News & Events

Partner for Life – World Health Day 2024

Shaundra Bruvall | April 6, 2024

April 7th is World Health Day, dated on the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948 and celebrated annually! Each year the WHO uses World Health Day to draw attention to a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. The theme for 2024 is ‘My health, my right’, chosen to champion the right of people across the world having access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.[1]

In Canada, the difference in the number of people who need blood donations or know someone who needs them is much greater than the number of people who actually donate. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) reports that 52% of people have indicated that they have, or their family member has, needed blood or blood products at some point in their life. In contrast, CBS says their data indicates that about 1 in 2 people are eligible to donate blood and plasma, but most have not donated.[2]

As a social service agency, Alpha House knows acutely the impact of a lack of access to healthcare, a lack of adequate supports for physical (and mental) health, and the long-term detriments when health is not treated as a right. There are, of course, many conversations about healthcare in Alberta these days. Something Alpha House did recently to take more ownership in supporting health measures was setting up a blood donation team as an agency! We owe special thanks for the idea to one of our staff members who had a personal connection to advocating for this setup.

Alpha House is now what is called a “Partner for Life” with CBS and we tested out our first blood drive last month. Together, a group of staff members got on the (aptly named) ‘Lifebus’ and headed off to our appointments.

When we arrived at Canadian Blood Services, we went upstairs to check in.

  • If it’s your first time donating, then you’ll need your ID and to fill out a quick questionnaire that’ll get you set up with a profile
  • You’ll also get a blood donor card in the mail a few weeks after your first donation
  • After all the paperwork is done, you’ll be in the waiting area for a couple of minutes with the opportunity to enjoy some free snacks and beverages before your donation

The blood donation itself can take up to 15 minutes, after which you can help yourself to more snacks and drinks to help restore your blood volume levels faster! The process for our staff was easy, quick, and meaningful AND (no surprises!) the Canadian Blood Services staff were very kind, patient, and made sure everyone was comfortable before, during, and after the donation.

The best thing about Alpha House becoming a ‘Partner for Life’ is we have another cool way for community members to join our work and build community with us!  Anyone can join us and become a “Champion for Life.”

Together we can unite to raise awareness, donate blood or plasma, or support the stem cell or organ donation registries. As part of Alpha House’s Team, you can help have a direct impact on patients in Canada and the families who love them. If you join our team and become a “Champion for Life,” your donations contribute to Alpha House’s overall count!

We will be continuing to organize team events for donating blood for our staff because it’s important to our staff, but also because of how closely it aligns with our agency’s values and the population that we serve; many of our clients see their health deteriorate because of being on the street, lacking access to basic hygiene and adequate food supply, and facing other hardships. We will also continue spreading the word through our social media channels and encourage you to join our team.

Alpha House is a strong advocate for this year’s World Health Day theme: ‘My health, my right’ – recognizing healthcare is a RIGHT; a blood donation is one tiny part of healthcare that can make an enormous difference for a client of ours or anyone who finds themselves in such a situation of need and we believe in being a part of individuals having access to blood donations (and other healthcare) when they’re needed most.

If you want to join Alpha House’s blood donation team as a Champion for Life, check out the instructions here or via the graphic on top of the page!

  1. Log in or create an account on or the GiveBlood App
  2. Click on the “Partners” tab
  3. Click “Join an existing team”
  4. Search “Alpha House” or our team number “CALG0117318
  5. Select “Yes” and then click “Join”
  6. Welcome to the team! Click “Book” to get started and make an appointment

Remember to get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of water before your donation!



Partnering with the Indigenous Drug Treatment Court

Shaundra Bruvall | March 19, 2024

Indigenous Drug Treatment Court Partnership:

Celebrating World Social Work Day 2024

World Social Work Day takes place on 19 March 2024. This year’s theme is ‘Buen Vivir: Shared Future for Transformative Change’, which emphasizes the need for social workers to adopt innovative, community-led approaches that are grounded in indigenous wisdom and harmonious coexistence with nature.[1]

Given the theme of this year’s World Social Work Day, we want to share about an innovative partnership Alpha House’s Detox Program has with the Calgary Drug Treatment Court’s Indigenous program. Drug Treatment Courts (DTCs) were established as a response to the drug epidemic in Canada, specifically focused on reducing recidivism regarding crimes linked directly or indirectly to substance use challenges. The first DTC in Canada was established in Toronto in 1998, followed by a second in Vancouver in 2001, and four more DTCs in 2005 covering Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, and Ottawa. The Calgary Drug Treatment Court (CDTC) started operations shortly after in 2007.[2]

The CDTC follows a diversion model aimed at court intervention and treatment services with the goal of ending drug-driven crime and assisting participants in returning to their families, workplaces, and communities by providing an alternative to incarceration.[3] The CDTC will consider individuals with charges related to substance dependencies where the expected jail time is between 1 and 5 years. Eligible charges include crimes like theft, breaking and entering, possession and intent to distribute, or other adjacent drug driven crime.[4] The CDTC accepts individuals from many different situations, and as a result, they’re running at full capacity most of the time.

CDTC provides weekly court intervention, addiction treatment, connection to resources, and a range of programming that addresses substance dependencies and community reintegration. The assistance that the CDTC provides doesn’t stop at direct addictions treatment, the CDTC will also assist with referrals (including long-term housing and medical), employment, and participation in recovery and aftercare programs.[5] Recovery looks different for each person, and success is greatly improved when individuals are given the agency to determine their own goals of treatment with the support of a care provider. The CDTC has a network of resources, partners, and supports that they can connect individuals with to help reach their goals – one of those partners is Alpha House!

The population of individuals Alpha House serves is roughly 55% Indigenous and we know that Canada’s drug overdose crisis disproportionately affects the Indigenous population.[6] A study on overdose data and the Indigenous population in BC shows that Indigenous peoples experience 14% of all overdose events while they only make up 3.4% of the population.[7] Further exacerbating this issue, culturally safe mental health and substance use treatment can be difficult to access for a variety of reasons. The CDTC’s Indigenous Program has similar aims of community integration and wellness but specifically looks to address the lack of supports created by a history of colonialism, racism, and intergenerational trauma faced by the Indigenous population in Canada.

The CDTC’s Indigenous program’s partnership with Alpha House sets aside 2 beds every week for Indigenous individuals who are wanting treatment. These clients either start in the Detox program or, if already sober, move into the Transitional Recovery program while we support them with referrals to long-term treatment programs or other social service supports (income assistance, employment referrals etc).

The CDTC partners with groups that can provide a safe place to go to support a treatment process; instead of getting released to the street, individuals in the program get released to a partner like Alpha House. Probation officers and parole officers will work hand in hand with Alpha House staff; setting up phone or in-person meetings to support the requirements of the CDTC while ensuring the individual is in a safe place with supports. The most common transition into the program is for individuals just getting out of remand; the Indigenous Judge assigned to the client’s case will meet with the CDTC lawyers who do the initial assessments of a person’s case and, ideally, support them towards a partner like Alpha.

“We are really pleased with the way the program has been operating; those 2 beds are full all the time. Often clients will move to long-term programs or they’ll work with us through their detox and move towards other options in line with their CDTC conditions.” – Diane Dumais, Program Director – Detox

The CDTC follows a 5-stage program that follows individuals from addiction treatment all the way to community reintegration and graduation. A detailed breakdown of the stages can be found here.[8]

Alpha House is a partner in Stages 1 and 2 of the CDTC’s program: the focus of Stage One is addiction treatment where participants either attend a residential addiction treatment program or a day program. The focus of Stage 2 is developing recovery skills. In this stage participants attend a minimum of 3 support groups per week that work best for their recovery and attend court on a weekly basis.









Women Leading the Way in the Homeless-Serving Sector

Shaundra Bruvall | March 8, 2024

Women Leading the Way in the Homeless-Serving Sector

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Each year, this day serves as a powerful reminder of the progress made towards gender equality and highlights the work that still needs to be done.[1]

The 2024 theme for International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion, which means….well that’s a great question. In today’s blog post, we talk about inspiring inclusion in a variety of different ways including between the for-profit and non-profit sectors, the disparity in income between female and male employees across sectors, and female leadership in Calgary – its exciting developments and the very long distance it still needs to travel – particularly in terms of ethnic and racial diversity.

First and foremost, one of the key pillars of Inspire Inclusion is the promotion of diversity in leadership and decision-making positions.[2] To this day, women – particularly those who belong to other underrepresented groups – continue to face barriers when seeking leadership roles. In the non-profit sector, which employs 285,000 people in Alberta – 78% are women.[3]

Overall, the non-profit sector in Alberta contributes $5.5 billion to our GDP and fills critical needs for the province in areas such as food and basic needs, immigrant settlement supports, senior and childcare supports, sports and recreation, and arts and culture[4]

In the name of inspiring inclusion, we might say there is some room in the public domain for a conversation about how the non-profit sector is often devalued compared to the for-profit sector, in spite of its positive impact on those who live and work in Alberta. In a similar vein, we often see female-dominated industries valued less than their male-dominated counterparts: “male-dominated occupations have traditionally had more respect, higher pay and more fringe benefits.”[5]  Also significant is that even though female employees dominate the Alberta nonprofit sector, Statistics Canada shows their annual wages and salaries remain lower than their male coworkers by 14%.[6]

One of the recommendations from The Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organization’s State of the Sector Report in 2023 was to “identify what success looks like in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as a sector and within our own organizations.”[7]

There is quite a bit of research that talks about women leaders in male-dominated fields because it is typically more newsworthy and interesting to people. But there is less research around female-leaders in female-dominated industries. One of the cool things about the community and social services sector in Calgary is that, unlike many other female-dominated industries, we have many examples of female leadership to celebrate. Alpha House, The Alex, Inn From the Cold, Patricia Jones, Sandra Clarkson, Carlene Donnelly, Distress Centre, Closer to Home, John Howard Society, Discovery House, Calgary Food Bank, HomeSpace, and Sharp Foundation are all examples of female leadership in the community and social services sector in the city. These are women who work everyday towards improving the living conditions and of those experiencing homelessness or facing housing insecurity, those facing domestic violence, individuals and families facing food insecurity, and individuals working to overcome criminal pasts or poverty – to name a few groups positively impacted by the agency leaders we have today.

It is worth celebrating that all of these agencies are led by women. But we also know that alone is not enough. It also does not mean that we have achieved ‘success’ in terms of diversity, equity, or inclusion, particularly when the sector, as CCVO point out in their report, has not yet defined what success looks like in this area.

We know that by providing support and resources, women can be empowered to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential, but we also know that empowering women to overcome obstacles does not inherently mean there are not still gendered obstacles, and it also is not a silver bullet to ensuring increased and ongoing diversity or inclusion within the agency. But it is a great start and it is something worth celebrating. A 2023 study on leadership from the Leadership Circle Profile, a scientifically validated 360-degree assessment of leadership that measures “Creative Competencies” and “Reactive Tendencies” saw that female leaders demonstrate higher levels of leadership effectiveness and higher levels of Creative competency (in all dimensions) compared to their male counterparts, suggesting women leaders are not only better at building relationships but also that the relationships they build are characterized by authenticity and an awareness of how they contribute to “the greater good beyond the leader’s immediate sphere of influence.”[8]

Given the theme of inspiring inclusion for the 2024 campaign on International Women’s Day is meant to encourage everyone to recognize the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalized communities, we wanted to take this time to recognize the women leading our sector today, while acknowledging that there is still much work to do in areas of wages, safety, and marginalization for non-white groups.






[6] Statistics Canada, 2021



National Housing Day 2023

Shaundra Bruvall | November 21, 2023

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. placetocallhome/pdfs/canada-national-housing-strategy.pdf


City of Calgary. (2023). Home is here, the City of Calgary’s housing strategy 2024-2030. strategy.html#:~:text=Home%20is%20Here%2C%20The%20City%20of%20Calgary’s%20 Housing%20Strategy%20was,office%20conversions%20to%20support%20students


Alpha House. (2023). Housing Program. program/


Homeless Hub. (2021) How many people are homeless in Canada. about-homelessness/homelessness-101/how-many-people-are-homeless-canada


Average house price in Calgary. (2023, October 16) The Canadian Magazine of Immigration. #:~:text=The%20average%20house%20price%20in,over%20year%20in%20September%2 02023

Remember that time….

Shaundra Bruvall | June 20, 2023

Looking back 10 years later on the 2013 floods

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.



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.



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”



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.”



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.



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”




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.




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”



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.




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.



“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.



“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.”




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.”



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!

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

Shaundra Bruvall | May 17, 2023

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 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 Rainbow Foundation 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 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.




Statistics Canada. (2022). Standing against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia. Ottawa, On.



Women Experiencing Homelessness

Shaundra Bruvall | March 8, 2023

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)




Sex and labour trafficking are the two dominant forms of human trafficking in Canada

Shaundra Bruvall | February 22, 2023

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

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

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.[1] 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


Available Resources

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:

  1. Your local authorities – in Calgary, police non-emergency can be reached at (403) 266-1234 or for immediate assistance, call 911.
  2. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is available for confidential support and assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-833-900-1010 or online at
  3. 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.
  4. Talk 4 Healing works to address, prevent, and end the sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and youth. Call 1-855-554-HEAL (4325)
  5. 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:


[1] Psychological Effects of Human Trafficking: Depression, Anxiety & Substance Use [Part 1] (

Emergency shelter shuttle service provides nearly 200 transports to emergency homeless shelters since last weekend

Shaundra Bruvall | February 3, 2023


Emergency shelter shuttle service provides nearly 200 transports to emergency homeless shelters since last weekend (

doap2As 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.”

Additional warming spaces and other supports are posted on the Calgary Homeless Foundation website here: Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Resource List – CHF.

Calgarians are asked to call the DOAP Team at 403-998-7388 if they see someone who needs help. If someone is in serious distress or non-responsive, they should call 911.

RE: Overdose Prevention Services in Calgary

Shaundra Bruvall | September 23, 2022


DATE: September 23, 2022

RE: Overdose Prevention Services in Calgary


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.



Shaundra Bruvall

403 478 0387

[email protected]