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.
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).
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.
It takes a certain type of person to work at Alpha House. There is a level of passion and heart that has to be present within someone in order for them to stay in the work. Addictions can cause many complexities in an individual’s life. The work is often heavy, and can take from you both mentally and physically, but in the same breath offers many blessings.
Within these walls we bandage scrapes, mediate disagreements and try to help mend hearts, all while trying to influence change in people’s lives. A listening ear or thoughtful words can do so much because often that’s all people want is someone to listen, someone to care. Everyone has a story and deserves the gift of human compassion, the feeling that when the roads are rough there is still a collective of people who will never stop caring, that will never give up.
Chrissy was one of those people, but she was more than that even. Chrissy was a person who made you want to always be a better person. No matter the circumstance, Chrissy always remained so patient, so kind, and so genuine. Her heart for the work was evident from early on at Alpha House. Chrissy handled every situation with such good intentions, and always maintained a sense of calm about her, even in the most chaotic situations. Chrissy always found the silver lining that would make you know it was all going to be okay, and that the work we do has a purpose – to spread love not hate.
Chrissy’s smile and the little giggle that went with it…this woman was the definition of a beautiful, genuine, all rounded human being. Chrissy showed her passion and love for the people she served through the countless hours she would sit with clients and let them talk about anything they needed to talk about. She always gave them that time to feel important and to feel heard, never needing to raise her voice. Chrissy cared so much for everyone, taking the time to make every person feel like they were valued.
The world has suffered the loss of a beautiful soul. Chrissy reminds us that we need to be more kind to each other and spread love throughout our communities. If more people in this world embodied the spirit and accepting nature that Chrissy did, this world would be so much easier, and so much more bearable for everyone to live in because love and acceptance really do change everything.
Written by Rebecca L., Shelter Team Lead at Alpha House
We wanted to share that the Alberta Government has announced that you can now get Naloxone kits for free at pharmacies across Alberta without a prescription. They are also putting in 3 million dollars into Opiate Dependency Programs. We have Naloxone kits in all our programs at Alpha House and have over 45 staff trained to administer it.