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.


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

.

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


National Addictions Awareness Week 2015

Shaundra Bruvall | November 9, 2015

We’re marking National Addictions Awareness Week (November 16-22) with our annual open house and retrospective of 10 years of the DOAP Team. It is important to talk and normalize addictions since it affects individuals, families and communities. Learn more about NAAWCanada‬ and check out their tool kit. The hashtag for National Addictions Awareness Week is #NAAWCanada in English and #SNSTCanada in French.​​