News & Events

Alpha House’s COVID-19 Response

Shaundra Bruvall | March 13, 2020


Alpha House Response to COVID-19

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

Calgary

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.

Lethbridge

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

Calgary

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.

Lethbridge

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

Calgary

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.

Lethbridge

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

Calgary

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.

Lethbridge

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
  • No COVID-19 positive clients to date

We have updated our How to Help page with some new immediate needs. If you are able and would like to support our work, please have a look: https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/


As of April 13, 2020

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/

Stay safe!


As of April 7, 2020

Calgary

  • 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

Lethbridge

  • 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

Calgary Update:

  • 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

Lethbridge Update:

  • 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

If you would like to support Alpha House, please visit https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/


As of March 17, 2020:

Alpha House is suspending all daily, weekly, and monthly volunteer activities including:

  • Kitchen Support
  • Detox Mentoring
  • Soup Kitchen
  • Sunday Lunch
  • Bagging Group
  • Out to Lunch Sandwich Group
  • Yoga Instruction
  • Hair Cuts
  • Music Circle
  • Art Group
  • AAWEAR Group
  • Corporate and Faith Group Onsite Support
  • Tour Requests

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 info@alphahousecalgary.com.

Thank you for your continued support of Alpha House.

Kathy Christiansen

Executive Director
Calgary Alpha House Society

Calgary Alpha House Society streamlines needle response in collaboration with The City

Shaundra Bruvall | October 16, 2019

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 efficiencies.”

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 analysis.

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 2018.

“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.

Alpha House’s Needle Response Team can be reached at 403-796-5334 (via call or text) or email at needle@alphahousecalgary.com from Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

During 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.

For more information on The City of Calgary’s Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction, visit Calgary.ca/communityaction.


The Value of Community

Shaundra Bruvall | June 26, 2019

June 26, 2019

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.

Sincerely,

Kathy Christiansen

Executive Director

Alpha House Calgary

 

 


Alpha House Outreach Programs in High Demand

Shaundra Bruvall | May 14, 2019

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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.


International Harm Reduction Day 2019

Shaundra Bruvall | May 7, 2019

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).

Read “Opioid crisis needs more attention and investment: https://bit.ly/2IYe0Jy


National Addictions Awareness Week 2015

Shaundra Bruvall | November 9, 2015

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.​​