News & Events

Alpha House’s Covid-19 Response

Shaundra Bruvall | March 13, 2020


Alpha House Response to COVID-19

As of April 2, 2020

No new updates to provide. Please see below for most recent changes to services. Thank you, as always, for your continued support of our work.

As of March 30, 2020

Calgary Update:

  • No Covid-19 Positive clients to date
  • Successfully transitioned 40 clients to additional shelter space in the city (please see below for a list of items needed, if you are interested in donating to these clients)
  • Hired new staff to support overflow space and additional operations
  • Continue to triage and screen clients
  • Shelter capacity steady at 88 clients
  • Continue to disinfect and sterilize all equipment and supplies frequently and diligently
  • Detox assessments briefly opened to intake a small number of new clients

Lethbridge Update:

  • Taken on full operation of the Lethbridge Stabilization and Resource Shelter (capacity 125-beds)
  • Opened overflow shelter space in the city
  • Transitioned some clients to additional units in the city, with supports
  • Continue to triage and screen clients
  • Continue to disinfect and sterilize all equipment and supplies frequently and diligently

We are looking for donations of coffee, puzzles, cards, games, crafting supplies, and female makeup for our clients who have transitioned to new individual units in the city. We thank you all for your continued support of Alpha House and our clients. for a full list of our needs, please visit http://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/


As of March 26, 2020

Prevention continues to be our greatest safeguard for our clients, staff and the general public. Our leadership group has been working diligently with all levels of Government to continually implement best practices across all our programs: Shelter, Detox, Housing and Outreach. Alpha House does not have any positive Covid-19 clients to date.

We are grateful to the City of Calgary and CEMA for collaborating with agencies across the city to provide overflow shelter space and isolation units. Alpha House has successfully transitioned some of our clients to the overflow space to help reduce strain on our main programs.

Other prevention measures continue:

  • Triage and screen clients before building entry
  • Utilize health beds in an isolated unit for clients awaiting test results
  • Encourage and make it possible for clients to practice social distancing and good hygiene
  • Disinfect and sterilize all equipment and supplies frequently and diligently
  • Keep suspended all volunteer groups and external programming

Donations of food, cleaning supplies, PPE, and new underwear and socks have been wonderful to receive. We thank you all for your continued support of Alpha House and our clients. If you would like to get a better idea of our needs, please visit http://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/


As of March 23, 2020:

At Alpha House we know that prevention is our most effective tool to safeguard our clients, staff, and the general public. We have implemented and continue to implement new measures to remain in the prevention stage for as long as possible. We do not have any positive Covid-19 clients to date.

We continue to work within the system of care and all levels of government to:

  • Finalize agreements for additional space for shelter in the city
  • Triage and screen clients before building entry
  • Create an offsite isolation space for clients with Covid-19
  • Hire additional front-line staff

We are pleased to be working with the City of Calgary and CEMA for overflow shelter space and isolation units at this time.

Current prevention measures across all programs, include:

  • Checking clients’ temperature prior to their entry to the Shelter or Outreach Van and spraying hands with disinfectant, providing masks where necessary
  • Converting building space to increase distance between shelter beds
  • Immediately isolating a client presenting with Covid-19 symptoms and contacting community paramedics to determine next steps
  • Increasing the frequency of sterilization of our equipment, especially in high priority areas
  • Suspending all external programming and volunteering to decrease the number of people coming in and out of the shelter

If you would like to support Alpha House, please visit http://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/

As of March 17, 2020:

Alpha House is suspending all daily, weekly, and monthly volunteer activities including:

  • Kitchen Support
  • Detox Mentoring
  • Soup Kitchen
  • Sunday Lunch
  • Bagging Group
  • Out to Lunch Sandwich Group
  • Yoga Instruction
  • Hair Cuts
  • Music Circle
  • Art Group
  • AAWEAR Group
  • Corporate and Faith Group Onsite Support
  • Tour Requests

If you wish to support Alpha House, we are able to accept monetary donations through our website. In-kind donations are accepted with some restrictions. Please see http://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/ for a list of needed items that can be dropped off at the Shelter (203 15 Ave SE). We ask that you do NOT come to the Shelter if you are feeling unwell.

As of March 16, 2020:

Alpha House will no longer be assessing or accepting clients for our Detox Program. All clients who wish to will be able to stay in the residential program until other options are available to them.

As of March 13, 2020:

In light of a growing number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Alberta and Calgary, I want to give you an update about the situation from Alpha House’s perspective. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are monitoring recommendations from Alberta Health Services and all levels of government.

To do our best to keep the risk of COVID-19 low, Alpha House has established an internal committee working with both the City of Calgary and the Government of Alberta, as well as other agencies in the shelter system. The goal of this committee is to ensure we are all prepared with a coordinated response to protect those who enter the shelter as well as the public at large.

As an emergency shelter, we understand that the population we serve is particularly vulnerable. If anything changes and to keep everyone healthy, we may cancel volunteer shifts, tours or activities on short notice. As part of our collective preparedness, we ask that everyone takes precaution and does not come into the shelter if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.  

Alpha House is continually monitoring the situation in Calgary and will adjust programming and operations on an as-needed basis. We are taking measured precautions in all areas, including:

  • providing additional medical supplies to our buildings
  • increasing client’s awareness of and access to good hygiene practices
  • increasing the frequency with which we are cleaning and disinfecting spaces and equipment beyond our high normal standards
  • implementing protocols in place for staff to take all necessary precautions

We are diligently in communications with Alberta Health Services and other agencies to help monitor and minimize the chance of an outbreak from occurring within the vulnerable homeless population in Calgary.

Finally, while the current risk is low, it is important that we are prepared in case that changes. We all have a role to play to keep each other safe and healthy.

It is natural that we worry about new threats to our health, and the best thing you can do if you are worried is to get up to date information from reliable sources such as Alberta Health (www.alberta.ca/coronavirus) and Alberta Health Services (www.ahs.ca/covid). You can also take preventive steps, like hand washing regularly, to reduce your risk of infection.

We will provide updates on an ongoing basis and encourage anyone with specific questions to contact us at info@alphahousecalgary.com.

Thank you for your continued support of Alpha House.

Kathy Christiansen

Executive Director
Calgary Alpha House Society

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


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

 

 


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


Remembering Chrissy

David Burke | June 9, 2017

Remembering Chrissy

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

Alpha House News News


Easier Access to Naloxone Kits

Shaundra Bruvall | May 13, 2016

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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.

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