News & Events

RE: Overdose Prevention Services in Calgary

Shaundra Bruvall | September 23, 2022

ALPHA HOUSE STATEMENT

DATE: September 23, 2022

RE: Overdose Prevention Services in Calgary

 

Earlier this week, Alpha House notified some community members that we would be temporarily pausing some upcoming community engagement sessions regarding a potential overdose prevention site (OPS) at our Calgary facility. We believe in the critical need for these services in the community and the pausing of these sessions should not be taken as an indication that we have paused the exploration of the OPS project.

Given the recent news about the Drop-In Centre no longer pursuing an OPS at their Shelter site, we are working with our government partners and community stakeholders to better understand what the new vision is for overdose prevention services in Calgary. Once we have that information, we will have a better idea of the path forward and whether an OPS at Alpha House is the best option for service users and the community.

Alpha House is meeting with the Government of Alberta and other key stakeholders in the coming weeks and we look forward to resuming discussions with the community as we consider the real and pressing need for these services and how, as a city, we can create safe and inclusive communities for everyone.

 

Inquiries:

Shaundra Bruvall

403 478 0387

shaundrab@alphahousecalgary.com


When to Call DOAP (and when NOT to call DOAP)

Shaundra Bruvall | July 6, 2022

DOAP Overview:

The DOAP Team offers transportation and crisis support for those dealing with addiction issues. The team provides system navigation, and addiction and housing information to those they connect with. The DOAP team consists of two Outreach Workers who respond to calls from the public, businesses, emergency services (EMS, CPS) and other facilities or agencies identifying an individual on the street in need of non-emergency assistance. The goal of the program is to provide a service that reaches individuals struggling with substance use at the street level, to improve the conditions under which people are living and to address their immediate safety. There are times when the DOAP team is the best response for a situation and able to divert individuals from law enforcement or healthcare services BUT they are not always the best response even if the individual in need of support is unhoused. Here are some examples:

 

DOAP IS the best response

  • an unhoused individual in a vulnerable state (likely under the influence) is in need of transportation
  • highly intoxicated individual is stumbling down the street / stepping into traffic
  • an individual having a poor mental health moment/series of moments is in public and appears vulnerable but no criminal activity is occurring and no weapons are involved
  • an unhoused individual is sleeping in the doorway of a business
  • an individual/group of individuals are readying themselves to use substances in a public space

 

DOAP is NOT the best response

  • someone is overdosing
  • someone is bleeding heavily and requires medical attention
  • An independently housed individual needs a ride home from the hospital after receiving treatment
  • An individual with access to alternative resources wants a ride to a business or residence
  • An individual under the influence is attacking store front windows / attempting to break into a residence DOAP does not respond to situations of extreme violence
  • A caller suspects an individual on the street may be deceased i.e. is unresponsive DOAP Team is not a medical response

 

 

 


New Mural for Detox Gathering Room

Shaundra Bruvall | June 10, 2022

Q&A:

Trevor G. on Inspiration and the Connection Between Art & Spirit

Sound Artist, Illustrator, Painter, and client of  Alpha House Society’s Detox Program, Trevor G. spoke with us about his spiritual connection to art and recovery, and the inspiration behind the mural he created for Calgary Alpha House’s new Detox Gathering Room.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you originally from?
I was born & raised in Lethbridge. I spent most of my adult life…not in Calgary. I was in Vancouver, then lived in the UK for a bit – in Scotland – I travelled a lot in my 20’s and then I moved to Calgary when I was 32 to try to get sober. I spent 2 years sober, and then the last few years I’ve been in and out of here a lot. I’ve been here a lot. My binder’s like a phone book.

How did you get into art?
Art? Ohh…Well, I’ve always been into art. I was really into children’s books and comics when I was a kid, so I kind of got into drawing that way. My dad used to be an accountant, so he used to come home with that paper that was all attached and….well it was the kind of paper for those old dot matrix printers. He’d bring home stacks of that paper and that got me started drawing. I started making other kinds of art after high school, and now that’s what I’ve been principally doing for my entire life.

Do you have a favourite medium?
I do a lot of sound art. I play in a band that does really arty sort of music. I also work in film, like stop motion. But drawing and painting seems to be where I’ve earned most of the money that I’ve made by creating.

What would you say inspired you to create this specific mural for Alpha House?
The inspiration for this was actually something that Diane (Alpha House’s Detox Manager) gave me – the Seven Sacred Teachings. Each of the teachings is represented by a different animal, and then one footprint.

How is art helping you in your sobriety?
I find it’s a spiritual exercise a lot of the time because I don’t plan at all when I make things. I’d like to take credit for a lot of the stuff that I do, but I feel that it would be a bit of a misstep to do so because so much of it has to do with just putting colours or things onto something and then letting it make itself. There really are no accidents in that sense. I find it meditative, and I find that it connects me. I do consider it a form of prayer or meditation – more so than talking to the sky.

Is the spiritual element of creating art something that inspired your connection to the Seven Sacred Teachings portrayed in this mural?
Yeah, because what inspired my connection to Indigenous Spirituality was when I started coming here to Alpha House. I only ever come here to detox when things get pretty bad drinking wise. I would come here for detox, and it was through the sweat lodges and a lot of the cultural things that happen here that I was able to connect with it. It finds me when I’m at my worst both emotionally and spiritually and so I’m very spiritually thirsty when I come into recovery. Alpha House has always been there for me when I’m at my neediest and Indigenous Spirituality has always been the thing that has been there when I was hungry for it.

Also, as I’m doing the art, I always like to be informed about what I’m painting, so looking into the Sacred Teachings brings me closer…it just makes a lot of sense for me.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add or elaborate on in regard to the project?
To me, it’s an honour to be able to do this because Alpha House has been pretty instrumental every time I’ve begun recovery. This is where I come to clean up before I go into treatment or go back to my apartment. It’s been there when I’ve needed it the most, so this is a swell way to be able to give back. This place does really great stuff and there are lots of people who start here. Some people I’ve met here are now years into their recovery, so I see it as a privilege to create something that is going to be in a room that is going to be used for Alpha House things.

 

*Interview conducted by Jessica Irving.


Housing Outreach

Shaundra Bruvall | March 17, 2022

Housing Outreach

Alpha House’s newest program is no longer a pilot project. Thanks to funding through the Calgary Homeless Foundation, our Housing Outreach Program has become an ongoing part of Alpha House’s services.

Comprised of two outreach resource workers, the Housing Outreach Program is focused on diverting people away from the homeless-serving sector by providing immediate, temporary supports to prevent entry into homelessness.

In an ideal world, of course, everyone would be diverted from the homeless-serving sector through prevention of the factors that lead to homelessness. In reality, many of the people that Alpha House serves, particularly in our Housing Programs (both Community Housing and Place-Based Supportive Housing), will require some measure of support for the remainder of their lives. These supports are critical for quality of life and are a more dignified, cost-effective response to homelessness than shelters, hospital beds, courtrooms, or jail cells. The purpose of the Housing Outreach Program is to capture infrequent shelter users or individuals who can return to stability quickly with short-term assistance.

The team (currently composed of Alpha House staff members Christina G and Damon R, pictured above) works with roughly 30 clients a month (between 3-4/week) and provides support with Alberta Works applications, ID obtainment, bank account setup, food bank hamper referrals, resource and service connections for medical, employment, and pet supports, affordable housing locating, and damage deposit/first month’s rent provision (among other supports).

“It is really cool to watch someone continue on an upward path after you’ve helped them. They just needed that little bit of support to move forward.”

– Damon

Individually, each of these supports might seem minimal but sometimes even a small bit of help can be a lifeline for someone who is struggling. We are excited to have this program available for individuals who need a little extra support to get back on their feet.

One example of a client the team was able to support back into stability was a guy whose apartment had recently flooded. He had lost all of his possessions in the flood including all of his work gear. As he worked in construction, this was a detrimental loss. He was unable to take on new jobs, had nowhere to live, and no possessions. A series of misfortunes and this individual was suddenly set on an extremely difficult path.

Christina and Damon were able to get this client setup with work gear, a new place to live, and a few belongings to help get him settled into his new home.

“Sometimes you end up in a really tough situation for whatever reason(s) and you end up stuck because there are so many barriers. It can be really difficult for one person to navigate that and sometimes having that advocacy piece [the housing outreach program] makes all the difference.”

– Christina

Referrals for the Housing Outreach Program come from Alpha House’s other outreach programs: DOAP (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) and Encampment as well as our Detox program. But referrals can also come from our partners like the Sheldon Chumir, the Mustard Seed’s Outreach team, The Alex’s Outreach Team, word of mouth, Calgary Bylaw, and Calgary Transit.

Unsurprisingly, a lack of affordable housing remains a huge barrier, which is why relationships with property owners is an important part of this work to ensure clients have options. If we make a good connection and house someone with a certain property owner, they are more likely to connect with us when they have another opening or if other property owners they know have openings.

If you are or know of a property owner who would like to partner with Alpha House, please get in touch with our Housing Outreach program at HousingOutreach@alphahousecalgary.com

 

 


A Look Back – 40 Years of Service

Shaundra Bruvall | February 8, 2022

Look to this day. For it is life,

The very life of life.

In its brief course lie all

The realities and verities of existence,

The bliss of growth

The splendor of action. The glory of power-

For yesterday is but a dream. And tomorrow

Is only a vision. But today, well lived,

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.

 

Sanskrit proverb by Kalidasa, poet and playwright

5th Century ad from the opening of Twenty-Four Hours a Day first published 1954 Hazelden

 

Perhaps those that worked to have Calgary Alpha House Society incorporated and its building remodeled in preparation for opening, were familiar with this poem from the East Indian poet Kalidasa. Perhaps the Justice and Solicitor General, Neil Crawford, who supported the project under Premier Lougheed, was also aware of the simple elegance of this prayer like poem. What seems to have been present beyond the economic bust and boom of Calgary at the time was the intention to address the need for doorways to recovery for those with alcohol and other drug dependencies and the safe and caring environments to make hope a reality.

Alpha House is marking its 40th year of operation in the community of Victoria Park; we officially opened in January of 1982. Born out of innovation, Alpha Centre (as it was then called) opened a shelter and detox together, connected by a shared building and staff, and the common goal of recovery. It opened partly as a way to address the loss of life and limb in Calgary’s cold winters due to frost bite, to ease the strain of policing for those publicly intoxicated, and to help as an AADAC-funded (Alberta Alcohol Drug Abuse Commission, 1951) agency to address the alcohol and drug addiction-impacted migrating population coming to Calgary for oil and gas work.

The origin of the name Alpha House consensus wise is unknown. Alpha and Omega as a reference to Revelation 22:13 wasn’t by all accounts the reason for the name Alpha House, any more being Alpha male or female was the reason.  Alpha meaning ‘the beginning of something’ or the ‘first in a series’, has stuck over the years. First steps, small or big towards a better life for marginalized people and collectively for the betterment of all of Calgary was perhaps the unwritten mission statement at the time. However, one board member from 1985 that I Interviewed in 2009, Stuart Hutton, had a different take. Stuart took the name ‘Alpha’ not as representative of the Greek alphabet or as defined as the beginning of something, nor as a stock market risk adjustment (which is one interpretation). Instead he took the meaning of ‘Alpha’ from astronomy; a name given to the brightest star in the constellation.

He explained at length how the Southern Cross was the brightest constellation visible from earth and, in a rare moment of sentiment, Stuart stated that the entrants (as clients were referred to then) were the brightest stars that often didn’t know it themselves but with care would come to their full understanding and brightness with a little bit of help. House was added, he said, ‘because we wanted people to feel at home’.

I appreciate Stuart’s definition and generosity towards me. As he told it, ‘in the early days at Alpha House the focus was on finding the right staff ‘, who could check their moral assumptions at the door and offer kindness for the women and men that rang the bell to come in and for whom the staff were hired to serve.

Unsurprisingly, Stuart and the Board of 1985 along with the Director W.J. Henry and his staff developed the concept of four teams made up of a Shift Supervisor, Senior Recovery Aide, and a Recovery Aide on rotation, to meet client needs. This opened the door to allow staff to directly impact operations and put the client first in the decisions made about programing. This approach became a benchmark. It also saw the creation of a Client Care Coordinator position in 1985.

Regardless of its origins, the name came to mean treating entrants with the respect they deserved as human beings. This too remains a benchmark.

Our history was marked by humble beginnings and by the determination to meet people where they were at. Without judgement, and with care and safety, Alpha House moved forward.

On Jan 1, 1982, the day Calgary Alpha House Society opened its doors, the AA Mediation for the Day from the little black book ‘Twenty-Four Hours a Day’ may have given inspiration to those founders of Alpha House. I like to think it may provide inspiration for many of us at Alpha House to this day.

“In the new year I will live one day at a time. I will make each day one of preparation for better things a-head, I will not dwell on the past or the future, only on the present. I will bury every fear of the future, all thought of unkindness and bitterness, all my dislikes, my resentments, my sense of failure, my disappointments in others and in myself, my gloom and my despondency. I will leave all these things buried and go forward in this new year, into a new life.”

Some of the story threads may have been lost over the years’ but from what I have learned from those I was able to meet from Alpha House’s beginnings, many of the men and women from AA and AADAC greatly supported the emergence of Alpha House. They welcomed the potential for positive individual change and recovery. Another benchmark.

 

Peace,

David

David plans to write a series of blogs to celebrate Alpha House’s 40 years of Community Service.


A Day with Our DOAP Transit Team

Shaundra Bruvall | November 16, 2021

A Day with Our DOAP Transit Team

The DOAP Transit (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership Transit) team is a partnership between Alpha House Society and Calgary Transit (Public Safety and Enforcement). A DOAP Outreach worker is paired with a Peace Officer from the Community Outreach Team as part of a mobile outreach program dedicated to Calgary’s transit platforms, including c-train lines and bus routes. Seth, a DOAP Outreach Worker, has worked with Alpha House for a year and a half. Kitty, a Peace Officer, was a police officer in the Netherlands for over a decade before immigrating to Canada with her husband.

The team start their day at the Calgary Transit/Bylaw headquarters where Kitty is stationed. Seth picks her up in one of the DOAP Transit vans. Each van is equipped with bagged lunches, first aid supplies, harm reduction supplies, and provides passenger transports (capacity COVID-19 dependent). Much like Alpha House’s other outreach teams, Calgary’s vulnerable population know when they see an Alpha House van, they can ask for help.

The team heads over to Forest Lawn. They’re meeting Jack* and Jill*, a couple the team recently found housing for. Supports provided by the DOAP Transit Team don’t end when someone is housed; they continue to work to ensure that the transition into housing is smooth and, most importantly, that housing stability can be maintained over the long-term. Jack and Jill’s first rent payment date is fast approaching and the couple still haven’t been able to get the proper ID needed to open a bank account. Without a bank account the couple will be unable to pay rent and will loose their hard fought for home.

Kitty and Seth drive the couple to their methadone appointment. While the team was able to get Jack and Jill access to a pharmacy and a methadone prescription, they have hit a roadblock in getting the prescription transferred to a pharmacy within walking distance of their house. In the interim, Seth and Kitty are able to check in and make sure appointments are not missed. This a valuable part of ensuring a smooth hand-off in the transition to independence.

They tell Jack and Jill they have been able to locate a resource center not far from where the couple lives. The center is stocked with computers and printers, where they should be able to access the online forms needed to sort out their ID. Jill shares that when they were homeless their belongings were often stolen. Because of frequency of theft while they were living on the streets, hanging on to a phone or identification was extremely difficult for the couple. Couples also face longer waits for housing as most supportive housing facilities in Calgary are segregated by gender. This means couples end up on a long waitlist for community housing vacancies.

After dropping Jack and Jill off, the team heads over to Sunalta Station. They park the van behind the station so they can check the back alleys to see if there is anyone in need of assistance. Kitty does a sweep of the station upon entry. She checks behind ticket machines, in the corners and on the support beams to see if there is anyone sleeping. She says she once found someone sleeping on one of the window frames 100 feet in the air.

Keeping an eye out on the platforms, she spots someone across the station smoking inside. She calls over and motions for him to put out his cigarette. He obliges and appears to leave the station. A man arrives at the station without a mask and approaches Seth to ask if he has an extra one. Seth takes him back to the van to get him a clean face mask.

Once on the train the team does a quick scan of who is onboard and if anyone looks in need of assistance. The team immediately spot a pair they are familiar with and head over. The woman is clutching a bag and keeps dropping her clothes. The team asks if they need any support. They say they’re on the way to a shelter right now and thank the team for their interest.

As the train pulls into each station the team keep an eye out for anyone in need of assistance on the platforms. Kitty motions for us to get off the train and we immediately see why. Two men are in a train shelter and are about to begin smoking a pipe. Kitty explains they can’t do that on transit property. The men put the pipe away and move off. This is not the best outcome but the team sees they have a naloxone kit with them. It is moments like this that offer a great example of the importance of supervised consumption sites. Using alone is dangerous, using in public presents other dangers. Supervised consumption sites allow individuals to use in a safe environment while being connected to supports that can help move them towards stability.

A call comes with a report of someone using on a transit platform. When Kitty and Seth arrive at the station, they find a man holding up a woman who can barely stand. It is clear she has been using and from her body language they suspect the woman is on the verge of overdosing, but she declines the offer of Naloxone. Kitty and Seth stay to monitor the situation. A transit van waits by the platform to provide back up, if needed. After several minutes, the woman is steadied by her companion and they head off together. Kitty shares that she has interacted with this woman many times over the past three years, trying to support her housing and recovery goals. She has so far been unable to support her into long-term stability, but Kitty still looks for ways to help her when and where she can.

Throughout this interaction, a man has been shouting in the background, trying to get the team’s attention. Assessing that he is unconnected to the situation at hand, the team ask him to wait. He gets on the train and Kitty sees him approach a mother with her baby. Kitty intervenes before he is able to engage with the mother to make sure she’s doing okay and stays with her until the man moves off the train.

The team heads back to Sunalta station. Behind the station there is a couple waiting by the DOAP Transit van. They ask for a bagged lunch. Seth grabs two for them. The couple share a bit of their experience. In order to stay together they tend to camp in a park but it causes intense problems for John’s* back. Most days Sarah* needs to lift John out of their tent because his back is so bad. They are on the wait list for housing, but don’t have any idea when they’ll reach the top. They are both on methadone but it doesn’t do as much for John’s back pain as other substances they previously used.

The needs of Calgary’s vulnerable population on the train line are complex, and supporting people’s transition into stability requires a varied and dedicated response. The DOAP Transit program includes 3 other pairs like Kitty and Seth. The team consistently goes above and beyond in their work to reduce unnecessary or inappropriate use of transit services and their work helps to address unmet needs and improve the circumstances of vulnerable Calgarian’s.

 

*The names of clients in this story have been omitted or changed to protect their privacy


Meet Harvey

Shaundra Bruvall | September 30, 2021

Harvey has just moved into Alpha House’s Permanent-Supportive Housing Program in Sunnyside; Aurora House. He’s from the Siksika Nation just outside of Calgary and first came to the city at the age of 16. He speaks fondly of his parents and the parts of his childhood spent with them, sharing tales of adventuring across Canada.

At 6 years old, he remembers being removed from home and taken to a Residential School. He was told to speak English but, while his parents spoke both English and Blackfoot, they primarily spoke Blackfoot at home. So English did not come quickly to him. His brothers and sisters attended the same school. Occasionally, he could visit them.

The school, he recalls, was Protestant-denominated, not Catholic. ‘It was 3 miles from home; [I] tried to run away and go back home. My parents were happy when I’d escape, just happy to see me’ he shares. Once, he escaped for a week with three other boys. ‘I kept running, didn’t even stop to use the bathroom or sleep’. But eventually the school would come looking and each time he’d be brought back.

At home in the summer, he would smudge with his family and learn dances like the chicken dance; a dance that celebrates the connection of people and the prairie grouse. He says his Mom would take him foraging to gather mint for tea and mushrooms for soup. ‘Mom took care of us, made sure we had something to eat’. As he reminisces about the mushroom soup, he says he is going to check his cupboards for some after this conversation.

He had a dog named Lucky growing up, a surprise gift brought home by his dad one day. Lucky was Harvey’s constant companion, often accompanying them when his Dad would take him hiking. He moved into Calgary at 16, his siblings and friends had moved so he decided to as well.

He spent some time working for CP Rail ‘lifting railway ties. I was strong,’ he says. And he was married for a while as well. Sandra and Harvey met on a chance encounter roaming around Calgary. ‘I thought she was very pretty’.

Theft at a few shops on the reserve landed Harvey in prison. It was in prison that he first started beading, something he still does today. Prison was ‘hard at the start, beading helped’. He made a few friends that he still occasionally sees.

He spent time after prison hitchhiking across the mountains and sleeping out under the stars with an end goal of reaching his sister in Vancouver. ‘She was surprised to see me walking down the street. What are you doing here?! I got lost I told her. I was off to see the world I told her.’

His sister has now passed on and Harvey says ‘I hope to see her in the next life’. He came back to Calgary to attend the funeral of his nephew and decided to stay in the city. He got connected with Alpha House not long after that.

An Elder visits Harvey in his room at Aurora House once a week. Together they smudge to push away bad spirits and bad emotions. He says he feels strong after the Elder visits and holds his arms up in a strongman pose.

The birds wake him up each morning but he says he likes that; along with starting the day with a cup of Maxwell House coffee. His drum, an important connection to his brother, was stolen from him one day in a park downtown. But he’s been working on beading a necklace lately in lieu of drumming. Another of his creative expressions, a painting, hangs in the staff’s office at another Alpha House building.

 

Calgary Alpha House Society was established in 1981 as a committed response to a marginalized population of men and women who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs and living vulnerable on the streets of Calgary. Over 50% of the clients we serve are Indigenous. Today, the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we wear orange, come together to drum and sing, and remember and honor those lost to Residential Schools and the survivors still with us.


About Alpha House – For Election Candidates

Shaundra Bruvall | September 15, 2021

WELCOME

Thank you for your interest in Alpha House and our work with vulnerable individuals in southern Alberta. We are a trusted non-profit agency that provides safe and caring environments for individuals whose lives are affected by alcohol and other substance dependencies. We currently operate in Calgary and Lethbridge.

Originally established in 1981, Alpha House has a long history of innovating and evolving to meet the changing needs of our clients, the communities where we operate, and the increasing complexities of homelessness and drug use.

Today, we partner with all levels of government, community first responders, and other agencies to help address key social issues such as the opioid crisis, the growing need for supportive housing for vulnerable Albertans, mental health and addiction services, and evidence-based, harm reduction policies such as safe consumption sites.

 

THE FACTS

Permanent-Supportive Housing (PSH)

  • PSH reduces the use of publicly funded crisis services, including jails, hospitalizations, and emergency departments
  • A study of HF programs in Alberta published in 2020 reported cost savings of $1.17 to $2.84 for every dollar invested in housing first

Opioid Crisis

  • A study of 7 SCS programs in Canada found evidence of cost savings through Reduced disease transmission
  • Prevention of overdose deaths (reduced cost of EMS/medical system)

 

HOW OUR PROGRAMS HELP ALBERTANS

Our programs and services make up a continuum of care, which clients can enter at any point, based on their needs. Our services include:

 

SHELTER

Short-term, crisis-oriented emergency shelter 24/7 for Albertans under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

*CALGARY AND LETHBRIDGE

 

DETOX/STABILIZATION/TRANSITIONAL HOUSING

Residential care for clients to safely withdrawal from drugs in a socially or medically supportive environment and a temporary residential care program for clients to transition safely into housing or drug treatment facilities/programs.

*CALGARY AND LETHBRIDGE

 

HOUSING

Community and permanent-supportive housing programs to ensure housing stability and individualized supports for over 300 individuals.

*CALGARY

 

OUTREACH

Mobile response teams for individuals on the streets or in camps to meet clients where they are at and provide immediate supports ultimately reducing the impact of  intoxication  and homelessness on the broader community and public systems.

*CALGARY

DOWNTOWN OUTREACH ADDICTIONS PARTNERSHIP (DOAP) TEAM

provides roughly 20,000 transports per year to Shelter, Housing, and Medical services.

ENCAMPMENT TEAM

works 7 days a week connecting with rough sleepers. At any given time, the team is supporting ~200 individuals

NEEDLE RESPONSE TEAM

collected  73,155  needle  debris  in  the  2020-2021  fiscal  year.

 

OUR STRATEGIC PRIORITIES AND RESPONSES

The needs of those we serve and the communities we are part of are constantly changing. New, unique responses are required more urgently as a result of an increasingly toxic drug supply, increased uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the housing crisis across Canada. Alpha House continues to evolve our programs and partnerships to help meet these needs, including:

  • Expanding of our Encampment and DOAP Transit teams to increase services to vulnerable clients
  • Building stronger partnerships with Calgary Police Services, Calgary Community Standards (Bylaw), and Calgary Transit as well as first responders for increased community-based supports including the introduction of the new DOAP Indigenous Team in October 2021
  • Advocating for more permanent-supportive housing, increased harm-reduction supports such as naloxone and Engaging Vulnerable Persons training for community members, increased access to stabilization and detox facilities and engagement with businesses around responsible, compassionate action for individuals experiencing homelessness

 

WORKING TOGETHER WITH GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITY

Our work is a direct intersection of homelessness and addiction and mental health. It requires a robust and compassionate community response with extensive supports and programs. Many of the people we serve have experienced significant trauma throughout their life and the resulting coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drug use often lead to increased instability and a greater need for wrap around supports.

Alpha House operates from a Housing First perspective meaning individuals are better able to work on other aspects of their lives if they have shelter security and a place to call home.

Based on over three decades of frontline experience, we know that the best response to helping vulnerable adults is to bring together the collaborative resources, expertise and support from local residents and businesses, as well as key partners and all levels of government. Through a unified, holistic approach, we can support vulnerable Albertans to meet them where they are at and help them find greater stability and wellness in their lives.

To learn more about our work and the latest Alpha House news, follow us on social media.

Facebook alphahousecalgary  

Twitter   alphahouseyyc      

Instagram     alphahouseyyc 

 


Alpha House’s 2nd Annual Golf Tournament Fundraiser

Shaundra Bruvall | August 3, 2021

INDIGENOUS PROGRAMMING TO BENEFIT FROM GOLF TOURNAMENT

Tom Jackson spearheads Alpha House fundraiser

 

CALGARY, AB – On Monday, August 16, Alpha House will hold its Second Annual Golf Tournament at Bearspaw Golf Club in support of its Indigenous Programming in Calgary and Lethbridge.

 

Alpha House provides safe and caring environments for individuals whose lives are affected by alcohol and other drug dependencies. The non-profit, charitable agency is commited to help heal the systemic, inter-generational and historical trauma among Indigenous people that has occurred as a result of residential schools.

 

More than ever, the honoring of cultural traditions and the provision of cultural connection – like Alpha House’s Ceremonial Sweat Lodges and Indigenous Outreach – is crucial to the health and well-being of its Indigenous clients.

 

The tournament is spearheaded by Tom Jackson, a musician, TV personality, activist, producer, long-time volunteer and supporter of Alpha House. Tom holds the strong belief that Alpha House is doing important work to help those with alcohol and other drug dependencies, especially among the Indigenous community.

 

“This work can save lives, and we have an opportunity to play a part,” commented Jackson. “Through this tournament, we can enjoy an afternoon of camaraderie and meaningful connections, while knowing the funds raised will make a difference to Alpha House clients.”

 

“Cultural connection is essential to the healing journey, especially in the context of the past year and a half,” says Kathy Christiansen, Executive Director of Alpha House. “Now more than ever, funds are needed to help support our work. Donations ensure the sustainability of programs that can be life-saving for people made vulnerable by poverty and addiction.”

The 2nd Annual Alpha House Golf Tournament takes place on August 16, and is made possible through the generosity of Title Sponsor IG Wealth Management. Registration for individuals or foursomes can be completed here.

 

About Alpha House

The Calgary Alpha House Society was established in 1981 as a committed response to a marginalized population of individuals who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs and living vulnerable on the streets of Calgary and Lethbridge. Alpha House currently runs four programs: Shelter, Outreach (DOAP/Encampment), Detox, and Housing. Learn more at alphahousecalgary.com.

For more information:
Bonnie Elgie, Publicist
p: 403.630.6164
e: bonnie@bonnieelgie-pr.com


Housing First; What Comes Second?

Shaundra Bruvall | June 16, 2021

In the homeless-serving sector, we operate on a principle of Housing First. Housing First means providing affordable, supportive housing to individuals/families experiencing homelessness as quickly as possible without expecting them to meet certain requirements (such as ‘sobriety’) before being allowed a home. In our experience, housing gives people the opportunity to work on other aspects of their lives without being constantly displaced. But housing is not the only solution or supports that people need. We sat down with some of Alpha House’s Community Housing Caseworkers to hear their thoughts on what comes next after ‘Housing First.’

 

We know about some of the barriers individuals face when trying to transition from homelessness to housing – lack of income, issues with obtaining ID/bank accounts, unmet medical needs etc. What are some of the barriers you see when it comes to someone newly housed remaining housed?

Most newly housed folks need to learn/relearn basic household and hygiene skills. Emergency Shelters do not always have the capacity to allow clients to learn how to perform these tasks so it can be a struggle when someone is newly housed.

Many folks also struggle with feeling as though they don’t fit into their new community, they may feel they are being targeted due to their appearance or behaviors and rarely feel comfortable asking for support from neighborhood support systems. It often takes months or years for a client to build a sense of community and belonging. This can lead to struggling with boundaries around things like guest management with clients inviting their (still unhoused) friends to stay, as that group of people is where they feel most comfortable.

 

What do Alpha House’s caseworkers do to reduce these barriers for clients?

From the perspective of learning/relearning basic household and hygiene skills, caseworkers are able to assist with basic chores, provide insight and information, and work off their rapport with clients to support skill building and overall confidence.

For community integration, caseworkers are able to do tours of the community, provide lists of community supports and events, and provide encouragement and supports to help clients reintegrate within their community.

The importance of having someone you trust cannot be overstated here. Rapport with clients is critical to supporting their needs and helping them gain confidence and feel more comfortable.

 

How big of a part does a neighbourhood/community play in helping individuals stay housed? Are there things we can do better as a community to prevent re-entry into homelessness?

The neighbourhood and community play a big part in a client’s successful housing. When clients feel like they are part of a community, we often see greater success in housing stability. We all play a part in our communities to help people feel welcome and that is no different when it comes to those we house. Simple things like smiling and saying hello or introducing yourself make a huge difference. More involved engagement like having a coffee with the individual and taking the time to get to know them is very beneficial to the success of housing programs. Those we serve have often been experiencing homelessness for a long period of time and feel alienated from society, so reintegration and kindness are key.

If our clients feel welcomed and understood by their neighbors, they are more likely to integrate quickly and to show a sense of pride in their housing, which promotes hope and is crucial to long-term housing stability and overall wellbeing.

As a community, we can help prevent re-entry into homelessness by understanding that everyone deserves a chance and has a unique story. Greet your neighbours regardless of their past or appearance.

Society as a whole could be more open to seeing unhoused individuals as people that are worthy of interaction and compassion.

Anecdote: I live in the deep SW and one day stopped to fill up with gas, an Alpha House client was in the parking lot asking for money to get on the bus. When he asked me, I showed him my employee ID badge and he immediately held out his hand to show me a possible broken hand with cuts all over it. He only needed to get on the bus to go get medical attention and had no money to do so. Everyone else that he approached walked away from him as fast as possible when he really just needed help and support.

 

Can you share some thoughts on the importance of landlord relationships when it comes to housing stability for clients? How do you go about building those relationships and reducing stigma that can come with housing previously homeless individuals?

Landlord relations are incredibly important as not all individuals have an easy or seamless transition to independent housing.  With a patient and understanding landlord/lady, it is easier for individuals to be successful in their housing. One critical piece is establishing a landlord-tenant relationship where the landlord addresses concerns they are having with a client themselves in a direct and gentle approach. If a landlord/lady requests Alpha House discuss all concerns with a client it does not build a client’s capacity to have these discussions and overall, it reduces their accountability. All of our clients are their own lease holders and need to attend the lease signing with the landlord; we also encourage clients to call their landlord for small fixes and concerns just like a non-program tenant would. This builds capacity and self-advocacy as well as relationships. Forming a relationship helps the property owner see a client as a person who deserves housing, and not just someone who used to be homeless or has an addiction.

 

What about neighbour relations? How do you encourage clients to integrate into their community?

In inner city areas it is easier to integrate and not feel so targeted as opposed to in suburban communities.  Alpha House never wants to make a client feel bad about their appearance or experience so when working with clients we tend to focus more on being a good neighbor and what that means. We talk about not having a lot of guests over at any one time, using appropriate garbage cans, keeping the apartment a good level of cleanliness etc. Overall, integration into community is not something that can be easily achieved without society as a whole becoming more open minded towards our clients.

 

Where are there gaps (both in the homeless-serving sector and overall as a society) when it comes to housing stability? What things are we missing as a collective group to prevent someone losing their housing or to be more inclusive and well rounded in general?

To help the client succeed and maintain housing stability, communication is key. When housing someone from homelessness into housing, the transition period is very hard for the client. We often see clients who sleep on their balconies, or have their bed in the living room. As a collective, we all need to be patient and communicate the struggles that the client is facing at the time and work together to ensure adequate supports are provided.

Additionally, the Homeless Serving sector could do a better job at educating society about the variety of reasons individuals become homeless. So many non-aware people assume that it is just based on drugs and alcohol, rather than seeing the trauma that so often leads to substance use as a coping mechanism.

 

We typically see studies that show prevention is more cost effective than reactionary programs – this is true in terms of crime prevention, injury prevention etc. Besides the humanitarian reasons to provide affordable housing to all and prevent homelessness, what do you see as the economic benefits of housing stability? (i.e. client interacts with police less often, fewer medical issues, less substance use etc.)

We often see a reduction in overall emergency services use, such as CPS and EMS interactions, as clients are housed and able to attend general medical appointments on a regular basis and address underlying health concerns.

Often times we see a reduction is substance use as a result of decompression. When clients are homeless their bodies go into a fight or flight mode. When they are housed we often see them decompress and they are able to relax, not having to constantly be looking over their shoulders.

We also often see mental health concerns stabilize as individuals are able to take care of themselves, stick to a medication regime, get better sleep and eat better, which all contributes to a positive state of mental health

 

Alpha House operates from a Housing First perspective meaning individuals are better able to work on other aspects of their lives if they have shelter security and a place to call home. In the context of “housing first, what’s second?” – what would you say comes second after housing?

Some of the most common ‘seconds’ we see are mental health, overcoming trauma, reconnecting with family or dealing with physical health concerns.

In addition to the above pieces, community reintegration and purpose, along with a sense of dignity and self-worth for the client are important. We help clients set goals and support their plans for the future. Having something to work towards and having hope for the future is critical.

Overall, we know that support needs to come second; it is about supporting clients in whatever way they need so they can find stability.

 

What types of philosophies do you follow as caseworkers to support your clients? Do you have any rules of thumb or best practices?

  1. Be honest to yourself and to the client
  2. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We work with people and not just numbers. Client choice is also very important. Every client has their own unique story, with underlying trauma as a big factor in why they were homeless. We support clients, no matter the choices that they make. As long as they are safe, and given the tools to remain safe in their homes.
  3. Harm reduction principals and to meet a client where they are at. We cannot move faster than them and for individuals who have been homeless or institutionalized most of their lives, it takes longer to feel comfortable being housed than someone who has been only episodically homeless.
  4. Celebrate the small successes with your clients and encourage self-sufficiency