with each one. The organization has decided to shift its funding away from that program and to the Housing First program. Gray said, while it is one of the biggest challenges, the Carmichael team is looking forward to providing more personal support that will be tailored to each individual’s needs — something that was difficult to do with the previous program. “Sometimes people will hear 24 and think ‘Oh. That’s not a very big number’, but you’re dealing with people who have the highest level of need here, so they do need nearly round the clock support in some ways,” said Roberts. That level of care, said Roberts, requires a lot of time and resources. Team members check on clients multiple times a day, sometimes spending eight hours a day taking them to appointments and getting them in touch with other services they need. Results from the past year are positive so far. The Regina Police Service released statistics on one individual before and after they were housed through the program. In the two years before being housed, RPS reported receiving 267 calls for service and had to arrest the individual 244 of those times. In the 11 months after being housed, the RPS only received four calls and haven’t had to make any arrests.  If the success of similar programs across the country is any indication, Roberts said, “We are going to see some pretty amazing success stories of people whose lives have largely been written off by the communities that they live in.” A more detailed report from the past year will be compiled and released to the public in the next month or so to measure the success of the program more accurately.

#Chrissysentme: Canadian woman killed in London terror attack inspires outpouring of good deeds
National Post, Jun 5, 2017
By: Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

CALGARY — A Canadian woman killed in a terror attack in London is being remembered for her work with the homeless and her death is inspiring others to give back. Christine Archibald, 30, was among seven who died in a van-and-knife attack on London Bridge and nearby restaurants on Saturday. She and her fiance, Tyler Ferguson, were enjoying a warm spring night when she was struck by a speeding van that plowed into people strolling on the bridge. Ferguson’s sister, Cassie Ferguson Rowe, said in a Facebook message that Archibald died in her fiance’s arms. Archibald’s family, who live in Castlegar, B.C., released a statement Sunday through the Canadian government asking people to honour her memory. “She had room in her heart for everyone and believed strongly that every person was to be valued and respected,” the statement said. “Volunteer your time and labour or donate to a homeless shelter. Tell them Chrissy sent you.” Archibald was working at a shelter before she moved to Europe to be with Ferguson. Former colleagues at Alpha House, a Calgary not-for-profit that helps people facing addiction, are remembering her as a talented social worker and exceptional human being, said executive director Kathy Christiansen. “Chrissy was a bright light to many, and her generosity, kind spirit and huge heart for her work in responding to issues of addictions and homelessness at the centre inspired us all.” On Twitter, people using the hashtag #Chrissysentme said they were inspired by Archibald to help others. “In darkness we have a choice, to make the world a better place or let hate win,” said one tweet. “Chrissy Archibald’s family chose the former.” Some pledged to make donations to shelters, soup kitchens and other community groups. “We have made a donation to our community food bank in honour of Christine Archibald,” said one tweet. “I don’t know what else to say except: #Chrissysentme.” Calgary writer Mike Morrison tweeted Sunday night that he had made a $100 donation to Alpha House. “It felt like something that I wanted to do and then also let people know how easy it is, that they could donate and honour Chrissy’s memory,” he said. Archibald had a great deal of empathy for people in tough situations, said Peter Choate, an assistant professor of social work at Mount Royal University, where she studied. “She exemplified what matters to us in social work, and that’s the capacity to see the challenging circumstances that someone finds themselves in and be prepared to work with them to cope as best they can with life’s circumstances,” he said. Diana Krecsy, CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said the message from Archibald’s grieving family was powerful and she hopes it fosters understanding around homelessness and inspires people to help. “I’m overwhelmed by a family that could step up and be so courageous and make something good out of something so tragic,” she said. Krecsy didn’t know Archibald personally, but she knows what it takes to be a front-line worker for the city’s most vulnerable population. “You have to have a big heart, a lot of courage, a lot of compassion to put your time and efforts into working in this sector,” she said. “These are vulnerable people and you fight every day to make sure people see them, make sure they get the care they need, make sure they get access to the services they need.” Two GoFundMe campaigns have been set up in Archibald’s memory: one by a close friend of her fiance raising funds for the United Way and Alpha House, plus another by London’s We Care food bank. Premier Rachel Notley said the London attack hit Alberta especially hard because Archibald was known and loved by so many in the province. “She could have been any one of us and her tragic death has left our province shaken,” she said in a release Monday. “Albertans stand united with our friends in London and with everyone across the world who believes in the importance of free, open and caring societies.”

Fortney: London terror victim cared for Calgary’s most vulnerable
Calgary Herald, Jun 5, 2017
By: Valarie Fortney

“The least of things with meaning is worth more in life than the greatest things without it.” — Carl Jung

This quote by the founder of analytical psychology is posted on the side of a filing cabinet in Kathy Christiansen’s office. It is joined by several other quotes by some of the world’s great poets and philosophers, those gifted with enlightenment in the ways of love, compassion and forgiveness.

On Monday morning, Christiansen has no time to dwell on such words of wisdom as she instinctively juggles, with total grace and kindness, wave after wave of journalists on her organization’s doorstep.

“I’m so sorry, we just weren’t prepared for this,” says Christiansen, executive director of Calgary Alpha House Society, an inner-city refuge for men and women dealing with drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness. “To be honest, it all seems surreal.” She’s only had the past 24 hours to come to grips with an act that, harkening back to the Carl Jung quote in her office, is a big one but entirely devoid of meaning. This past Saturday night in a city more than 7,000 kilometres from the one Christine Archibald last called home, the young woman was killed when a van on London Bridge mounted the pavement and began to mow down pedestrians, its driver deliberately swerving in order to catch as many startled victims as possible. Then, three men jumped out of the van and went on a knifing rampage in a nearby market. By the time they were shot dead by police, the men — said to be ISIS militants  — had killed seven people and left scores more injured. Archibald, a native of Castlegar, B.C. who graduated from Calgary’s Mount Royal University with a degree in social work in 2015, had been visiting her fiance Tyler Ferguson. The young man, who met his future bride in Calgary, had recently moved to Amsterdam for work. The two were on a weekend getaway to London, taking in the sights and sounds of the great city when tragedy struck. While increasing acts of terrorism overseas might seem like a world away, on Monday the staff and clients of Alpha House are clearly struggling to make sense of the murder of one of their own.  On one side of the building located across from a casino and the Calgary Stampede grounds, clients can be seen leaving in tears, as word gets out about the death. On the other, the staff entrance, a deliveryman is carrying a bouquet of white lilies into the lobby. Chrissy, as she was known to family, friends and the tight knit community of those on the front lines of the fight against homelessness, is already being remembered as a woman for whom love and light, not hatred and darkness, were guiding principles. The young woman, says Christiansen, was born for the job of caring for society’s most vulnerable. She had “compassion, a sense of humanity,” she says, adding: “Chrissy had a natural talent for the work … she was gentle and responsive and she really got it.” Christiansen, who has been with Alpha House for a quarter century, welcomed Archibald to the team, first as a student intern and then as an employee. “She was grateful to be responding to the people,” she says, noting that indigenous Canadians make up about 50 per cent of the clientele. Archibald was moving on to a different phase of life “with such enthusiasm,” says her former boss, who last saw her just months ago. “But there was sadness, too, for us and for her.” Still, she was going to Europe to be with her love, and start a new chapter. On Saturday, Ferguson, who had been walking just ahead of Archibald, held her in his arms as she lay dying.  She hopes that those wanting to honour the life of a young woman described in a family statement as someone who “had room in her heart for everyone” will follow her family’s suggestion to do something to make their community a better place, whether that’s volunteering their time or donating to a homeless shelter. “As awful all of this is,” says Christiansen, wiping away tears, “Chrissy would love #ChrissySentMe.” By midday Monday, the trending Twitter hashtag  — which encourages people to do an act of charity in Archibald’s name — was trending worldwide. “Chrissy would want to share the value of her work with the rest of the world.”

‘Listen to the youth’: Edmonton housing program highlights success at conference
CBC Edmonton, Jun 7, 2017
By: Gareth Hampshire

Whenever Kyle looked for help to turn his life around he ran into people willing to help as long as he did what he was told. But that all changed last year when he entered the Youth Housing First program run by Edmonton’s Homeward Trust. “It’s the switch from apathy to purpose,” Kyle said of the new outlook he got from the program, set up for youth who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. “I myself had a tendency to rebel.” The model, started as a pilot project in June 2016, helps young people find housing and connects them to the supports and services they want. Before entering the program, Kyle, 24, spent a couple of months sleeping in shelters and tents because of family problems and drug use. After taking advantage of the psychological help he was offered, as well as counselling for street drug use he knew was a problem, he graduated from the nine-month program a different person. “I went from chaos to being able to think,” he said, adding he has started a job and is considering going back to school in the fall. Kyle, who doesn’t want his last name used because of the stigma attached to homelessness, is one of 100 young people who have been housed under the strategy. It spawned from number of reports that identified a growing problem with young people who had nowhere to live, beginning with the homeless count in 2014. That led the next year to a community strategy to end youth homelessness. The most recent homeless count in 2016 showed numbers of young people on the street has gone down dramatically. Kyle will talk Thursday about why the Youth Housing First approach works for young people in crisis at the 7 cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness conference in Edmonton. It’s bringing together frontline workers from Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, who will share ideas about trying to end homelessness. The manager of youth programs and partnerships at Homeward Trust, Suzanne Kassian, will be presenting alongside Kyle.  “Listen to the youth,” Kassian said. “They often feel like they don’t have a voice, and the main focus of our program is hearing the youth and taking into consideration what it is that they need and want.” Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate has said several times young people aren’t listened to enough, and the CEO of Homeward Trust said the concept allows them to define their own success. “It’s a really fundamental aspect of the program and one where we empower youth to address their challenges their way,” McGee said. The Youth Housing First initiative is no longer a pilot project but a full program funded by Homeward Trust. Kyle said he would likely still be on the street had he not qualified for it, and it’s now his goal to share his perspective with workers at the conference. “I’m offering insights that may not have been available to the workers,” he said. About 300 people are expected to attend the conference at the Shaw Conference Centre on Thursday and Friday.

Calgary Housing shutters 50 affordable housing units
Metro News, Jun 8, 2017
By: Brodie Thomas

Calgary Housing Company (CHC) has shuttered 50 affordable housing units since April due to lack of funding for maintenance, and is on track to do the same to 300 more. The city-owned, independently operated organization has about 7,200 units across the city. “We have begun putting units on hold until we have the cashflow to put them back on stream,” said CHC president Sarah Woodgate. She added that nobody has been displaced due to the closures. As people move out, CHC makes the call as to whether or not it has the funds to make necessary repairs and upgrades before the next tenant moves in. “That’s where they’re on hold – for those maintenance costs,” she said. On Wednesday, the future of 20 units in Ramsay was on the line as CHC made a request to the province for the necessary funding for repairs to keep them open. The province owns about one third of the properties under CHC’s management. Tim Chu, provincial press secretary for Seniors and Housing, confirmed that $460,000 would be made available to CHC for that two-building complex.  He blamed the previous government for years of ignoring affordable housing problems, and of creating a billion dollars worth of repairs. Woodgate said no tenants are facing a loss of housing at this time. “If there are decisions on building closures in months ahead, CHC’s top priority would be to notify tenants as early as possible and to assist them with planning for alternative housing options,” she said. She said the CHC gets much of its rent under a model where tenants pay 30 per cent of their income. “People’s incomes have dropped during the economic downturn, so the revenue has decreased.” The closure of those 50 units hasn’t helped matters either, leading to a loss of about $22,000 in revenue. Woodgate said a strategy or solution is needed to solve the problem long term. “We need a substantial injection of capital funding to address the deferred maintenance challenges and to avoid the need to close units,” she said.

‘We don’t have tons of time:’ Nenshi reacts to Calgary Housing closures
Metro News, Jun 8, 2017
By: Helen Pike

Although Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the current and last provincial government has forked over cash for affordable housing upkeep, the money isn’t flowing fast enough and Calgary doesn’t have time to wait. On Wednesday, Metro News reported that the situation with Calgary Housing’s aging affordable unit stock is in dire straights. So far this year, 50 affordable units have been shuttered, while 300 more were at risk of being temporarily closed down due to mounting, unfunded repairs to keep them habitable. “It is much much more cost effective to rehabilitate existing units that are at risk of closure than to build brand new ones,” said Nenshi. Last week this was the case in Bankview, where the mayor attended a reveal after affordable units were fixed up in a project he said could see the unit’s lifespan continue another 30 years. But just this week, 20 affordable housing units Ramsay were at risk until the Calgary Housing Company made a plea to the government. The problem still lies in the existing stock of buildings that were, according to Nenshi, built in a huge spurt 30 or 40 years ago. “More pressing is the fact that, as we’ve been saying for a long time, the existing stock of buildings needs to be renovated,” said Nenshi. “The province and the federal government have not allowed us to do the investment we need; and we have to do it.” The mayor said there are “very live” cases happening in Calgary now, where if the city gets funding they will be able to keep existing affordable units going for many years. “If we can’t we’ll be in a situation where it’s just not ethical to let people live there anymore,” he said. The mayor said ultimately it’s counterproductive to build new affordable units, if the city is having to turn around and close others “just because the roof is leaking.”