News & Events

New Mural for Detox Gathering Room

Shaundra Bruvall | June 10, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*Interview conducted by Jessica Irving.

Strength and Resilience in Crescent Heights

Shaundra Bruvall | April 29, 2021

‘I’m a strong lady; that sticks in my head,’ says Gail as she shares her story and what life is like at Providence House in Crescent Heights. She’s not quite 60, although you wouldn’t know it. She goes walking with friends as often as she can and takes pride in keeping her apartment clean and tidy. She’s dressed nicely for our conversation, with sparkly purple nail polish, a black top, and matching jewelry. She speaks about her life growing up, her kids, her husband, her experiences being homeless and her time now at Providence House, where Alpha House provides 24/7 wrap-around supports. Resilient and wise, she’s shy at first but quickly opens up and is happy to share her story and her years of wisdom.

The youngest of seven girls, she has six brothers as well and speaks fondly of her parents. Growing up in Cardston, Alberta she thanks her parents for being strict as she was growing up. She first met her future husband Francis in Siksika. She describes him as the classic tall, dark, and handsome. Her parents were smitten as well and urged Gail to marry him. They spent 32 years together living on the Siksika Reserve east of Calgary. ‘My husband taught me a lot and I am thankful my dad accepted him.’ ‘I lived a happy life’. Francis worked in agriculture, and Gail worked as a cleaner for a while but dedicated most of her time to raising their children.

‘I did a lot of cooking. I’d make bannock and have a family recipe.’ She says she even made bannock tacos two weeks ago. An avid gardener as well, her favourite plant to grow was always rhubarb because of the jam she’d make afterwards.

A mother of three, her son turned 31 in March but she still fondly calls him her baby boy. Her daughter is older and she speaks about how proud she is for how well her daughter is doing. Her oldest son Matthew, sadly has passed away.

When her husband died, he left everything including the house to her. Two weeks after he passed her in-laws showed up and ‘things got out of hand. I ended up in hospital…. after I was released I didn’t know where to go or what to do’. Gail ended up on the streets.

Living on the streets, she met another man. They were together 4 years and the way he treated her was the opposite of what things were like with her husband. ‘I was on the street for those 4 years. I can tolerate so much; I got tired. I started getting sick. I ended up in hospital’. It was in hospital that she was connected with the YWCA; the original service providers of Providence House, an affordable housing building owned by charitable real estate developer, HomeSpace. Alpha House took over service provision for the building in October 2020.

‘I don’t have to go wandering off living here’ she says, ‘I don’t take my apartment for granted.’ She speaks warmly of the staff, ‘Alpha treat me well, I call them family, and I get along with the women here. We talk to each other, this is why I like this place.’

With COVID-19 the common areas for the building are closed off, but Gail has still been able to see her children outside. Her daughter was able to come by and drop off Christmas dinner. ‘COVID is hard for everybody,’ she says. She often visits with family and friends in the community, going for walks and staying as active as possible.


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.

Across the Prairies – From Assiniboine to Calgary

Shaundra Bruvall | April 14, 2021

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.

How an Unhoused Veteran Found His Home

Shaundra Bruvall | April 7, 2021

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.



For more information please contact:

Shaundra Bruvall

Communications and Fundraising Coordinator

[email protected]





Allison Leonhardt

Community Engagement Coordinator

[email protected]




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.