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@example.com.
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.
We finally have some warmer weather on our hands and that means a number of different things. With snow no longer in the forecast and no longer on the ground, re-exposure of the land means you might notice needles or other debris on your commute to work, school or on your way home. If you spot a needle on either private or public property, don’t hesitate to give our Needle Response Team (NRT) a call. Operating five days a week from 8 AM – 6PM, the NRT is trained to properly dispose of needles 403. 796.5334.
Another thing you might notice as the weather continues to warm up is an assortment of “rough sleepers” – this is a term used to describe individuals who are camping or sleeping outdoors in public areas. Alpha House’s Encampment Team are a mobile response unit that connects with individuals who are “camping” or “sleeping rough” outside, with the goal of helping individuals secure housing, visit the doctor, get to a shelter, or anything else they might need. If you notice a camp, we encourage you to call the Encampment Team at 403.805.7388.
The warm weather also creates the potential for overheating, dehydration, and sunburn. If you see someone on the street who may be in distress, please get in touch with our DOAP (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) team at 403.998.7388. Should someone be in need of immediate assistance, please call 911.
This is the 6th International Harm Reduction day and it has got us thinking about the principles of harm reduction. Alpha House supports a harm reduction approach in all of its programs. We know every individual has their own journey and should be treated with support and dignity while they navigate that path.
There is some great discourse happening lately on harm reduction, addiction and mental health. We want this discourse to continue in Canada and around the world. By continuing to learn, collaborate, and educate others, we can continue to provide hope to individuals caught in a cycle of addiction. Last month, Policy Options shared a great article on the need for greater resources and investment in health care that we thought we’d highlight today.
“”I’ve met thousands of people with substance addiction and I’ve never met any for whom this was their life plan,” says Dr. John Weekes, director of research and academics at the Waypoint Research Institute in Penetanguishene, Ontario.” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019)
We have been fortunate in Alberta to have non-profit agencies and local government that have made harm reduction a principle of their work, but there is more work to be done still. Research continues to show the factors that fuel, and put individuals at risk of, addiction.
“Dr. Sheri Fandrey clinical assistant professor at the University of Manitoba said it well, “We don’t have an opioid crisis or a methamphetamine crisis. We have a trauma crisis; a housing crisis; a poverty crisis; a stigma crisis.”” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019).
We’re marking National Addictions Awareness Week (November 16-22) with our annual open house and retrospective of 10 years of the DOAP Team. It is important to talk and normalize addictions since it affects individuals, families and communities. Learn more about NAAWCanada and check out their tool kit. The hashtag for National Addictions Awareness Week is #NAAWCanada in English and #SNSTCanada in French.