News & Events

Grief and Loss at Alpha House: A Personal Reflection*

Shaundra Bruvall | June 30, 2020

(* As a personal reflection I am recalling my own experience of what for most is a very personal experience and in no way am speaking for someone else’s experience.. Also this is not a speculation on causes of death which is probably at the expected rate for the size of the population of the city of Calgary) 

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The above picture and poem are part of the pop-up memorial for clients that have died and are remembered by staff and other clients at Alpha House. At least twice yearly we commemorate the passing of clients with boards like the one above filled with coloured butterflies bearing the names of those who have recently passed away. The display is set up for a month and then we offer a memorial service for all wanting to attend. At the memorial service we drum and sing, offer smudge, lite candles, and speak prayers for a safe crossing as the names are read. We close with a favorite song, or with antidotes and stories of those who have passed. At the end refreshments often along with a meal is served, reminding  us all that we need to care for ourselves as we grieve and move on with our lives.

Talking with staff and clients about grief and loss I have been told of some of the specific ways that people mark the death of someone they knew, worked with closely or carry in some way as a loss. Several take flowers they find growing wild or rocks that attract their eye and drop them into the Elbow River or Bow River from a bridge or shoreline, adding a prayer as they symbolically let the deceased person go. Some set adrift ordinary brown bags with a lighted tea candle inside and set them on the river just before dawn or later after sunset with a similar prayer of letting go. At one ceremony for a deceased staff member we set fifty or so helium filled balloons to the afternoon sky as a way of saying safe journey. Before COVID19 it is not unusual for staff and clients to join with family members and there memorial services for a love one. At times we have accommodated a family or group of friends to use our space at Alpha House for that purpose. Some client’s display their grief verbally with tearful out breaks and even what can seem like anger; some with the funny and the dear stories they remember. Staff debrief and talk things out with trusted colleagues and supports. Formally and informally those that survive find their ways to grieve and move forward from loss. As humans we need to express our grief and loss often collectively and always personally. Tears are shed and rituals are given meaning as we mark the dignity of life and of dying of those whose lives have touched our own.

 My personal experience with death and dying spans my career as a social worker. My first job as a caseworker with the then known AIDS Calgary taught me a few things about grieving and its importance. My work at Alpha House has continued to be a teacher in this regard. Many of our people have died without family near and as staff we were in that fortunate place to bear witness to their life, truly an honour. In these days of COVID19 as it once was during the AIDS epidemic it seems like grief and loss is everywhere. All the more reason to rely on rituals especially those specific to ourselves to acknowledge the impact of loss in our collective and personal lives. Under COVID19 restrictions our group memorial will have to wait as we remain attuned to the expression of grief.

 To bear witness at the passing of a client I have known is to not give in to the adage that ‘the person now is in a better place’. It may be true they are, but I have learned that people can be the most alive in their dying. I often use phrases like ‘they are in a better place ‘or  ‘at least they are no longer suffering’ to give reason to the experience that even when someone’s dying  is expected it can often feel sudden and too soon. By not using these phrases or getting beyond them I am better able to speak to their lived lives; the great desire people have to keep living through the difficult challenges of addiction and mental health. Death came as clients were busy living, loving and caring in the best ways they knew.

 This doesn’t mean we forget what can improve people’s lives and the challenges they face. Each passing reminds us to keep to the task at hand of improving the lives that we touch and touch us.  Issues from poverty to homelessness, racism and colonialism and the failed war on drugs are part of this ongoing work. The lives of those who have died help us to remember the ongoing work as a society we need to do.

 Alpha House takes people where they are at and our challenge is to advocate for change in our non-judgmental capacity. It is helpful to recall the community the client lived in and drew support from and not just their history of trauma and missteps they may have taken. That is why when family and friends come to a service we are hosting or when we can attend one of theirs what makes us equals shine through. When clients who knew the deceased gather outside for an impromptu remembrance these can be so meaningful. When staff and clients can share smudge (outside in small gathering these days) closure is made possible.

For the clients who have died I remember them as people who lived resourcefully, with humor, resilience, eccentricity, and with love and caring for others in all ways that humans express their humanity to each other. Addiction and mental health in the end didn’t defeat them, just as addiction and mental health aren’t the conclave of the marginalized, homeless and impoverished as it crosses all social and economic status. I choose to recall the aliveness, joy, love and cultural expression of those who have gone before.

David is marking his 25th year of service at Alpha House with a series of blogs.


Wellbriety at Alpha House

Shaundra Bruvall | June 10, 2020

On Tuesdays and Thursdays for over 2 years, Alpha House has hosted Wellbriety sessions for clients who are completing or have already completed our Detox Program. Clients return each week to keep a connection to this Indigenous program offering. (During Covid-19, we have limited numbers and incorporated social distancing and other health requirements).

Facilitated by our Cultural Reconnection Peer Support Worker, Michael Firingstoney, and co-founded with Wade Maude, our Indigenous Coordinator, this co-ed recovery program has become a mainstay for Detox and returning participants alike.

The Wellbriety Movement (also called the Wellbriety Path) uses culture to help individuals to heal from drug and alcohol use, as well as to heal from the systemic, inter-generational and historical trauma that is often related to substance addictions for Indigenous people. The program is robust and adaptable and it enriches the recovery path of all individuals who decide to participate. At its heart, it sees Indigenous culture as preventative and restorative.

 “The Wellbriety Movement was born in the early to mid-1990s and merged 12 Step AA/NA with the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. This approach uses any or all the various local tribal traditions in meetings and talking circles. The Wellbriety Movement also highlighted the need to go beyond sobriety to heal the wounds of inter-generational trauma carried by almost all Native Americans people (Coyhis, 2006). Native Americans people now understand that alcoholism is a symptom of more deeply embedded wounds. The most prevalent wound is the trauma of oppressive genocidal behaviors and policies arising from the dominant Euro-American society and passed down unabated from generation to generation. The most obvious outward causes of inter-generational trauma.”

Linda Anderson: The WellBriety Path to Treating Co-Occurring Disorders in Native Americans: An Adlerian Perspective An Experiential Project 2017

Alpha House employs over 300 people with diverse cultural backgrounds. Each year the Detox program alone welcomes nearly two thousand clients of diverse ethical and religious backgrounds. As Alpha House seeks to provide safe and caring environments for men and women with alcohol and substance use addictions, Wellbriety has become an inclusive environment for all.

Between 50 – 60% of Alpha House clients are Indigenous or of Metis descent.  The Indigenous program through Wellbriety connects participants to agency sponsored Sweat Lodge Ceremony, Drumming Circles, Sharing Circles, and access to Elders. All clients are offered these services as part of Alpha House’s continuum of care. Alpha House recognizes that trauma informed care for all helps to heal the wounds of addiction and of historical and ongoing systemic discrimination.

How does it work?

Every Wellbriety session at Alpha House attracts 8-10 people per session (3-4 during Covid-19) and each group of sessions is offered over a three month period. Given the nature of Detox, not everyone will complete the full set of modules offered in one go. However the door is open for those wanting to maintain their recovery by completing the Wellbriety steps. Each cycle is marked initially by welcoming returning clients and at the ending of the cycle by recognizing participants who have completed the Wellbriety program. The Wellbriety Path in this way welcomes continuous engagement. 

Comments from WellBriety participants at Alpha House:

A Wellbriety graduation in March 2020

“Wellbriety has helped inspire me to stay sober through connecting my sobriety through traditional teachings. Within the holistic framework Wellbriety uses I find myself more inclined to share about the suffering that goes along with addiction.” Matt

“It has given me a better outlook and a different approach to sobriety.” Alex

“Myself, I’ve been to numerous treatment centers and have found in Wellbriety the awareness surrounding oppression and spirituality as internal was beneficial. “ Jared

  Delaware Indians, Anxiety And Anger, Native American Beading, Thing 1 Thing 2, Recovery, The Creator, Finding Yourself, Healing, Positivity

There is a solution for us as Native people, and for some of us it is a return to the traditional ceremonies of our Nations. For some of us, it is to seek out an Elder and have him or her help us find the path to the Good Road or to the Red Road as we call it.

The Red Road to Wellbriety Study Guide page 19

Looking Forward

Over time we hope that as alumni mature and grow they will also become instrumental in supporting the Wellbriety program. We aren’t there yet but it looks promising. One alumni beginning has been the Sober Clan, as an offshoot of the Alpha House Wellbriety sessions this group of alumni now help with running of the meetings and assisting the facilitator and new group members with their stories of recovery. Several of the Sober Clan have reached their one year of recovery thanks to Wellbriety.

Text Box: Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear
In the wind
Whose breath gives life
To the world
Hear me 
I come to you
As one of your many children 
I am small and weak
I need your strength
And wisdom
May I walk
In beauty
The Wellbriety 30 day recovery medallion is engraved with these words that continue to inspire us to support this meaningful and healing program…
 
Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear
In the wind
Whose breath gives life
To the world
Hear me
I come to you
As one of your many children
I am small and weak
I need your strength
And wisdom
May I walk
In beauty

To date we have given out 50, 30-day medallions; for some, marking their longest period of sobriety. We are proud for all who have participated and all who have shown their best in this Alpha House Indigenous program offering.

Please note that Indigenous Programming at Alpha House is dependent on individual and community donations from people like you .

David is marking his 25th year of service at Alpha House with a series of blogs.


Recovery at Alpha House During COVID-19

Shaundra Bruvall | May 21, 2020

For many of those who know Alpha House, you know that recovery and harm reduction principles and practices are part of our work culture and go hand-in-hand…two sides of the same coin.

The shared principles that bridge the dichotomy between harm reduction and recovery include:

  • Respect
  • Dignity
  • Compassion
  • Building trust and relationship
  • Being non judgemental
  • Increasing our quality of response

Alpha House has developed wise practices that work for people and their willingness for change. From our understanding change is incremental and begins with small steps. As someone recently coined it …practicing harm recovery.

“It may be that traditional <office-based> substance abuse programs continue to operate according to the philosophy that people with addiction disorders need to ‘‘hit bottom’’ and seek help for treatment to be successful. There has been a challenge to this paradigm in the trans-theoretical model proposed by Prochaska and DiClemente which posits that behavior change involves a process that occurs in increments. Change is viewed as a progression from a pre-contemplation stage—where the person is not considering a change; to contemplation—where the person is carefully weighing the pros and cons of changing; to preparation—where planning and commitments for change efforts are secured; to action—to make the particular change; to maintenance—in which the person works to sustain long-term changes. Also, Motivational Enhancement Therapy is an evidence-based practice in addictions treatment that views ambivalence as a part of the recovery process, and employs strategies to reduce ambivalence by building motivation.” [1]

Alpha House staff are keen observers of the stage of change model and motivational interviewing and use these tools to support the recovery of the men and women they serve. Along with our understanding  of crisis management, trauma informed care, brain science, the complexity of alcohol and drug use, and the importance of fellowship and mentoring, Alpha House has created an extensive tool kit that help staff to build motivation with and for its clients. Alpha House’s commitment to those with alcoholic and substance abuse issues, often marginalized, homeless, and street engaged is to bring empowerment and inclusion while meeting them where they are at. In doing so, Alpha House responds daily to the chronic nature of addiction not just to its acute manifestations.          

“You don’t get over an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it’s easier to not use. If you don’t create a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will catch up with you again.”

– Unknown

Alpha House, its staff and its clients are on the front line of COVID-19 and recovery. By building relationships, we are helping people to create new lives no matter what challenges precipitate. Many years ago in my first year at Alpha House a value statement emerged from the staff …simply put it stated that people we worked with were more than their addiction. How great is that…at the time 24 staff worked together to foster that value statement as part of its strategic plan for the agency. Now we have over 300 staff and that value statement still stands as we move forward with our clients every day. COVID-19 doesn’t preclude recovery…it provides an opportunity to re-frame a person’s belief that recovery isn’t possible. There is no good time for recovery except for the willingness to begin…one small step at a time.

The process begins anew every day. Stabilization and care are key as clients move through our programs of outreach, shelter, detox, and housing. Keeping people safe during COVID-19 is not different from reducing harm from their addiction and making space in people’s lives for recovery.

Given that clients don’t have access to treatment centres or to peer support step programs these days due COVID-19 it would seem that recovery has been pushed out of the picture. Crisis management however tells us otherwise…dialogue, active listening, and reframing as well as providing a safe and caring environment does foster change and can influence positive outcomes. Our work is more than planting seeds for change, it is observing and responding to what is already growing within each client. As we face this pandemic we do so together and we see clients as more than their addiction. We have been able to maintain detox scenarios throughout our pandemic response, though sometimes with reduced capacity. We have been able to encourage abstinence for those that want it by providing supportive touch and verbal and nonverbal communication as we move them from outreach, shelter to transitional beds and housing.

In our shelters in Calgary and Lethbridge, we educate and model for clients the importance of social distancing, hand washing, and continuous masking and we have increased access to nursing care including symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. The variables fluctuate but the path doesn’t, we don’t compromise on recovery because of COVID-19.

“The waveform that overwhelms a maturing human being from the inside is the inescapable nature of their own flaws and weaknesses, their self-deceptions and their attempts to create false names and stories to place themselves in the world; the felt need to control the narrative of the story around them with no regard to outside revelation. The immense wave on the outside is the invitation to give that self-up, to be borne off by the wave and renamed, revealed and re-ordered by the powerful flow. “ [2]

In our shelter and detox, stabilization and recovery includes offering things that make a difference:

  • Increase phone access for clients so as to contact those they are worried about and encouraging them to reach out to those who may be worried about them due to COVID-19.
  • Although in house services have been impacted that has meant an increase in staff time for each person with staff able to engage clients more deeply and frequently.
  • Recovery includes providing respite and nourishment when other sources have closed or limited access.
  • It also means making sure people have access to their medication and being able to address medical and mental health needs.
  • Encouraging clients to develop routines and check-ins with staff

The people we work with have given us many anecdotal statements over the years. Their voices continue today to counter the judgements of those that don’t often value or know the nature of our work…but even more their voices counter the narratives that have constrained them in the past… they deserve to have the last comments of this post…

This was a life lesson for me, thank you for the opportunity and hospitality

Alpha House acknowledges the potential anybody has and is willing to help. I think that is magical

Everyone who helped me are angels! Thank you for giving me the first step towards taking my life back.

Thank you everyone for all the tools to set me sober, I fell as if this is a huge step forward in the right direction for me and my family, thanks.

The staff have been extremely helpful, especially with helping to get me through my low moments and to help me stay focused on what I have accomplished and steps I’m taking.

From dry out to sober living, Alpha House has been instrumental in my recovery

COVID-19 has impacted and limited activities [in Detox] but  the positive influence of staff have helped me to stay sober.

David is marking his 25th year of service at Alpha House with a series of blogs. If you would like to share your story or comments with him you can reach him at david@alphahousecalgary.com


[1] Assertive Outreach: An Effective Strategy for Engaging Homeless Persons with Substance Use Disorders into Treatment Deborah Fisk, L.C.S.W.,1Jaak Rakfeldt, Ph.D.,2andErin McCormack, M.S.W.

[2] CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. 2014. David Whyte and Many Rivers Press


Alpha House’s COVID-19 Response

Shaundra Bruvall | March 13, 2020


Alpha House Response to COVID-19

As of June 26, 2020

We are pleased to say that we are out of “outbreak” status as of June 23rd. We have expanded our Shelter back to our pandemic response numbers (88) and we continue to support our clients in all the ways available to us.


As of June 18, 2020

There are no updates at this time. Please see below for the latest developments in our pandemic response.


As of June 12, 2020

We continue to have no further positive COVID-19 cases at Alpha House since May 25, 2020. Our Detox services continue to intake new clients. Our Outreach Teams are busy working with individuals on the streets. Alpha House Staff continue to abide by Alberta Health Regulations.


As of June 8, 2020

There have been no positive COVID-19 cases at Alpha House since May 25, 2020.

Our Detox services in Calgary continue to intake new clients and we continue to conduct asymptomatic tests daily.

There continue to be no positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.


As of June 3, 2020

As of June 3, 2020, thirteen (13) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House. The last positive reported case at Alpha House was May 25th. At this time, we are still considered to be in “outbreak.” Please see below for more information on Alpha’s preparedness for positive cases. We are following all AHS guidelines and testing clients daily.

There continues to be no identified positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB. If you are able to donate, we are accepting monetary and in-kind gifts. For details, please see https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/


As of May 22, 2020

As of May 22, 2020, twelve (12) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House. The last positive reported case at Alpha House was May 22nd. At this time, we are still considered to be in “outbreak.” Please see below for more information on Alpha’s preparedness for positive cases. We are following all AHS guidelines and testing clients daily.

There continues to be no identified positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.


As of May 20, 2020

As of May 20, 2020, eleven (11) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House. At this time we are still considered to be in “outbreak.” Alberta Health Services classifies an outbreak as “any one (1) client or staff member confirmed to have COVID-19.” As a result of this classification, we anticipate being in “outbreak” for some time given our commitment to our clients and the fact that we are testing daily, including for individuals who are asymptomatic.

At this time, the last positive reported case at Alpha House was May 16th. We expect to see more positive cases within our client population as we continue to fulfill our mission of serving vulnerable Calgarians. When someone comes to our Shelter in a vulnerable state, we will care for them. Strict guidelines for PPE and sterilization of equipment are in place, however we have opened up a small number of detox intakes.

There continues to be no identified positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.


As of May 14, 2020

As of May 14, 2020, eight (8) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House through our continuous screening efforts and contact tracing processes with the most recent positive case reported May 13, 2020 Programs continue at Alpha House with reduced capacities and additional AHS measures to keep clients and staff safe.

As operations evolve with our pandemic response, we are asking the public to consider donating individually wrapped snacks (chips, jerky, granola bars, juice boxes…etc.), puzzles, and board games to support clients across all our programs as we continue to implement social distancing guidelines. For a full list of our needs, please visit (https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/)


As of May 7, 2020

Calgary

Alpha House has had a total of 5 clients test positive for Covid-19. No staff have tested positive at this time. All positive tested clients are staying at the city’s Assisted Self-Isolation Site. The hotel we are operating as an overflow site is housing 60 asymptomatic clients. We have also begun rapidly moving clients into our new Transitional Housing Program in Sunalta.

Lethbridge

There continues to be no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge and operations remain as before.


As of May 4, 2020

Calgary

Alpha House has a total of 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19. All positive test cases are clients and all are now staying at the city’s Assisted Self-Isolation Site. At this time, no staff have tested positive. Teams from Safeworks, Public Health and CUPS conducted testing for staff and clients throughout Friday May 1st and Saturday May 2nd. Since Friday May 1, 2020, we have relocated 20 asymptomatic clients to our hotel overflow site. Our Shelter will operate at a capacity of 45 clients. All admissions to Detox have been suspended until further notice. We will continue to operate 15 Health Beds for symptomatic clients waiting test results.

Lethbridge

There continues to be no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge and operations remain as before. Please see below for an earlier update on Lethbridge operations.


As of May 1, 2020

Calgary

Through Alpha House’s continuous screening efforts, Alberta Heath Services (AHS) has confirmed two (2) positive COVID-19 cases (clients) at Alpha House.

Alpha House is currently operating Health Beds for clients presenting with symptoms who are waiting on test results. As such, we have been preparing for the possibility of a positive case for some time.

There have been other positive COVID-19 cases identified within the homeless population in Calgary. These are the first at Alpha House. We are working with the other shelters and speaking daily with medical officers to continue our pandemic response and to implement any new AHS measures, on top of the guidelines we are already following, to prevent a spread of the virus.

Lethbridge

There are currently no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge and operations remain as before. Please see below for an earlier update on Lethbridge operations.


As of April 28, 2020

Calgary

As you may have read elsewhere, there have been four positive Covid-19 cases identified within the homeless population in Calgary. At this time, Alpha House does not have any Covid-19 positive cases.

We are working with the other shelters and speaking daily with medical officers to continue our pandemic response and to ensure we are following all Alberta Health Services guidelines. Alpha House staff continue to diligently follow protocols to screen clients upon entry to all programs and to immediately isolate individuals presenting with symptoms.

We have increased our capacity to isolate symptomatic clients who are waiting on test results. We had been operating with 2 spaces, but have increased that number to 15 this week. In addition, Alberta Health Services has isolation spaces available in a separate location.

Lethbridge

There are currently no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge. As a precautionary measure to better prepare staff for contact tracing in the event it becomes necessary, we will be separating all clients between our two shelter spaces. Starting tonight, clients will be dedicated to one Shelter or the other and will not be permitted to go back and forth between buildings.

As always, we appreciate the kind words of support we have received throughout these trying times. Our How to Help page (https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/) is continuously updated, if you are able to support our work monetarily or through a gift-in-kind donation. Stay safe.


As of April 21, 2020

Some updates on operations for Alpha House during the pandemic:

  • Screening clients prior to Shelter entry and spraying hands with disinfectant
  • Working with Community Paramedics to isolate and test any client presenting to the Shelter with symptoms
  • Re-configured how we serve meals to clients in Shelter and Detox Programs to increase physical distancing and better protect staff and clients
  • Continue to operate health beds to appropriately isolate clients who are waiting for test results
  • Continue to work with Alberta Health Services on regulations across all programs
  • Continue to operate the DOAP and Encampment Teams to support individuals on the street
  • Continue to have clients socially distance in their rooms across all our housing programs
  • No COVID-19 positive clients to date

We have updated our How to Help page with some new immediate needs. If you are able and would like to support our work, please have a look: https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/


As of April 13, 2020

We have no new updates to provide. All programs are operating within their capacities given the pandemic. Our staff continue to do phenomenal work. Thank you to all who have donated funds or goods during this time and for adhering to our donation protocols. You can find more information about How to Help at https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/

Stay safe!


As of April 7, 2020

Calgary

  • No Covid-19 positive clients to date
  • 40 clients currently settled in our overflow shelter units in the city
  • Staff are well-trained and equipped in all programs to triage and screen clients for covid symptoms
  • Shelter capacity steady at 88 clients as we continue to follow distancing guidelines
  • Encampment Team working with rough sleepers to spread health information, setup wash basins in camps, and support individual’s immediate needs
  • A small number of detox assessments open every few days to intake new clients and transition clients who have completed treatment
  • Two health beds in operation for individuals presenting with symptoms, awaiting test results

Lethbridge

  • Continue to triage and screen clients
  • Continue to provide shelter services at both main building and overflow space

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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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

Animated Video

Shaundra Bruvall | February 4, 2020

With nearly 40 years of providing safe and caring environments for men and women whose lives have been impacted by alcohol and other drug dependencies, Alpha House has created an array of data-proven, outcome and cost effective programs.

We operate a 24/7 Shelter, a medically-supported Detox and Transitional facility, three Outreach Teams (including the Needle Response, Encampment, and DOAP Teams), and dedicated Community and Permanent-Supportive Housing Programs.

Today we are proud to share a video we have been working on to help us illustrate the diverse, robust nature of our work. “At Alpha House, we see the strength, courage, and resiliency that’s been a part of their journey all along. We offer resources, compassion, and stability so that people can move forward, whatever that might look like.”

Please help us share and tell us your thoughts. https://youtu.be/-lq0G2hZRmE


A Message of Gratitude and Hope

Shaundra Bruvall | December 23, 2019

The Holiday Season is a time of reflection and gratitude. As I think back on 2019, I am inspired by the resilience of the individuals we serve every single day, the dedication of our staff who selflessly go above and beyond to provide compassionate care, and the outpouring of support we receive from the Calgary community.

This year was one of growth, challenges, rewards and renewal at Alpha House. We saw programs, like our Needle Response Team and DOAP, expand to meet new needs emerging in our community. We also faced funding cuts and financial challenges that could impact our ability to continue to provide much-needed services like DOAP in the future. All of the programs within our Continuum of Care remained busy, meeting the needs of vulnerable Calgarians and helping to improve their quality of life. We  also started to work in Lethbridge, sharing our experience and knowledge as the community opens its first stabilization centre.


As we’ve shared our highlights and challenges with Calgarians – through our social media, presentations, community meetings and media stories – we’ve received an outpouring of support from individuals, artists, groups, corporations and government. People are hosting fundraisers, advocating for support, and donating their time, talent and funds. It’s an encouragement to the entire Alpha House team, as well as the men and women we serve.

Thank you for supporting our work, for caring so deeply for vulnerable Calgarians and for giving hope to those who need it most in our community.

On behalf of Alpha House Calgary, have a wonderful Holiday Season.

Kathy Christensen

Executive Director


On Friday November 29th, the City of Calgary Council announced that Alpha House will receive $200,000 in funding to help keep our DOAP team on the street.

Shaundra Bruvall | December 1, 2019

This financial support brings us closer to our fundraising goal of $800,000, which is needed to keep our DOAP program running at its current capacity in 2020. We are so thankful for the City of Calgary’s commitment to DOAP’s unique work serving Calgarians who need our help. Alpha House will continue to collaborate with other City and community services to keep all of our DOAP teams on the street, serving as many citizens as possible. On behalf of the Alpha House team and the people we serve, thank you to Council for this funding support.


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