National Housing day exists in Canada to remind each of us of the importance of affordable housing for all. If you are lucky enough to never have had to worry about shelter for you and your family, it can be easy to overlook the barriers faced by so many and the critical nature of having safe, affordable housing.
National Housing Day aims to provide more advocacy for people experiencing homelessness within Canada, and serves to remind us that there is much to be done to make sure that all Canadians have access to affordable and safe housing. Current estimations suggest 235,000 Canadians may experience homelessness in a given year. Many people experiencing homelessness have multiple barriers to gaining affordable housing, such as lack of consistent or adequate income, mental or physical health issues or substance use addictions.
It has become more and more clear over the past decade that Canada is facing a housing crisis. Growing costs of housing and a strong demand with insufficient supply has led many Canadians, unable to afford market prices, to become entrenched in unsafe or inadequate housing units, or to become unhoused. In Calgary, the average house price is $553,300, and market prices for apartment rentals are currently averaging $2,178. These prices are often unaffordable for so many and, as a result, it becomes more and more likely that individuals, couples, and families will be forced to stay in unsafe housing situations, places that don’t meet their needs, or risk becoming unhoused.
Alpha House Society works alongside other homeless-serving and housing agencies in Calgary and within the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Housing Strategist programs to transition people experiencing homelessness into housing. Alpha House offers two different types of housing programs: permanent supportive housing (PSH) sometimes called Place-Based Housing (PBH) and Community (Scattered-Site) housing. Alpha House’s PSH program is made up of seven different apartment buildings throughout Calgary. Each offers individual case management and goal setting, as well as group programming case, supporting each resident to improve their circumstances by learning new skills, reducing harm related to substance use, and establishing and creating community for everyone.
Alpha House’s Community Housing program supports clients to transition towards independent living. Clients in the program are housed within the community with their own units and sign their own leases. Caseworkers support clients with intensive case management to help with basic short and long-term needs and reduce the likelihood of re-entry into homelessness.
There is a vast array of needs when it comes to housing and, to ensure stability, it is critical to meet those needs with a spectrum of housing options; matching needs with services. In the homeless-serving sector, housing options are critical to reducing barriers for individuals who are rough-sleeping, struggling with mental or physical health challenges, and dealing with substance use addiction
Alpha House believes foremost in a Housing First approach to solving homelessness – without barriers and without exception – providing housing regardless of an individual’s personal circumstances and, as an agency, our continuum of programs work to meet individuals where they are at, determine what type of housing would suit them best, and support them in transition.
National Housing Day exists to remind Canadians that every person deserves a home, four walls and a roof. Many Calgarians are feeling firsthand the impacts of the housing crisis. aware of how the housing crisis. The City of Calgary Council recently passed a strategy with the goal of ensuring every Calgarian has an affordable place to call home. This strategy has five main points: 1) increase the supply of housing, 2) support affordable housing providers, 3) enable the City’s housing subsidiaries to improve service delivery, 4) ensure diverse housing choice, and 5) address the affordable housing needs of Indigenous people. This strategy was adopted on September 16, 2023 with implementation plans stretched out over 2024-2030.
Federally, Canada has also implemented a national housing strategy which includes investing 40 billion dollars into different housing strategy targets, such as a 50% reduction of emergency shelter stays by those chronically homeless, 385,000 community housing units protected, and another 50,000 units created through an expansion of community housing. Alpha House knows the importance of safe, supportive, and affordable housing and we stand with all agencies, government bodies, and developers who are working towards Housing for All.
Written by Alpha House Staff (Amy Sutherland)
Government of Canada. (2017). Canada’s National Housing Strategy: A place to call home. https://eppdscrmssa01.blob.core.windows.net/cmhcprodcontainer/sf/project/placetocallhome/pdfs/canada-national-housing-strategy.pdf
City of Calgary. (2023). Home is here, the City of Calgary’s housing strategy 2024-2030. https://www.calgary.ca/communities/housing-in-calgary/housing- strategy.html#:~:text=Home%20is%20Here%2C%20The%20City%20of%20Calgary’s%20 Housing%20Strategy%20was,office%20conversions%20to%20support%20students
Homeless Hub. (2021) How many people are homeless in Canada. https://www.homelesshub.ca/about-homelessness/homelessness-101/how-many-people-are-homeless-canada
Average house price in Calgary. (2023, October 16) The Canadian Magazine of Immigration. https://canadaimmigrants.com/average-house-price-in-calgary/ #:~:text=The%20average%20house%20price%20in,over%20year%20in%20September%2 02023
I’m sitting in a boardroom at Alpha House’s Community Housing and Administration building with 3 longtime Alpha Staff. Each of them was a big part of Alpha House’s initial (and ongoing) response to the flooding that washed away most of Calgary’s downtown in June of 2013. I sat down to hear from them about their experiences and recollections on this 10-year anniversary. We hope you enjoy stepping back in time with us to June 2013 in Calgary, AB and journeying with us through some of the challenges and memories from that crazy 6 months when Calgary was temporarily transformed and the real spirit of community was shown.
2013. JUNE. CALGARY, ALBERTA
Alpha House has been in operation for over 30 years but, for the most part, we fly under the radar. We work with a subset of the homeless population through our Shelter, Detox, Housing, and Outreach programs but….things aren’t quite the same in 2013 as they are today. We’re a staff of only 40 (now over 300) with 1 DOAP Team (now 5 teams rebranded to ‘HELP’ and 3 other outreach programs), and only 2 housing buildings (now 7).
Our Shelter still housed 120 beds in June of 2013 as it does today but it was only about 50% full when a Fire Marshall showed up at Alpha House Society on a beautiful, sunny, now infamous day around 5PM to deliver some bad news.
ENTER JADE W, then Shelter Team Lead, who was the one on-site that day to receive the ominous news:
“You need to evacuate your building.”
To which, Jade, said, politely, incredulously…. “To where?”
Well… the ‘where’ would be a somewhat unknown answer for several days and, as it turns out, weeks over the course of the summer of 2013.
THURSDAY. 20 JUNE 2023. 1700 HOURS. CALGARY ALPHA HOUSE SOCIETY
Take me back to that first moment when the Fire Marshall showed up and told you to evacuate – what were you thinking? What happened? When did you realize this was going to be significant for Alpha House and its clients?
“Well, I didn’t think it was going to be. It was a beautiful sunny day, there wasn’t any visible signs it was going to be a long-term thing. I was Team Lead in the Shelter then and, I remember, there was some disagreement about whether we were going to evacuate. The Fire Marshall is telling me we have to leave and I’ve got one of our Managers behind him saying ‘No, we don’t.’ And I’m trying to figure out a possible evacuation and kind of freaking out and when I asked the Fire Marshall where we were supposed to go, he said ‘you need to go home’ and I remember saying ‘they have nowhere to go; this is their home.’
“This is their home”
THURSDAY. 20 JUNE 2023. 1800 HOURS. CALGARY ALPHA HOUSE SOCIETY
Calgary Police Services reports to Alpha House to inform staff there would be a bus arriving in 15 minutes to take everyone to the Calgary Drop-In Centre.
“I was supposed to be off at 6PM,” Jade shares, “but I was there till about 9PM and the new team had come on and we’re trying to get everyone on the bus.”
What was the plan? You said you weren’t thinking long-term but were there any plans put in place?
“Well-no,” Jade says, truthfully. “There were mats still on the floor – we left everything because we didn’t know. We thought we would be back. We were still trying to come up with a game plan because we really didn’t know where we were going or for how long. The one really good thing we did do was empty our parkade of our DOAP vans – which ended up being probably the best thing we did that night.”
Kathy C, then (and current) Executive Director of Alpha House, remembers being one of the last people in the building.
“I remember standing in the Shelter – and that was one of the only times the building has ever been empty – and I kept going out on to the street and just standing there, looking left and right…and just…looking..”
“It was so nice out still.”
“No one knew what was coming.”
THURSDAY. 20 JUNE 2023. 2200 HOURS. CALGARY DROP-IN CENTRE
Heavy rainfall on the melting snowpack in the Rocky Mountains combined with steep, rocky terrain caused rapid and intense flooding in southern-Alberta watersheds. The City of Calgary transformed virtually overnight.
Another evacuation happened at the Drop-In Centre overnight as their East Village location was also impacted. The Drop-In Centre had another building off McKnight where they evacuated their people.
Alpha House staff and clients were not evacuated with them. “We didn’t know where we were going to go then,” said Jade.
FRIDAY. 21 JUNE 2023. 0200 HOURS. CALGARY, AB.
As the waters rushed towards Calgary, The City issued a flood warning, activated the Municipal Emergency Plan, declared a state of local emergency and gave an evacuation notice for communities at risk.
Alpha House, to this day, serves an incredibly vulnerable community – those who are continually at risk because they are without housing. In a parallel with the COVID-19 pandemic that would shut down the City of Calgary in a different way 7 years later, the 2013 flood would affect those who did not have access to safe housing (outside of the flood zone) most.
The city basically split down the river – if you were on one side, you could access things on your side of the river. “I remember,” says Karen S, Team Lead at one of Alpha House’s 2 housing buildings at the time, Francis Manor, “the five of us [team leads/managers] were on a conference call/ group chat all night because we weren’t sure when we needed to go – when we were going to be needed or where or how. I called Nicole (then Shelter Manager) and said ‘I’m going’ – and she said ‘how? You can’t’ – and I just said ‘I’ll get there.’
“It was a feeling of ‘we’re going to get it done’ –whatever needs to get done”
FRIDAY. 21 JUNE 2023. 0700 HOURS. CALGARY, AB.
There were a number of spaces setup for people who had been displaced. One of those was Central Memorial High School.
Jade started her day at Francis Manor. “This was before we had staff cell phones so we were using our personal phones and trying to figure out what to do for our clients as we had no building. The DOAP team were packing vans and taking clients to where we were told to go at that time [central memorial HS].”
ENTER MARIANNE, then Shelter Team Lead. “I’m at home and I get a call from Nicole – she said ‘do you think you can get to Central Memorial High School.’ I wasn’t really even aware of what was happening in the neighbourhood because where I lived was unaffected. But I grabbed my backpack and my skateboard (cause I wasn’t sure how far I was going to be able to drive, a pillow (in case I needed to sleep in the car) and I got to the high school.”
Central Memorial High School was not just Alpha House clients and staff though.
“It was chaos,” says Marianne. “I remember I walked in and one of our staff handed me the staff directory and printed staff schedule and that was all we had of Alpha House – those 2 things.”
There had been a lot of movement in the last 12 hours throughout the city and, of course, particularly in the affected areas. Central Memorial was teeming with evacuees, City of Calgary CEMA staff, Alberta Health Services and the Red Cross.
“Only a few clients though,” remembers Marianne.
Alpha House had moved all its Detox clients to our housing building, Madison Place, finding ways to accommodate a lot more individuals than the building was built for. It was a rush of coordinating staffing and scheduling, trying to figure out where people were going to go and if they could get there and, more importantly, how to get to our clients.
“We had all our vans going downtown looking for our people,” Jade explains. “They were spending the entire day collecting folks – who were coming out of all sorts of hiding places downtown.”
“We rescued about 100 clients that way”
At some point early on Friday, with Marianne organizing staff with one phone, one directory, and a lot of chaos, Jade, Kathy, and, Finance Manager Vivian, decide they need to get to Alpha House’s Shelter.
“We weren’t supposed to be going back down there. Past a certain point, downtown was blocked off. You could see Alpha House at the end of the street and we ended up getting a ride in from this massive truck that was ferrying people who were stranded on the spiral [the Victoria Park/Stampede Train Station].”
The Shelter was a mess. As staff could hardly have expected the situation Calgary was about to be in, they hadn’t taken anything on evacuation. The rescue mission Jade, Kathy, and Vivian embarked on was to pick up some essentials: cheques, gift cards, supplies, and anything that might help setup a temporary shelter.
FRIDAY. 21 JUNE 2023. 1700 HOURS. CALGARY, AB.
It was more and more apparent as Friday June 21st dragged on, that Alpha House was not supposed to be at Central Memorial High School. “We were eventually told we had to move to Village Square. Red cross had setup Village Square as yet another evacuee space,” says Marianne.
ENTER KAREN, then Team Lead at Alpha Housing Program, Francis Manor.
On the right side of the river, Karen is there to meet the buses coming from Central Memorial High School, standing alone in front of the concrete steps.
“I’m waiting there and all of a sudden, the buses are coming in and I’m looking everywhere for our people – because it wasn’t just Alpha House – Inn from the Cold and the Mustard Seed all had clients coming – so I’m trying to direct our people to the spot setup in Village Square for us.”
“They [the Red Cross] did such a good job; it was a great setup; the clients loved it”
SATURDAY. 22 JUNE 2023. 0700 HOURS. VILLAGE SQUARE LEISURE CENTRE.
In what would become the start of a great deal more awareness and appreciation for Alpha House’s Outreach services, the DOAP team is out supporting Calgary Police Services with evacuations and rescues. They had rescued over a hundred of Alpha House’s clients the day before, but they were still out looking for people in the flooded downtown. And at Village Square, Karen is leading Alpha staff.
“It was pure chaos in some ways,” says Karen, “because all of these people are coming and going; there are 3 organizations with their staff and clients; police everywhere; people on the grass; community members are showing up trying to give food and clothes……. “But we didn’t have HMIS systems then.” jumps in Marianne, the database homeless-serving agencies use to track case management for clients, “so we had no way of checking people in and out and there were people everywhere.”
“Clients were going into withdrawal – because they couldn’t get downtown to get their substance of choice”
The temporary shelter at Village Square lasted one week.
SUNDAY. 23 JUNE 2023. 0700 HOURS. VILLAGE SQUARE LEISURE CENTRE.
Summer camps at Village Square kicked out the agencies using the space for temporary shelter. Canada Day long-weekend camps were starting and the centre had to be back up and running.
“We couldn’t stay there anyway,” says Karen. “Police were bringing complaints from community members because they weren’t used to seeing our clients out wandering in the community. We were dealing with a whole bunch of people who were trying to be helpful, but there were no systems in place.”
“And while we were working in the different locations, some of our staff were staying in the same evacuation shelters we had been supporting clients in,” adds Marianne.
Eventually, a committee was established to advise on what was going on in the city and to capture what supports were needed and how they could be provided. And, as part of this process, several locations are proposed during the time spent at Village Square.
But there was nothing very suitable.
There was a warehouse in Bowness – no running water and no electricity. Kathy remembers Nicole on the other end of the phone, having just toured the bare bones of a virtually empty concrete building, crying, saying, “It’s horrible; we can’t do this.”
Another possible location: the Holy Redeemer School in Forest Lawn. Not then used as a school for many years.
Karen remembers spending a long time mapping out the space – “how we were going to check clients in, what the flow was going to be, where was the staff desk going to go, where would the supplies be stored, how would clients move through the space safely.”
Within 24 hours, a petition had come from the community to prevent Alpha House from setting up at the holy redeemer school.
FRIDAY. 28 JUNE 2023. 0700 HOURS. CALGARY, AB.
“That was a panicky 24 hours,” remembers Marianne. “I got a call from CEMA saying ‘you won’t be going to the school, but you can’t stay here.’ I called Karen and just said, “We aren’t going to the school, they don’t have a place for us.”
Within that 24 hours, Alpha House toured locations, mapped out the school as a temporary shelter, mapped out and setup what would become the next destination, Max Bell Centre, and then also toured a further location because it was already known Max Bell would be yet another very temporary solution.
“That [at Max Bell] was the best week of the whole flood”
Stampede still happened in 2013, a defiant tag line ‘Come Hell or High Water,’ telling the world a little (or a lot of) water wasn’t going to stop Calgarians from coming together.
“They still did fireworks every night,” Karen reminisces, “clients and staff would go out on to the rocks [in the Max Bell parking lot] and watch the fireworks. It was the most beautiful scene.”
One particularly memorable day of that week at Max Bell, Alpha House staff brought BBQs in on the backs of pickup trucks, a staff member got free food donated from her other place of work, and, overlooking the city, Alpha House had its own Stampede event. “It was probably the best one we ever had,” says Karen.
There were still challenges – one of the larger ones, literally, was the sheer size of Max Bell, finding ways to block off areas and close off different sections, lock doors and use whatever was available to make the space manageable, safety wise, for clients and staff.
SATURDAY. 7 JULY 2023. 0700 HOURS. MAX BELL >>> CALGARY SCIENCE CENTRE
“The Science Centre location was an ongoing work in progress,” Jade shares. “It was so big, it had no showers, it was raining inside” (yes, you read that right).
“There was definitely a lot of stress in our daily meetings,” says Karen, “It was a constant question of ‘how are we going to make this work.’ The bathroom was so far away. We had to post 2 staff down the hall just to get clients down the hallway.”
“And the staff bathroom was outside,” Jade jumps in, laughing, “which was fine…except it was stainless steel….and it was late October/November.”
A trailer was used for showers for clients and there were extremely limited laundry services – courtesy of a dry cleaners in….Kensington. “There was a lot of driving back and forth,” says Karen.
But there was no shortage of creativity and staff ingenuity to keep things operating. “Once we got to the science center, we knew we were there for awhile, and we just made it work.”
“The showers worked, the bathrooms worked, Jesus Loves You gave us their kitchen to make food, and we thought this is just what we’re dealing with and we’ll deal with it.”
OCTOBER 2023. 0700 HOURS. CALGARY ALPHA HOUSE SOCIETY.
When you started going back into the building what was that like?
“Going back into the empty building was really creepy,” Marianne says immediately. “It was strange,” agrees Karen. “And it was sad cause it was empty, and everything was damaged and after 4 months of chaos and all the other locations, we were going to be starting over again, again”
“Definitely bittersweet,” Jade adds, “it was a lot; we went through a whole lot, it was trying for all of us”
What was the feeling among staff while you were navigating these challenges? Motivated?
“Very motivated in a lot of ways,” Karen agrees, “everyone was exhausted; everyone was working so much overtime, but we all showed up every. damn. day.”
How long till things felt a bit normal?
“Right away”, Jade says immediately, “we had our systems back; we got very good at putting a shelter together quickly.”
JUNE 2023. 1100 HOURS. CALGARY ALPHA HOUSE SOCIETY.
Looking back on the 2013 floods, there is a clear theme that emerges, which most of Calgary would likely agree with. The community stepped up. In so many ways. There was a significant amount of scrambling, and a lot of chaos and confusion, but there were so many helpers and no shortage of people and groups and partners who were ready to step in and support. There are a few that stand out for us:
Our own clients making room for other vulnerable individuals, such as our Veteran’s adapting to all our Detox clients taking up residence in their building, sharing supplies and common areas
CUPS Calgary didn’t ask anything from us and gave us free rent, office space, keys to their building; they saved our bacon as we didn’t have any long term resources and the damage to the building was substantial. They welcomed us there for 7-months and we were not a small group
Community members – donating and volunteering and being so helpful supporting not just Alpha House but all of the groups and community members displaced by the flooding
Thank you for walking back in time with us. We are grateful for the way we came together as a community in 2013 and believe it made our teams stronger. Stay dry this month, Calgary!
Standing Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
By Dawn Lemieux
Canada is becoming increasingly diverse. According to Statistics Canada, one million Canadians identify as belonging to the 2SLGBTQ+ community (2022). While Canada has made moves toward equality, such as same-sex marriage and new protections for gender identity and expression written into the Canadian Human Rights Act, we still have a long way to go in combatting the homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia that is prevalent in society, schools, and other institutions.
Statistically, 2SLGBTQ+ people experience real danger on a daily basis since they are more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted or to sustain injuries as a result of aggression than those who are not 2SLGBTQ+. Alarmingly, 59% of 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada have been physically or sexually assaulted since age 15, a drastically larger proportion than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts (Statistics Canada, 2022). Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia can also take on more subtle forms of discrimination, including microaggressions and online harassment. Folx with intersecting identities, particularly those from racialized groups, can face double or triple forms of discrimination. One of the most vulnerable groups in our society are 2SLGBTQ+ youth who make up between 25% and 40% of unhoused youth in Canada (Statistic Canada, 2022). Whether overt or subtle, all forms of discrimination have negative and lasting implications on an individual’s mental health and well-being. When a person’s mental health and wellness declines, they are more likely to turn to alcohol and other substances to cope with feelings of stress, anger, loneliness, and sadness.
May 17th marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. On this day, people around the world band together to celebrate diversity, disrupt hate, and stand against injustice toward 2SLGBTQ+ people. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and to live a life free of fear. What next steps can you take to help create a safer, more inclusive society?
Commit to developing a critical consciousness. Begin by reflecting on your own positionality in relation to dominant culture and the power and privilege that comes from your identity markers. An essential part of becoming more critically conscious is understanding that everyone has prejudices or biases due to the stereotypes they’ve absorbed during their upbringing and through consuming media. These prejudices are not always conscious, and it takes real work to unpack them in order to identify misconceptions about folx from the 2SLGBTQ+ community. You can also commit to learning more about the International Day of Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia and 2SLGBTQ+ identities by browsing the resources on https://may17.org. Learn more about queer topics by exploring books, shows and documentaries, and podcasts by people from the community. Consider grabbing a friend or two to attend Calgary’s queer film festival in June, hosted by the Calgary Queer Art Society.
Break free of your comfort zone. In an increasingly divided society, it can be tempting to stay quiet and take a neutral stance when complex issues come up in conversation or when you witness an act of discrimination. Remember that standing against injustice is almost never a comfortable experience. Bravely challenge hate-filled comments by reorienting them to focus on equality and equity. Staying silent is what allows injustice to continue.
Break down binaries and use inclusive language. It often seems that we live in a ‘two-choice’ society, where binaries such as hot/cold, up/down, Black/White, male/female, and gay/straight are the norm. Embrace fluidity by bending, blurring, or breaking society’s binary codes and welcoming words, actions, and people who do not fit neatly into categories. Language matters! A simple way to use inclusive language and help others feel safe and validated is by respecting their pronouns. Do not feel overwhelmed by the terminology related to gender identity and sexual orientation. If you aren’t sure about a person’s pronouns – just ask. A thoughtful way to go about this is to share your pronouns first. Do not use the term ‘preferred pronouns’, as it suggests that using a person’s pronouns is optional. If you make a mistake with a pronoun, apologize quickly, and move on.
Celebrate the heroes of equality-seeking groups and observe days of awareness. Take time to learn about and acknowledge 2SLGBTQ+ leaders and heroes of past and present, such as Harvey Milk, and pay tribute to the important days of awareness for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, including the International Day of Trans Visibility (March 31st) and the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (May 17th).
Consider donating to 2SLGBTQ+ organizations and charities. Calgary’s End of the RainbowFoundation is one organization that creates sponsorship circles, hosts support groups, and provides education to help 2SLGBTQ+ people settle into their homes and communities. Donations to the End of the Rainbow Foundation directly assist 2SLGBTQ+ people, including refugees, in emergency scenarios to obtain safety and support. Check out https://endoftherainbow.ca for more information.
When we embody love and acceptance, we can disrupt the intolerance, discrimination, and violence directed toward 2SLGBTQ+ people in our local and global communities. We all have a role to play in creating safe and caring communities for everyone.
First observed in 1911, International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements, recognizes challenges faced by women and girls globally, and raises awareness about the discrimination women still face to this day.
Homelessness is an experience any race, gender, or nationality can go through and it creates specific vulnerabilities for anyone who finds themselves in such a situation. It is also true that people experience homelessness differently and that women are among the most vulnerable subpopulations of unhoused individuals. The oppression women face is multifaceted and complex and is firmly ingrained in the society in which we live both culturally and systemically. As a result, women experience the discrimination, challenges, and dangers of being unhoused in specific and, often, more extreme ways.
Homelessness is not always visible; hidden homelessness is the term often applied to a subset of the population whose current housing situation is not stable i.e. when an individual has temporary housing but lacks safety, security and any assurance of long-term stability within their housing. Women are among the largest group captured in the term “hidden homelessness,” which often encompasses a significant number of women victimized by domestic violence. The reason it is categorized as hidden is because those experiencing this form of homelessness are less likely to access social services and housing resources, less likely to get support when they do access services, and less likely to be fully represented in studies, policy, and social services. Women make up the majority of victims of toxic partner relationships, where they are reliant on an abusive partner for basic needs such as housing and food. Abusers will use violence and manipulation in an attempt to control women by isolating them, limiting their income, and cutting them off from their support systems. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women.
Challenges and Dangers
Women experiencing homelessness are more likely to become pregnant than women with stable housing, due to multiple factors such as sexual assault, lack of social supports, and a lack of safe spaces. Substance use – a trauma response often used as a coping mechanism – and lack of a nutritious diet – a stark reality for those living on the street – can lead to severe health complications for pregnant women, putting the health and safety of both the mother and baby at risk. Being the primary caregiver for their children makes accessing shelter and other housing services even more difficult and, in fact, many domestic violence and women’s shelters are forced to turn people away due to capacity and funding constraints.
Menstruation, and the lack of feminine hygiene supplies is another persistent and difficult challenge to overcome for vulnerable women, compounded by obstacles those on the street face related to access to hygiene, clean clothing, and supplies, further contributing to the trauma created by trying to survive and meet basic needs.
The City has partnered with the Calgary Public Library and Youth Central’s Mayor’s Youth Council, launched the Free. Period. Program. A program that offers free pads and tampons in select city and library facilities. You can view an updated list of locations here.
Human trafficking is a significant danger for women living on the streets. Human traffickers prey on individuals experiencing homelessness and other marginalized populations. There are multiple factors that make this population a target for human traffickers including substance use, lack of a support system, and the human desire for what seems like opportunity for stability and safety. Victims of trafficking are most often left financially destitute, isolated and without housing, where they are susceptible to further exploitation.
Overall, women are subject to higher rates of abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Abuse is further exacerbated for Indigenous women, who are three times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. The violence that women face is systemic, with most vulnerable women experiencing violence and/or assault in their childhoods or adult lives prior to homelessness. Recall that domestic violence is the leading cause for homelessness among women.
Long-term housing with trauma-informed supports, access to healthcare, and employment opportunities are critical resources desperately needed to improve the situation of women and girls globally.
Supporting Vulnerable Women
Alpha House operates Permanent-Supportive Housing (PSH) programs for individuals transitioning from chronic homelessness towards housing stability; two of our buildings are specifically dedicated to housing vulnerable women. The programs provide 24/7 wrap-around supports, with staff trained to support individuals with active substance use, navigate the unique circumstances of transitioning from homelessness to long-term housing. Our women-only buildings provide increased safety for women to live at home without fear of violence and offer both a trauma and gender-informed care lens that seeks to reduce traumatization and recognize the specific situations and past traumas these women have faced. Access to safe spaces is critical to supporting those we serve in a trauma-informed way.
Alberta Women’s Shelters are facing increased demand and are struggling to meet the need. For more information on how you can support local women’s shelters, connect with The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS)
February 22nd marks Canada’s third National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. First observed in 2021, the Canadian government officially declared the 22nd of February a national awareness day as part of their commitment to not just raise awareness, but promote understanding and inspire Canadians to address the ongoing issue of human trafficking.
As a Human Services agency committed to supporting the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals, Alpha House acknowledges the devastating impact that human trafficking inflicts on individuals and their families, and stands behind the organizations working towards the changes needed to end human trafficking in Canada.
Human Trafficking can take many forms, but typically includes a complex series of crimes over an extended period of time and involves the recruitment, transportation, and holding of people for the purposes of sexual or labour exploitation in a form of modern-day slavery. This can occur through various means including false promises of employment, fraud, debt bondage, kidnapping, and physical coercion. In some cases, traffickers may use violence, forced use of drugs or the threat of harm to individuals and their loved ones in order to maintain absolute control over their victims.
Use of force and the threat of harm offers traffickers the freedom of hiding victims in plain sight, often making instances of its occurrence difficult to identify. An example of this may be someone coercing a woman into sexual labour through threats of violence, or traffickers taking advantage of unstable situations in someone’s home country to coerce individuals into undesirable acts/situations. At Alpha House, we work with individuals who have been in both situations.
The personal stories of clients supported through Alpha House’s programs, particularly some of the women and immigrants we work with, serve as devastating reminders about the consequences of human trafficking and the prevalence of it in our society still today. While it is possible for any individual to become a victim of human trafficking, national and global data shows us that women, members of minority groups, those experiencing housing insecurity/homelessness, those with substance addictions and/or mental health disorders, or survivors of past traumas are at a heightened risk of victimization not just due to the instability of their situations, but also the lack of familial, social, and legal supports that vulnerable individuals often experience.
Victims of human trafficking may experience significant physical and psychological trauma, displacement from their homes, as well as the loss of freedom, dignity and control over their lives. Trafficking often leads to long-term challenges with psychological and emotional health, including depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, substance use and disorders, shame and guilt, alienation and isolation from social supports, suicidal ideation, and identity disturbance/confusion. These situations, unfortunately, are scenarios that have been experienced all too commonly by clients supported by Alpha House and are just some of the many reasons why raising awareness on this topic is of particular significance to our agency.
Signs of Human Trafficking
Part of awareness includes understanding the signs of a potential human trafficking situation. The signs that somebody may be a victim of trafficking can include:
Physical signs of abuse or neglect, such as bruises, scars or malnourishment
Lack of control over identification documents, such as a passport or ID
Isolation and limited contact with friends or family members
Living and working in conditions of extreme squalor, with little or no payment
Limited knowledge of their location, as victims are often moved frequently to avoid detection
Inability to leave their work or living situation due to physical force or other forms of coercion
Lack of access to medical care
It’s important to remember that not all victims of trafficking show all of these signs, so if something feels off, please seek advice from law enforcement or an appropriate organization.Top of Form
If you notice a situation where you believe human trafficking is taking place, or are a victim in need of support, here’s who to call:
Your local authorities – in Calgary, police non-emergency can be reached at (403) 266-1234 or for immediate assistance, call 911.
Reset Society of Calgary – if you are experiencing sexual exploitation and would like information about the EXIT Program at RESET, call (403) 918-7311 to connect.
Talk 4 Healing works to address, prevent, and end the sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and youth. Call 1-855-554-HEAL (4325)
Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (ACT Alberta) provides free, safe, and confidential response services, connections, and referrals for victims of human trafficking. Please call (780) 474-1104 to connect.
Combatting Human Trafficking
The Canadian government has taken several steps to combat human trafficking. To read more about what’s being done, please follow the links:
As 14 cm of snow blanketed the city last Friday night, Transit peace officers, members of the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) Team and a Calgary Transit operator worked to help transport unhoused Calgarians to emergency shelters, hospitals, and other services across Calgary. Weathering temperatures below -20C and finishing at 3 a.m. on Monday, teams completed over 150 transports last weekend alone. Since the program started at the end of November, more than 600 transports have been completed by the shuttle service over 16 cold weather nights.
The emergency shelter shuttle service is a vital component of the Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response (CCEWR). CCEWR is a four-year pilot program led by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and funded by The City of Calgary to provide support to unsheltered individuals facing extreme weather conditions. Teams work together to bring vulnerable Calgarians to safe spaces during dangerously low temperatures, acting as a lifeline to those who don’t have a warm place to go to. This outreach work happens year-round but the shuttle service, using buses operated by Calgary Transit, enables teams to move larger groups to where they need to go, reducing waiting times and increasing efficiencies for the DOAP Team throughout the city during cold temperatures.
“LRT stations are not appropriate places to seek shelter because they do not have the necessary amenities like beds, potable water or restrooms, nor do they have the resources to support peoples’ wellbeing,” said Deputy Chief of Transit Public Safety Will Fossen.
“Our city’s shelters have been operating at around 75 per cent capacity so far this winter. Demand increases during extreme weather conditions, but they have enough space to accommodate everyone that needs it,” he added.
The goal of the Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response is to limit barriers to accessing resources. Emergency shelters work with individuals, including those with pets or those who have partners, to find alternate locations and additional services and supports with the goal of finding safe and affordable housing.
Last Wednesday night, the team managed 42 transports. Mark Chevrier, Outreach Program Coordinator at Alpha House had this to say: “42 transports prevents 42 people from getting frostbite, it helps keep people out of hospitals, it’s 42 people who don’t need 911 dispatch or EMS to respond. Most importantly, it’s 42 people who don’t have to worry whether they will even make it through the night.”
Earlier this week, Alpha House notified some community members that we would be temporarily pausing some upcoming community engagement sessions regarding a potential overdose prevention site (OPS) at our Calgary facility. We believe in the critical need for these services in the community and the pausing of these sessions should not be taken as an indication that we have paused the exploration of the OPS project.
Given the recent news about the Drop-In Centre no longer pursuing an OPS at their Shelter site, we are working with our government partners and community stakeholders to better understand what the new vision is for overdose prevention services in Calgary. Once we have that information, we will have a better idea of the path forward and whether an OPS at Alpha House is the best option for service users and the community.
Alpha House is meeting with the Government of Alberta and other key stakeholders in the coming weeks and we look forward to resuming discussions with the community as we consider the real and pressing need for these services and how, as a city, we can create safe and inclusive communities for everyone.
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 protected].
Thank you for your continued support of Alpha House.
Since the initiation of the Calgary Alpha House
Society (Alpha House) Needle Response Team, Alpha House and The City of Calgary
have collaborated through a targeted, ongoing response to needle debris, that
includes proactive patrols and the redistribution of City-managed needle boxes.
Sharing data on collection volume and common needle
debris locations has enabled Alpha House’s Needle Response Team to patrol
proactive locations while continuing to respond to calls for disposal of needle
debris on public and private property. Through ongoing efforts to collect data,
Alpha House will continue to proactively monitor areas to adapt field patrols.
Alpha House has also initiated an incentive where peer support workers take
part in the Needle Response Team on proactive patrols.
“Approximately 60 per cent of all needles collected are done
so through patrols and our peer support program,” said Adam
Melnyk, Outreach Manager, Alpha House. “In the first six months of operation,
the needle response team collected a volume of 6,570 needles, playing a vital role in our community, while building community. Through our
peer support, individuals with lived experience are able to give back by
working with our team.”
From March to May 2019, the Calgary Fire Department
conducted a needle debris response overview with Alpha House and other
community partners, to identify the volume of needle debris collected across
the city and the locations in which the debris was concentrated. In this time
period, 4,567 needles were picked up across the city, with the majority of the
proactive and reactive responses occurring centrally. The Calgary Fire
Department is currently installing redistributed needle debris boxes to areas
of focus based on the data analysis.
“Through collaboration, we recognized the need for
added needle debris boxes, identified priority locations, and are working on
the immediate installation in these areas,” said Carol Henke, Public
Information Officer, Calgary Fire Department. “Fire crews are monitoring needle
boxes regularly and this will allow us to continue to enhance our response
There are currently 22 needle debris boxes that are
managed by the Calgary Fire Department in different locations across the city.
Up to 5 needle boxes are currently being re-located or added based on the data
Alpha House is an important partner with The City of
Calgary in responding to needle debris. Since the January 2019 inception of
Alpha House’s Needle Response Team, the Calgary Fire Department has responded
to 906 calls for needle debris, totaling 226 per cent less than received in
“Alpha House, a community organization, leading the
local needle response, is proving crucial in alleviating first responders to
tend to other emergency calls across Calgary,” said Henke.
“The response from the community is very positive, as
this is a
cost-effective approach to public safety concerns and the work extends to
cooperation with other agencies as we focus on educating businesses and
individuals about safely picking up needles, while engaging with these
communities,” said Melnyk.
A more effective coordinated response with partners
has resulted in the collection of 22,469needles between January 2019 to
August 31, 2019 in Calgary.
the Needle Response Team’s after hours of operation, The Calgary Fire
Department continues to respond to needle debris on public property or near
school yards and playgrounds or needles that pose safety risk on private
property. The Calgary Fire Department can be contacted by calling 9-1-1 or the
non-emergency line at 403-264-1022.
Alpha House is fortunate to have the support of the Calgary community. Over the past couple of days, we have seen a tremendous outpouring of kindness as many Calgarians reached out to us in response to a recent petition that advocates for the relocation of our shelter and detox programs on 15th Avenue.
I feel it is important to address some of the key inaccuracies communicated in this petition, and to also share how we desire to be part of and work in community.
Alpha House has been a part of the Calgary community for almost 40 years. In that time, we’ve become recognized as a leader in helping men and women who are struggling with addictions and mental health issues, which are often a result of early trauma in their lives. Following a continuum of care model, we help people find the resources they need to live healthier lives and to find appropriate housing that is often the key to supporting long term well-being and improved health.
Our shelter is busy, but we are not over-capacity and we do not turn people away. We meet people where they are at in their life journey and help them access the right programs and resources along our continuum of care, which includes outreach, encampment, shelter, detox and transitional housing, as well as permanent housing.
Our location is central and accessible to many Calgarians who are in the downtown core and need to access our services. Many of the agencies we partner with are also located in downtown, making it more efficient and effective to collaborate on solutions to address social issues and to help those who need assistance.
Safety is very important to us – for the vulnerable Calgarians we serve, our employees and the residents and businesses that are part of the larger surrounding community. We value our relationships with neighbours and welcome open dialogue. We also take concerns seriously and some of the ways we respond include:
Participating in regular stakeholder meetings
Providing a dedicated phone number for our immediate neighbours to call
Having our staff on the street in front of our main entrance 24/7 to assist the vulnerable Calgarians we serve, as well as to respond to community concerns
Documenting all community calls and recording our responses to track any trends or key issues
Offering free Vulnerable Persons Training to those who would like to learn more about how to engage with the Calgarians we serve
The expansion of our Downtown Addictions Outreach Partnership (DOAP) team earlier this year allowed us to dedicate more resources to the Beltline area. We also introduced a dedicated needle response team to respond to community concerns and needle debris.
I encourage our neighbours to come visit our facility and learn more about our work – and the difference – that we make. The people we serve have the same hopes as many Calgarians – they want to be accepted, feel safe and belong to a community.
The incredible support we’ve received from local businesses, neighbours, individuals and organizations who have reached out to us is an affirmation that we can come together to find solutions to help our fellow Calgarians who need it most.