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:
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.” 
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.”
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. “ 
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 email@example.com
 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.
 CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. 2014. David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
Alpha House has identified a total of fourteen (14) positive COVID-19 cases (clients) across its Calgary programs. All clients are safely isolated. Contact tracing and swabbing has been completed.
We have increased our efforts to educate clients on best practices in terms of hygiene and COVID-19 do’s and don’ts and we made further adjustments to our Shelter and Detox programs to address the safety of clients and staff in the facility. However, it will remain the priority of our shelter to provide clients a safe place to stay as the colder weather settles in.
As we are seeing greater transmission in Calgary more broadly, we anticipate continuing to see greater numbers within those experiencing homelessness and will remain vigilant in order to best support our clients and staff. We are working with the other shelters to ensure there is enough space across the city for those who need a warm place to stay and following all Alberta Health Services (AHS) recommendations and guidelines.
As of November 11, 2020
Alpha House can confirm eleven(11) positive COVID-19 cases (clients) across its Calgary programs, which were identified over the weekend and throughout the day today.
There has recently been a rise in positive COVID-19 cases identified within the population of individuals experiencing homelessness in Calgary and we are seeing greater transmission in Calgary more broadly, which helps to explain the increased transmission reflected in our programs. We are working with the other shelters and speaking daily with medical officers to continue our pandemic response and to follow Alberta Health Services (AHS) recommendations and guidelines.
We feel well equipped to manage the cases in our housing programs as we know the best non-medical intervention for COVID-19 is to isolate at home and that is something these clients are able to do. We will also be increasing our efforts to educate clients on best practices in terms of hygiene and COVID-19 do’s and don’ts.
We are making further adjustments to our Shelter and Detox programs as we address the safety of clients and staff in the facility, though it will remain the priority of our shelter to provide clients a safe place to stay as the colder weather settles in.
As of August 27, 2020
Through Alpha House’s continuous screening efforts, Alberta Heath Services (AHS) has confirmed one (1) positive COVID-19 case (client) at Alpha House. This individual is safely in isolation.
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 were prepared for the possibility of another positive test in our Shelter but are not concerned about additional positive cases at this time. As all organizations are, we continue to work closely with Alberta Health Services to follow all COVID-19 guidelines.
The safety of our clients and staff remains our top priority.
There remains no positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.
As of July 23, 2020
No new updates to share. Be safe everyone.
As of July 13, 2020
We do not have any additional updates to share at this time regarding our COVID-19 pandemic response. Please see below for previous updates.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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/
As of April 7, 2020
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
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
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
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
Alpha House is suspending all daily, weekly, and monthly volunteer activities including:
Out to Lunch Sandwich Group
Corporate and Faith Group Onsite Support
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
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
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
We will provide
updates on an ongoing basis and encourage anyone with specific questions to
contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued support of Alpha House.
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.”
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.
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
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
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
“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.
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.
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, 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.
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.”
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.
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.
The Huron Carole, Tuesday, December 3, 2019, Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal University
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.
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.
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.
Alpha House is fortunate to have the support of the Calgary community. Over the past couple of days, we have seen a tremendous outpouring of kindness as many Calgarians reached out to us in response to a recent petition that advocates for the relocation of our shelter and detox programs on 15th Avenue.
I feel it is important to address some of the key inaccuracies communicated in this petition, and to also share how we desire to be part of and work in community.
Alpha House has been a part of the Calgary community for almost 40 years. In that time, we’ve become recognized as a leader in helping men and women who are struggling with addictions and mental health issues, which are often a result of early trauma in their lives. Following a continuum of care model, we help people find the resources they need to live healthier lives and to find appropriate housing that is often the key to supporting long term well-being and improved health.
Our shelter is busy, but we are not over-capacity and we do not turn people away. We meet people where they are at in their life journey and help them access the right programs and resources along our continuum of care, which includes outreach, encampment, shelter, detox and transitional housing, as well as permanent housing.
Our location is central and accessible to many Calgarians who are in the downtown core and need to access our services. Many of the agencies we partner with are also located in downtown, making it more efficient and effective to collaborate on solutions to address social issues and to help those who need assistance.
Safety is very important to us – for the vulnerable Calgarians we serve, our employees and the residents and businesses that are part of the larger surrounding community. We value our relationships with neighbours and welcome open dialogue. We also take concerns seriously and some of the ways we respond include:
Participating in regular stakeholder meetings
Providing a dedicated phone number for our immediate neighbours to call
Having our staff on the street in front of our main entrance 24/7 to assist the vulnerable Calgarians we serve, as well as to respond to community concerns
Documenting all community calls and recording our responses to track any trends or key issues
Offering free Vulnerable Persons Training to those who would like to learn more about how to engage with the Calgarians we serve
The expansion of our Downtown Addictions Outreach Partnership (DOAP) team earlier this year allowed us to dedicate more resources to the Beltline area. We also introduced a dedicated needle response team to respond to community concerns and needle debris.
I encourage our neighbours to come visit our facility and learn more about our work – and the difference – that we make. The people we serve have the same hopes as many Calgarians – they want to be accepted, feel safe and belong to a community.
The incredible support we’ve received from local businesses, neighbours, individuals and organizations who have reached out to us is an affirmation that we can come together to find solutions to help our fellow Calgarians who need it most.
We finally have some warmer weather on our hands and that means a number of different things. With snow no longer in the forecast and no longer on the ground, re-exposure of the land means you might notice needles or other debris on your commute to work, school or on your way home. If you spot a needle on either private or public property, don’t hesitate to give our Needle Response Team (NRT) a call. Operating five days a week from 8 AM – 6PM, the NRT is trained to properly dispose of needles 403. 796.5334.
Another thing you might notice as the weather continues to warm up is an assortment of “rough sleepers” – this is a term used to describe individuals who are camping or sleeping outdoors in public areas. Alpha House’s Encampment Team are a mobile response unit that connects with individuals who are “camping” or “sleeping rough” outside, with the goal of helping individuals secure housing, visit the doctor, get to a shelter, or anything else they might need. If you notice a camp, we encourage you to call the Encampment Team at 403.805.7388.
The warm weather also creates the potential for overheating, dehydration, and sunburn. If you see someone on the street who may be in distress, please get in touch with our DOAP (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) team at 403.998.7388. Should someone be in need of immediate assistance, please call 911.
This is the 6th International Harm Reduction day and it has got us thinking about the principles of harm reduction. Alpha House supports a harm reduction approach in all of its programs. We know every individual has their own journey and should be treated with support and dignity while they navigate that path.
There is some great discourse happening lately on harm reduction, addiction and mental health. We want this discourse to continue in Canada and around the world. By continuing to learn, collaborate, and educate others, we can continue to provide hope to individuals caught in a cycle of addiction. Last month, Policy Options shared a great article on the need for greater resources and investment in health care that we thought we’d highlight today.
“”I’ve met thousands of people with substance addiction and I’ve never met any for whom this was their life plan,” says Dr. John Weekes, director of research and academics at the Waypoint Research Institute in Penetanguishene, Ontario.” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019)
We have been fortunate in Alberta to have non-profit agencies and local government that have made harm reduction a principle of their work, but there is more work to be done still. Research continues to show the factors that fuel, and put individuals at risk of, addiction.
“Dr. Sheri Fandrey clinical assistant professor at the University of Manitoba said it well, “We don’t have an opioid crisis or a methamphetamine crisis. We have a trauma crisis; a housing crisis; a poverty crisis; a stigma crisis.”” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019).