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
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.
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
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:
Short-term, crisis-oriented emergency shelter 24/7 for Albertans under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
*CALGARY AND LETHBRIDGE
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
Community and permanent-supportive housing programs to ensure housing stability and individualized supports for over 300 individuals.
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.
DOWNTOWN OUTREACH ADDICTIONS PARTNERSHIP (DOAP) TEAM
provides roughly 20,000 transports per year to Shelter, Housing, and Medical services.
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.
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.
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?
Be honest to yourself and to the client
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.
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.
Celebrate the small successes with your clients and encourage self-sufficiency
Two members of the Encampment Team, Cody and Brianna, stand beside their van in Stanley Park.
Today, Alpha House’s Encampment Team begin their day in Stanley Park. They have received a call from Calgary Community Standards’ Peace Officers (A.K.A Bylaw) about someone “camping” in the trees. The Encampment Team are a mobile response unit supporting “rough sleepers” with service navigation for shelter, housing, medical, or mental health programs in the city. Rough sleepers are individuals who sleep or camp in places not meant for human habitation and they do not typically use Emergency Shelters.
The program works alongside authorities like Bylaw; a crucial partnership that plays a major role in the team’s ability to support clients. While rough sleeping and camping are not encouraged by the City of Calgary, the Encampment Team’s relationship with Bylaw helps reduce displacement for those camping. When managing a community tip-off about a camp, Bylaw will share location information with the team to give them an opportunity to work with the individual(s). Constant relocation is both harmful to the wellbeing of the rough sleeper and counterproductive to supporting someone into housing or other social services. Finding a new campsite can be challenging and can cause delays for service accessibility.
Cody and Brianna form one of two Alpha House Encampment Teams. This isn’t their first time trying to make contact with the person camping in Stanley Park. They head into the trees and find a tent on the side of the hill, hidden from view of the road.
“Hello this is Alpha House, is anyone home?” Cody calls out. He waits a minute for a response. There is silence. He asks, ‘Do you need a lunch?’ Still no response. They wait another minute before concluding the individual is not around and move on to their next call. Sometimes the team will need to visit a site multiple times before making contact with someone. It’s hard to predict the hours someone will be around given the circumstances.
A client calls while the team moves on to their next stop of the day.
The supportive/affordable housing system in Calgary can be finicky to navigate. Part of the process includes frequent check-ins. This particular client has called to check in and to request some bus tickets to get to an appointment. The in-person interaction is brief but compassionate and respectful. Despite a non-descript parking lot as its location, this meeting is an important engagement in the team’s relationship with the client. Trust takes time to build. This interaction, as with all client interactions, is recorded by the team. The client’s consistent engagement means one less barrier for housing.
A check in can be as simple as a client calling to say hello and to note their continued interest/unchanged circumstance but it can also include updates on client needs or reports of a camp relocation. The more engagement, the less the likelihood of a delay when a housing unit becomes vacant. Units rarely sit empty for long as the demand for affordable and supportive housing in Calgary greatly outstrips the supply.
Alpha House is one of many organizations who provide supportive housing in Calgary. The Coordinated Access Assessment program provides oversite and management for Calgary’s affordable housing system and is run by the Calgary Homeless Foundation – working in collaboration with a number of housing providers to support clients toward housing that best fits their needs. Best-fit considerations can include the need for medical or old-age care, mental and physical health challenges, and even a client’s connection to a certain community.
The team’s next stop is Bowness. Their goal is to check in on J, who is camping at the bottom of a very steep, forested hill. His camp is well hidden and difficult to access. From the top of the hill Cody calls out and J answers back to say he’ll come up. J has a cell phone provided by Alpha House, but it has run out of minutes and J hasn’t been able to check in recently. He says he has some bottles he’s going to take to a depot today to buy some minutes for his phone. He has a teenage son that is just learning to drive and J wants to use his phone to get updates on how his son is doing. J also has a caseworker he’s been unable to reach because of this.
Cody calls J’s case worker for him. J has been approved for housing and is waiting for the unit to become available. After speaking with the caseworker, Cody shares the good news that J’s new apartment will be ready the following Monday. J only needs to wait for a few more nights before he’ll be able to move in. Before leaving, Brianna gives J a lunch and asks if J’s friend is still camping down the hill. J says he is and accepts a second lunch to pass along. He thanks the team and expresses how excited he is to move into his home.
Still in Bowness, the team meet with G. You would only be able to find G’s camp if you already knew it was there. Hidden in thick foliage, G has further camouflaged it with green tarps that act as wind breaks and walls. He has also constructed a work bench for himself and he tells the team he has just put up a second tent to use as a closet for his clothes. His main shelter is a sturdy tent. He has put down foam mats as floor tiles. The camp is one of the more elaborate setups the team have seen.
G has been trying to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the team have come to check in and inquire about his progress. He places a few hurried phone calls trying to track down invoices as proof of income. G works as a general contractor but lack of income due to COVID-19 meant a loss of housing in May of 2020. He is on a waitlist but hopes that CERB will give him the money he needs for a damage deposit and first months rent.
The team stops for lunch around midday. This afternoon they have booked in a client to do a Needs and Services Questionnaire (NSQ). NSQs are one of the requirements to access the affordable housing system in the city. The Encampment Team are one of only a handful of groups that can do NSQs. After their meeting, they’ll be back in the van to speak with more clients.
Every day is busy for the Encampment Team. A rough estimate of clients connected with the team at any given time is about 250 and the need for the Encampment Team continues to grow.
Cody and Brianna both say the best part of the job is watching clients progress to housing and how rewarding it is to have a role in supporting that transition, particularly when they get to be with a client on move-in day and experience that individual’s excitement and relief.
Individuals sleeping rough face significant barriers when it comes to housing. Even before the process of NSQs and wait lists, they face constant displacement, cold nights in a city well-known for its frigid winters, food insecurity, the threat of tickets for violating certain bylaw (which they may weigh against the dangers of not being able to use a fire to keep warm at night or eating cold food perennially). The list goes on.
The Encampment Program is able to respond in real-time to client needs to ultimately remove some of these barriers and transition individuals into stable housing. Alpha House is excited about new developments with its Encampment Team and our ongoing partnership with CCS and we encourage you to keep your eye on our social media and blog for updates!
Leonard has been a resident of The Clayton on Bowness Road for almost a year now. Originally from a Hutterite colony in Southern Saskatchewan, he lived in a variety of towns and cities across the prairies before a series of difficult circumstances led him to homelessness in Calgary, AB. He lived on the streets of Calgary for 9 years. Winters were spent in shelters and in the summer he would camp with his friends in Marlborough Park. Last year, a bout of pneumonia left him hospitalised. However, in a positive turn of events, the hospital helped him get in touch with Alpha House who worked with Leonard to find a home that suited him best. ‘When I saw the room (at the Clayton) I asked if I could move in right away, and they said okay. So I moved in that day’.
Hailing from a Hutterite colony near Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Leonard left at 18 to find work outside the colony. He has thought about going back over the years but he describes colony life as being dictated by rules and he had a dream of seeing the world. When he first left the colony, CBC news did a televised interview with him. He spoke then of his ambitions to find work and of struggles with loneliness and learning what felt, at times like a different culture. When he did find work in construction his boss speaks highly of Leonard, saying he’s keen and happy to work. This was in Swift Current. However after asking his neighbour to turn down a stereo early in the morning, he was confronted in his apartment by that same neighbour armed with a bat and crowbar. He decided to leave town after this and was forced to quit his job.
He relocated to Saskatoon where he got a job working at a carpet store. His older brother who had also left the colony was living there. He was a successful writer and publisher, releasing books on Hutterite food and culture including The Hutterite Treasury of Recipes. His brother would often test out the recipes and ask Leonard to try them. He recounts one time when they were eating sauerkraut for six months because his brother had made so much!
Eventually, Saskatoon didn’t work out either. He describes ending up in a bad way, mostly due to a dealer ‘who was available all the time. You’d call him up anytime and he’d be there in 30 minutes. He’d float you $200 worth of drugs. So I paid him off and left town to start over’.
He travelled then to Winnipeg where he built on his experience working at a carpet store to become the manager of a carpet warehouse. In Winnipeg he had a daughter, who is 13 now. ‘She’s home schooled right now because of COVID.’ They speak over Facebook when they can.
After getting back in touch with his first girlfriend, he relocated from Winnipeg to Calgary. He found a basement suit in Calgary but then ended up without a home after his relationship didn’t work out. Him and some friends would camp out in and around Marlborough Park. ‘We’d lean boards against a wall and stick a tarp over’. In the winters when it got cold he’d go to various shelters. But he expressed some hesitancy about using them. ‘I’m not a big guy. The walk to the shelter can be scary’. He mentions staying at the shelter Alpha House runs downtown and that he appreciated their harm reduction approach.
A year after he ended up on the streets, his brother passed away. Leonard speaks fondly of his brother but says ‘his death hit me really hard. My dad passed away around then too.’ It was 2011 that he ended up on the streets, but his main point from the year is that the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. His favourite hockey player is Patrice Bergeron; their captain. He watches Boston play whenever he gets the chance.
When he talks about growing up on the colony, he mentions the stigma he felt when he’d travel into town. He speaks about running into gangs of teenage boys when he’d visit the mall in Moosejaw. He was afraid to tell people he was a Hutterite for a long time after that. But over the last 15 years he says ‘I’m not afraid to tell people anymore. I’m just a human.’ He has 8 brothers and 4 sisters, most of whom live on colonies. He’s been back to visit but because of religious custom he can never move back permanently.
He likes his room at the Clayton, and even has a pet fish named Leonard Jr. He’s been able to access a pharmacy for smoking cessation aids, which he gets every month. He’s got a TV set as well where he can watch his favourite show Big Brother. ‘I applied for this season but didn’t get accepted’ he relates. Leonard also loves watching Survivor and Britain’s Got Talent. His favourite song is You are the Reason by Britain’s Got Talent Star Calum Scott.
The Clayton is run by Calgary Alpha House Society and was built by HomeSpace in 2019; a 30-unit permanent-supportive housing program with 24/7 wrap-around supports. The building is one of a handful of affordable housing options in Calgary designed for people who have experienced chronic homelessness.
Frank is a resident of Madison Place. An apartment building managed by Alpha House Society for previously unhoused Veterans of the Armed Forces, Air Force, Police and Fire Departments. Clients at Madison Place work with on-site staff to manage past or current addictions, improve their health, and engage with the community. Frank is one of the longest residents of Madison Place, which has been operating in Calgary’s Beltline since 2012. His cat, Buddha, lives with him and his wife, Amanda, lives only a few blocks away. Buddha spends most of our interview sleeping; at 21 years old he is well looked after and spends most of his time dozing in the sun next to Frank.
Originally from Eastport, Newfoundland, Frank was born the middle child in a family of 12. His mother ‘never stopped,’ he says, and passed away only a few years ago at the age of 92. His father worked cutting railroad ties in Nerranova, ‘Back in Newfoundland, we were poor people,’ he says. ‘So I joined to help my family out’.
When Frank enlisted, it was ‘August 1966, I still remember it was August’. He was stationed first out of Murphy Barracks in Ontario and was a paratrooper – ‘a jumper,’ he says. And then a sniper. Smiling, he quips that when he first joined his Newfie accent was too thick for his sergeant to understand. ‘I used to get away with murder’ because of it, he says. ‘I loved being in the Army’.
Frank travelled to Greece, Cyprus, Germany and many other countries before eventually being stationed in Currie Barracks in Calgary. When he left the Army in 1983, he decided to settle in Calgary, because he liked the look of the place and made it home.
He left the army because of drinking, he says ‘Drinks were free on the barracks and you get bored. They sent me for treatment for it once. Any part of the Forces there is a lot of drinking.’ After leaving the army, Frank started working as a painter, which he did until he was 64, only retiring because of health concerns with his leg.
Frank eventually ended up living on the street with his wife Amanda. He was living under the bridge near the Elbow River Casino, but he doesn’t speak ill of those experiences. ‘I don’t like being confined’ he says ‘I like being outside, all times of year. It’s cold by the river but I enjoyed it. I’d go into the casino to shave, it’s open 24 hours a day. Cops would visit, bring coffee and sandwiches. When they found out I was a veteran though they got mad.’ Over Christmas, he and Amanda had been gifted a hotel room for a week when the two cops he had become familiar with helped get a place to live with Alpha House.
He didn’t want to move without his wife though, so Alpha House helped get her a place at a housing program with the YWCA a few blocks away. Because of house rules around the COVID-19 pandemic, Amanda can’t visit Frank. But he’s able to go over to her place two days a week and they meet up outside. He has two daughters and a son back in Newfoundland. He speaks to them on the phone often and last saw them two years ago at his brother’s funeral. The Veterans Association and Alpha House helped him with his flights, and looked after Buddha while he was away.
‘The staff here are excellent’ Frank says. Because of health concerns with his leg he’s in a mobility scooter but staff here have worked with the Veteran’s Association to make sure Frank is well looked after and his scooter is in good working order. Before Christmas, he spent 28 days in hospital but Frank is tough and describes his health issues as more of an inconvenience than a concern.
Frank is active in the community. Outside the building next to the Canadian flag there’s a dog bowl that is kept filled so locals walking their dogs can take a break. In the summer time, Alpha House Staff at Madison Place host frequent BBQs with clients and the community. Frank says he spends a lot of time outside talking to people experiencing homelessness and doing what he can to help whether it be listening to their stories or giving them a meal. He frequents the Kirby Centre and the Legion, which in non-COVID-19 times provides low cost and free programing to seniors. Frank loves living in the Beltline in the summertime because of all the events happening from the public pianos to concerts in Olympic Plaza.
He’s due to get his vaccine before too long and is looking forward to when life starts getting back to normal. He misses being able to have his wife over and to visit with his friends still living on the streets. He’s getting sick of TV but enjoys a few shows like Schitt’s Creek. He describes the community in the building as being very supportive and all great guys. ‘Life is what you make it. I enjoy every day I’m alive,’ says Frank.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
 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
As community cases of COVID-19 rise, Alpha House will continue to follow PPE protocols to keep staff and clients safe. However, our specific COVID-19 response programs (transitional housing in the East Village and overflow Shelter space at the Mustard Seed) have closed.
As in Calgary, we continue to have PPE protocols in place at our Shelter and Stabilization Centre. However, our COVID-19 isolation program has closed.
As of April 14, 2021
We are happy to report Alpha House’s Shelter is no longer in outbreak status after a long stretch of positive COVID-19 cases. We continue to work with The Mustard Seed to operate nightly beds out of their downtown space and we have transitioned our temporary shelter in the East Village to a transitional housing program.
Lethbridge continues to see high COVID-19 case numbers and we continue to work to support unhoused individuals who have tested positive or were deemed close contacts. Thus far we have supported over 284 individuals through their isolation period.
As of March 29, 2021
Alpha House continues to operate temporary shelters out of a hostel in the East Village and in partnership with The Mustard Seed out of their downtown shelter. This has enabled us to keep people safe while not sacrificing capacity. We are pleased that front-line workers in our Shelter in Calgary will soon be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. Ultimately, we continue to operate every day to support client needs and to keep people safe.
The Lethbridge Shelter (and the Lethbridge community more generally) continues to struggle with positive COVID-19 cases and we continue to operate a hotel for isolation supports for positive cases and those who are identified as close contacts. We are pleased that front-line workers in our Shelter in Lethbridge will soon be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.
As of February 3, 2021
We are sorry to share that we have had news of the first death from COVID-19 for those experiencing homelessness in Lethbridge. We know those experiencing homelessness are more likely to have comorbidities that make them higher risk for complications due to COVID-19, which is why we are working so diligently to support those who are most vulnerable. We continue to operate isolation spaces for those without a fixed address who test positive for COVID-19 or who come into contact with someone who has tested positive, and we continue to operate both the Emergency Shelter and Stabilization Centre. If you would like to support our efforts, learn more about ways to help here.
Alpha House’s transitional housing program in the NE, though now closed, is proud to have successfully transitioned over 105 individuals to long-term, stable housing since it opened in March 2020. Our alternative program, which we shifted resources to as our NE program concluded, is now up and running in the East Village out of the HI Hostel. This new program provides safe shelter and transitional housing services for up to 60 clients at a time.
As of January 15, 2021
Alpha House continues to operate the Stabilization Centre and Shelter, increasing our withdrawal management capacity and working closely with AHS to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission. We are operating an isolation unit within the Shelter to immediately isolate and test individuals who present with symptoms or who are deemed to be a close contact of an individual who recently tested positive.
We also continue to operate isolation units out of a hotel in Lethbridge to support individuals without a fixed address to safely complete an isolation period with supports. Additionally, we are in talks with the City and Province to identify possible sites to expand our shelter services while the pandemic is ongoing to address physical distancing challenges in our current shelter facility.
Alpha House will be closing down the hotel in the NE that has served as a transitional housing/overflow shelter site for Alpha House for the past 10 months. We are extraordinarily grateful to the staff who have supported our efforts. Since April, we have moved over 70 individuals into stable, long-term housing from this program. As this program closes, another one opens.
In our ongoing efforts to reduce risk of transmission of COVID-19 in our downtown Shelter, Alpha House will be temporarily opening a second site in the East Village to safely maintain capacity for those who use our services. This program will provide low barrier safe shelter as well as transitional housing opportunities. Although different than the hotel program, this second site will be crucial to supporting clients and ensuring the safety of clients and staff.
As always, if you are looking for ways to support our work, please consider a monetary or in-kind donation.
As of January 6, 2021
The pandemic response continues into 2021.
Alpha House’s Stabilization Centre and Shelter is still in “outbreak” status and we continue to work closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure we are following all public health guidelines. We continue to operate a hotel to provide isolation units to individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or for those who are deemed “close contacts.”
Alpha House’s Calgary programs continue to move in and out of outbreak status as positive COVID-19 cases remain high in the community. We remain prepared to manage these situations and continue to work closely with all levels of government to ensure the safety of clients, staff, and the public.
As of December 18, 2020
Alpha House continues to see an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB. We are continuing our efforts to safeguard clients and staff to the best of our ability and working closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure we are following all public health guidelines. Positive COVID-19 cases along with individuals who were considered at-risk of exposure due to close contact with a positive case are provided isolation units at a hotel in Lethbridge with 24/7 monitoring and access to social and medical supports. Thus far, we have successfully supported 50 clients through their isolation periods and we will continue this model as it is needed. Lastly, we continue to work with the provincial government and City of Lethbridge to identify space for a second shelter site to accommodate increased physical distancing in the main shelter and the increased need for shelter space with the cold weather.
Alpha House also continues to see an increase in positive cases in the population we serve in Calgary, AB. Our pandemic response has continually adapted to meet the protocols of public health and to safeguard our clients and staff from increased transmission. As community transmission increases, so does transmission within the vulnerable population in Alberta. We are still operating two satellite sites for additional shelter space and will continue to do so as long as the need exists. It will remain our priority to support those needing our services as safely as possible.
Over the weekend of Dec 5-6, the Lethbridge Shelter moved into “outbreak status” as characterized by Alberta Health Services (AHS). As of December 9, we have identified a total of seventeen (17) positive cases.
All positives cases are safely in isolation spaces with 24/7 monitoring, social supports provided by Alpha House, and medical supports provided by AHS.
We are currently working with two hotels in Lethbridge to provide these isolation spaces in partnership with AHS. We will continue to work within this framework to ensure anyone who tests positive or anyone who is at-risk due to possible exposure are able to safely isolate with supports. We will support this model while ensuring our shelter continues to respond to the needs of those experiencing homelessness.
Enhanced protocols are in place at our Shelter; universal masking is in place and all staff are in full PPE.
Alpha House’s Calgary shelter remains in outbreak status with all positive cases currently in isolation. Enhanced entry and cleaning protocols are currently in place in the Shelter. All staff are in full PPE and clients are masked.
Additionally, we have had an outbreak at one of our place-based supportive housing programs and are continuing to manage that situation. All individuals are currently isolating in their units with supports from staff.
As of November 30, 2020
Through our continuous screening efforts, Alberta Heath Services (AHS) has confirmed two (2) positive COVID-19 cases at Alpha House Lethbridge. Under AHS definitions, the shelter is now in outbreak.
Alpha House has been preparing for the possibility of a positive case in Lethbridge for some time and we are ready to open a satellite location to accommodate increased spacing between beds in the main shelter as needed.
Alpha House staff diligently follow protocols to screen clients upon entry to all programs and to immediately isolate individuals presenting with symptoms. There are available isolation spaces in Lethbridge to accommodate symptomatic clients and Alpha House is on hand to provide transportation as needed. Staff are also screened upon entering our facilities daily, and are equipped with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across all programs.
In Calgary, Alpha House’s main Shelter remains in outbreak status with our last positive identified on November 17th. We are currently operating 2 other satellite shelters in the city to accommodate temporarily reduced numbers in our main building. We have temporarily paused new admissions to our Detox program as well.
As of November 27, 2020
Alpha House has temporarily reduced capacity at is main downtown shelter to accommodate greater spacing between clients; we continue to operate an overflow shelter at a hotel in the NE and have also partnered with the Mustard Seed in Calgary to utilize their unoccupied space for an overnight shelter space staffed by Alpha House. We are extremely grateful for the ongoing collaboration in the homeless-serving sector and for the opportunity to continue offering shelter to those that need it.
We continue to expect to see positive cases throughout the population we serve given the high number of overall cases in the city and will continue to work closely with Alberta Health Services to be responsive to the needs of our clients and the community.
As of November 17, 2020
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 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 email@example.com.
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.”