News & Events

Calgary Alpha House Society streamlines needle response in collaboration with The City

Shaundra Bruvall | October 16, 2019

Since the initiation of the Calgary Alpha House Society (Alpha House) Needle Response Team, Alpha House and The City of Calgary have collaborated through a targeted, ongoing response to needle debris, that includes proactive patrols and the redistribution of City-managed needle boxes.

Sharing data on collection volume and common needle debris locations has enabled Alpha House’s Needle Response Team to patrol proactive locations while continuing to respond to calls for disposal of needle debris on public and private property. Through ongoing efforts to collect data, Alpha House will continue to proactively monitor areas to adapt field patrols. Alpha House has also initiated an incentive where peer support workers take part in the Needle Response Team on proactive patrols.

“Approximately 60 per cent of all needles collected are done so through patrols and our peer support program,” said Adam Melnyk, Outreach Manager, Alpha House. “In the first six months of operation, the needle response team collected a volume of 6,570 needles, playing a vital role in our community, while building community. Through our peer support, individuals with lived experience are able to give back by working with our team.”

From March to May 2019, the Calgary Fire Department conducted a needle debris response overview with Alpha House and other community partners, to identify the volume of needle debris collected across the city and the locations in which the debris was concentrated. In this time period, 4,567 needles were picked up across the city, with the majority of the proactive and reactive responses occurring centrally. The Calgary Fire Department is currently installing redistributed needle debris boxes to areas of focus based on the data analysis.

“Through collaboration, we recognized the need for added needle debris boxes, identified priority locations, and are working on the immediate installation in these areas,” said Carol Henke, Public Information Officer, Calgary Fire Department. “Fire crews are monitoring needle boxes regularly and this will allow us to continue to enhance our response efficiencies.”

There are currently 22 needle debris boxes that are managed by the Calgary Fire Department in different locations across the city. Up to 5 needle boxes are currently being re-located or added based on the data analysis.

Alpha House is an important partner with The City of Calgary in responding to needle debris. Since the January 2019 inception of Alpha House’s Needle Response Team, the Calgary Fire Department has responded to 906 calls for needle debris, totaling 226 per cent less than received in 2018.

“Alpha House, a community organization, leading the local needle response, is proving crucial in alleviating first responders to tend to other emergency calls across Calgary,” said Henke.

“The response from the community is very positive, as this is a cost-effective approach to public safety concerns and the work extends to cooperation with other agencies as we focus on educating businesses and individuals about safely picking up needles, while engaging with these communities,” said Melnyk.

A more effective coordinated response with partners has resulted in the collection of 22,469needles between January 2019 to August 31, 2019 in Calgary.

Alpha House’s Needle Response Team can be reached at 403-796-5334 (via call or text) or email at needle@alphahousecalgary.com from Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

During the Needle Response Team’s after hours of operation, The Calgary Fire Department continues to respond to needle debris on public property or near school yards and playgrounds or needles that pose safety risk on private property. The Calgary Fire Department can be contacted by calling 9-1-1 or the non-emergency line at 403-264-1022.

For more information on The City of Calgary’s Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction, visit Calgary.ca/communityaction.


Holiday Concert to Help Keep DOAP Team on the Street

Shaundra Bruvall | October 1, 2019

Calgary –  A beloved holiday season tradition, The Huron Carole, is dedicating its proceeds to helping to keep the Alpha House DOAP team on the street in 2020.

Tom Jackson & Friends Present ‘The Huron Carole’ in support of the Alpha House
DOAP Team

Tom Jackson, founder of The Huron Carole Benefit Concert Series, is a musician, beloved TV personality (North of 60, Star Trek, Law and Order), long-time champion for the marginalized and a volunteer member of the DOAP team. Having experienced life on the streets himself, he discovered music was a way to help others. This year’s concert on December 3rd at the Bella Theatre takes on an urgent purpose as it raises money to continue funding the DOAP team that is impacted by an 8% reduction in provincial funding to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, which is a funder of the program.

“DOAP is an essential mobile and outreach service that is doing unique work within our city.  Team members travel throughout the inner city, Beltline and outlying communities to assist people under the influence of drugs or alcohol who need help navigating shelter, detox, medical services, housing and other programs and resources,” says Kathy Christiansen, Executive Director, Alpha House. “We are working to identify new sources of funding through various levels of government, corporate and community partners. Tom’s generosity in dedicating one of this year’s Huron Carole concert proceeds to DOAP brings our community together to continue to help the evolving and unique needs of vulnerable Calgarians. We are asking Calgarians to buy tickets and get involved through sponsorship and silent auction donations.”

The current shortfall is about $20,000/month to operate the DOAP team that averages 57 transports a day. The larger cuts projected for April 2020 without replacement funding will lead to a reduced presence of the DOAP team across the city and a much more limited response. DOAP will then be focused solely on the Beltline and downtown areas at reduced hours and will not be able to assist those who need help in surrounding communities.

“As a member of the DOAP team, I see firsthand the impact we have on marginalized people every single day. Dedicating one of this year’s Huron Carole performances is a way that I can invite Calgarians to be part of the solution in a meaningful and soulful way,” says Tom Jackson. “Path to a Miracle is our theme this year as we pay attention to the light inside all of us…the path we create and the path we leave behind.”

If you are interested in supporting the DOAP Team through The Huron Carole, you can purchase tickets, become a sponsor, or donate to our silent auction.

Concert Details:

The Huron Carole, Tuesday, December 3, 2019,  Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal University

Tickets: www.tickets.mru.ca/huroncarole

  • $55 – reserved seating  
  • $100 – reserved seating and Tom Jackson meet and greet

Sponsorships and silent auction donations: donate@alphahousecalgary.com     

About The Huron Carole

The Huron Carole is a seasonal music tradition spanning more than 3 decades touring from coast to coast to coast. Expect an evening of contemporary and signature Christmas music, along with stories creatively crafted by Tom Jackson.  Award winning musicians Tom McKillip, Darryl Havers, John MacArthur Ellis, Kirby Barber and Diane Lines join Tom onstage.  This performance will be one of 16 across Canada raising funds for local food banks and family service agencies.  

Helpful links:

The Huron Carole: https://huroncarole.ca

Tom Jackson DOAP Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c-dJTPmv-A&t=13s


An Update on our DOAP Team

Shaundra Bruvall | August 21, 2019

An Update to the Community on our DOAP Team:

The recent announcement about the reduction in provincial government funding to the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) is raising questions about the future of our DOAP Team and the implications for the people we serve and our broader community.

The background

In September 2019, CHF will see an 8% reduction in their provincial funding. As a result, the CHF has to make some unanticipated changes in funding allocations. Four of their funded programs not directly related to housing will see reductions and our Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) Team is among these programs.

Since its beginning in 2005, our DOAP team has served a unique need within the city of Calgary. Our team is an essential mobile and outreach service as members travel throughout the inner city, Beltline and outlying communities to assist people under the influence of drugs or alcohol who need help navigating shelter, detox, medical services, housing and other programs and resources.

The DOAP team is an established and integral part of the response to street-level issues, significantly reducing the impact of public intoxication and homelessness on the broader community and public systems. Through DOAP, we can divert people away from inappropriate use of emergency services.

There is no other team doing this work in the city, it will almost certainly get offloaded onto an already stretched public service system [Calgary Police Service and Emergency Medical Service].

In 2018, the DOAP team conducted over 20,700 transports and in 2019 (57 transports a day), with the program expansion, we are seeing higher numbers that reflects the ongoing need for Calgarians across the city, averaging about 89 transports daily.

What does the funding shortfall mean?

For the remainder of the fiscal year 2019 to March 31, 2020, our goal is to sustain the current DOAP program. We are committed to finding funding from various funding sources and the community for the short term to allow all of our current DOAP teams to remain active throughout the fall and winter, when it is essential that people can access our help.

The larger cuts projected for April 2020 without replacement funding will lead to a reduced presence of the DOAP team across the city and a much more limited response. DOAP will then be focused solely on the Beltline and downtown at reduced hours. We feel it is important that we keep our teams on the street, given the evolving and unique needs of vulnerable Calgarians.

Our goal is to find new funding that will enable us to continue to offer our DOAP program at its current level by April 2020.

Alpha House is already in the process of approaching different levels of government to explore ways to address the funding shortfall. We welcome support from corporate Calgary, individuals, and private donors. If you would like to learn more about how you can support the team, please contact me at 403-234-7388.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support. We will provide updates on our progress in the months to come.

 

Kathy Christiansen

Executive Director

Calgary Alpha House Society


The Value of Community

Shaundra Bruvall | June 26, 2019

June 26, 2019

Alpha House is fortunate to have the support of the Calgary community. Over the past couple of days, we have seen a tremendous outpouring of kindness as many Calgarians reached out to us in response to a recent petition that advocates for the relocation of our shelter and detox programs on 15th Avenue.

I feel it is important to address some of the key inaccuracies communicated in this petition, and to also share how we desire to be part of and work in community.

Alpha House has been a part of the Calgary community for almost 40 years. In that time, we’ve become recognized as a leader in helping men and women who are struggling with addictions and mental health issues, which are often a result of early trauma in their lives. Following a continuum of care model, we help people find the resources they need to live healthier lives and to find appropriate housing that is often the key to supporting long term well-being and improved health.

Our shelter is busy, but we are not over-capacity and we do not turn people away. We meet people where they are at in their life journey and help them access the right programs and resources along our continuum of care, which includes outreach, encampment, shelter, detox and transitional housing, as well as permanent housing.

Our location is central and accessible to many Calgarians who are in the downtown core and need to access our services. Many of the agencies we partner with are also located in downtown, making it more efficient and effective to collaborate on solutions to address social issues and to help those who need assistance.

Safety is very important to us – for the vulnerable Calgarians we serve, our employees and the residents and businesses that are part of the larger surrounding community. We value our relationships with neighbours and welcome open dialogue. We also take concerns seriously and some of the ways we respond include:

  • Participating in regular stakeholder meetings
  • Providing a dedicated phone number for our immediate neighbours to call
  • Having our staff on the street in front of our main entrance 24/7 to assist the vulnerable Calgarians we serve, as well as to respond to community concerns
  • Documenting all community calls and recording our responses to track any trends or key issues
  • Offering free Vulnerable Persons Training to those who would like to learn more about how to engage with the Calgarians we serve

The expansion of our Downtown Addictions Outreach Partnership (DOAP) team earlier this year allowed us to dedicate more resources to the Beltline area. We also introduced a dedicated needle response team to respond to community concerns and needle debris.

I encourage our neighbours to come visit our facility and learn more about our work – and the difference – that we make. The people we serve have the same hopes as many Calgarians – they want to be accepted, feel safe and belong to a community.

The incredible support we’ve received from local businesses, neighbours, individuals and organizations who have reached out to us is an affirmation that we can come together to find solutions to help our fellow Calgarians who need it most.

Sincerely,

Kathy Christiansen

Executive Director

Alpha House Calgary

 

 


Alpha House Outreach Programs in High Demand

Shaundra Bruvall | May 14, 2019

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We finally have some warmer weather on our hands and that means a number of different things. With snow no longer in the forecast and no longer on the ground, re-exposure of the land means you might notice needles or other debris on your commute to work, school or on your way home. If you spot a needle on either private or public property, don’t hesitate to give our Needle Response Team (NRT) a call. Operating five days a week from 8 AM – 6PM, the NRT is trained to properly dispose of needles 403. 796.5334.

Another thing you might notice as the weather continues to warm up is an assortment of “rough sleepers” – this is a term used to describe individuals who are camping or sleeping outdoors in public areas. Alpha House’s Encampment Team are a mobile response unit that connects with individuals who are “camping” or “sleeping rough” outside, with the goal of helping individuals secure housing, visit the doctor, get to a shelter, or anything else they might need. If you notice a camp, we encourage you to call the Encampment Team at 403.805.7388.

The warm weather also creates the potential for overheating, dehydration, and sunburn. If you see someone on the street who may be in distress, please get in touch with our DOAP (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) team at 403.998.7388. Should someone be in need of immediate assistance, please call 911.


International Harm Reduction Day 2019

Shaundra Bruvall | May 7, 2019

This is the 6th International Harm Reduction day and it has got us thinking about the principles of harm reduction. Alpha House supports a harm reduction approach in all of its programs. We know  every individual has their own journey and should be treated with support and dignity while they navigate that path.

There is some great discourse happening lately on harm reduction,  addiction and mental health. We want this discourse to continue in Canada and around the world. By continuing to learn, collaborate, and educate others, we can continue to provide hope to individuals caught in a cycle of addiction. Last month, Policy Options shared a great article on the need for greater resources and investment in health care that we thought we’d highlight today.

“”I’ve met thousands of people with substance addiction and I’ve never met any for whom this was their life plan,” says Dr. John Weekes, director of research and academics at the Waypoint Research Institute in Penetanguishene, Ontario.” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019)

We have been fortunate in Alberta to have non-profit agencies and local government that have made harm reduction a principle of their work, but there is more work to be done still. Research continues to show the factors that fuel, and put individuals at risk of, addiction.

“Dr. Sheri Fandrey clinical assistant professor at the University of Manitoba said it well, “We don’t have an opioid crisis or a methamphetamine crisis. We have a trauma crisis; a housing crisis; a poverty crisis; a stigma crisis.”” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019).

Read “Opioid crisis needs more attention and investment: https://bit.ly/2IYe0Jy


Alpha House Partnership with Calgary Transit Continues!

Shaundra Bruvall | April 26, 2019

The two members of the DOAP Transit team, April 24, 2019.

We are so excited to be continuing our partnership with Calgary Transit to bring the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) team to city transit, providing a new avenue for vulnerable individuals to connect with addiction services and other social supports.

Alpha House started the pilot for the DOAP Transit program alongside Calgary Transit in September 2018. Funded by the City of Calgary’s Crime Prevention Investment Plan, the Community Outreach Team consists of a Calgary Transit Peace Officer and one of Alpha House’s DOAP team members.

In the 6 months since its creation, the program has had 667 interactions with individuals on city transit. These interactions have led to over 200 welfare checks, 148 case management portfolios, 124 transports, 43 referrals to other community outreach programs, and 16 hospital visits.

“The Calgary Alpha House Society and Calgary Transit partnership has enriched our ability to bring the appropriate support to vulnerable Calgarians while improving safety and facilitating access to services individuals require.” Kathy Christiansen, Executive Director, Alpha House. “We look forward to continuing the collaboration and building on the great work that has already been achieved.”

If CTrain riders see someone who may need assistance, they are encouraged to use a Calgary Transit Help Phone or dial 403-262-1000 (option 1). If an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information about the DOAP Transit team, along with Alpha House’s other Outreach programs, visit http://alphahousecalgary.com/services/outreach/.

You can check out more media coverage detailing the program extension below:

Calgary Transit DOAP program a success, will be extended through 2019: city
April 24, 2019 | Heide Pearson, Global News

Calgary Transit and Alpha House will continue partnering to help vulnerable Calgarians

April 24, 2019 | Dave Dormer, CTV News

Calgary Transit teams with Alpha House to help vulnerable

April 24, 2019 | Dean Pilling, Calgary Herald

Calgary outreach program building connections with most vulnerable

April 24, 2019 | Kass Patterson, 660 News


Alpha House FUNDrive with Value Village

Shaundra Bruvall | October 6, 2017

We have teamed up with Value Village for a FUNDrive in October and need donations of gently-used clothing and household items to help us raise funds for much needed winter items and to increase our client fund.

Items will be received for the entire month of October 2017 at Calgary Alpha House Society – 203 15th Ave SE. We will gladly accept donations for our FUNDrive from 7am to 7pm; please come to our front door on 15 Ave SE and our staff will be happy to assist you. If you have a large amount of goods to donate, please call ahead so that we can be ready when you arrive, 403-234-7388 ext# 1.

Our goal is to raise $1000 in funds by collecting 400 bags of clothing. Our partnership with Value Village will help us to gain access to clothing all year round through the Get to Give Program.

Acceptable donations include clean clothing, shoes, accessories, books, CDs, DVDs, linens and working small household items the size of a microwave or smaller (no furniture please).

Calgary Alpha House Society is holding the FUNDrive in partnership with Value Village; a global thrift organization. Items collected during the drive will be sold to local Value Village stores and we will receive funds towards goods we need for our clients.

 

 

 


Chrissysentme – Thank You

Shaundra Bruvall | June 22, 2017

 “May the stars carry your sadness away, may the flowers fill your heart with beauty, may hope forever wipe away your tears, and, above all, may silence make you strong.” – Native American Proverb

This has been a very sad time at Alpha House as we’ve mourned the loss of our dear colleague and friend, Chrissy Archibald. And yet in our sadness, we’ve also celebrated Chrissy’s incredible spirit of compassion, her kindness, and her ability to connect with people of all walks of life and offer them hope.

In these difficult days, we’ve also been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community, both here in Calgary and from around the world.  The #ChrissySentMe movement — that evolved from a statement started by her family— became a venue to honour her life’s passion. It touches us at Alpha House and extends to other organizations serving marginalized people across Canada and throughout the globe.

Thank you to all the individuals and organizations who shared words of encouragement, sent flowers, volunteered or made a donation in honour of Chrissy. Your kind gestures show that love always wins. To our clients, who paid tribute to Chrissy’s impact and touch on their lives, thank you for sharing your memories and encouraging us as we grieve. To the media who told Chrissy’s story with sensitivity, thank you for understanding how difficult those early hours and days were as we tried to make sense of this tragedy.

And finally, to Chrissy’s family, we are so deeply sorry for your unimaginable loss. We will continue to find ways to honour Chrissy in our work here at Alpha House, and we feel her spirit with us. She will be remembered always.

Sincerely,

Kathy Christiansen

Executive Director, Alpha House


Walk A Mile In Our Moccasins

Shaundra Bruvall | June 16, 2017

Walk a Mile in Our Moccasins

In celebration of Aboriginal Awareness Week, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary and Calgary Alpha House are joining together to support reconciliation and awareness through an event that will teach the tradition of moccasin making. Come walk a mile in our moccasins, and learn the tradition of moccasin making through community connection and cultural teachings.

Indigenous moccasins were a nearly universal element from tribe to tribe, with distinctive features and subtle patterns among the various tribes. Indigenous people could often tell each other’s tribal affiliation simply from the design of their shoes. Authentic Indigenous moccasins are made with all natural materials that signify a historical connection to the land. Creating authentic Indigenous crafts builds a genuine cultural connection that’s crucial in rebuilding relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Who:                EFry Calgary and Calgary Alpha House

What:              “Walk a Mile in Our Moccasins”

$55 includes all material and instruction to make one pair of infant moccasins

When:              Monday, June 19

5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Where:            Sunalta Community Centre

1627 10 Avenue SW

Why:                In celebration of Aboriginal Awareness Week

Registration is limited; call 403-294-0737 to secure your spot. Participation supports both Alpha House and EFry Calgary’s Indigenous Programming.