News & Events

Ecological Responsibility – Earth Day 2024

Shaundra Bruvall | April 22, 2024

Happy Earth Day! First started in 1970, April 22 marks the 54th annual earth day! In today’s short blog post, we wanted to talk about the challenges of being environmentally conscious while being unhoused, and to share a bit about how Alpha House works to reduce our environmental footprint.

In the conversation about encampments, we hear a lot from some community members about how unhoused encampments leave behind debris. The most common refrain we hear is that they create a lot of waste and, not only is this an ‘eyesore,’ ‘gross,’ and ‘a major problem,’ it is also an environmental issue. We aren’t here to make excuses for litter or inappropriate waste but we do want to shed some light on a hypocrisy that exists when we talk about waste left behind from people experiencing homelessness. We make garbage and waste too; theirs is just more visible than ours – and the reason it’s more visible isn’t their fault at all.

Each individual household is responsible for a significant amount of waste; the difference for households, however, is that most households in North America have access to convenient ways to dispose of their waste that typically require minimal effort on the part of the individual. Unhoused individuals main way of disposing of waste is public garbage bins – not always conveniently located, not a solution to human waste, and not easily utilized without also having ongoing access to garbage bags. It might sound fairly inconsequential at first, but imagine if EVERY TIME you needed to dispose of a single piece of garbage— instead of disposing of it in a garbage bag in a bin in the next room, you had to walk an unknown distance to the nearest garbage bin. Or, imagine that EACH TIME the garbage bag in your kitchen was full, you didn’t just have to take it out back to a black or green bin that you never thought about again because Residential waste services picked it up every 1-2 weeks, you had to hump it to that far away garbage bin. Imagine if instead of purchasing a 100 pack of garbage bags at the store to last you a few weeks/months, you had to keep reusing the same soiled bag over and over.

The reality of homelessness is often far more complex than we like to think about. A common response to talking about these complications is for people to offer solutions: “It’s really easy to do ‘X’ and then the problem wouldn’t happen,” “If they just did ‘Y’ then they wouldn’t have to think about that issue,” or “It’s not hard to insert something that may not be hard but is not something top of mind when you’re homeless.”

With the frequency in which every one of us disposes of waste on a daily basis, we can see the barrier that exists for unhoused individuals to responsibly dispose of their waste regularly, and how it can quickly become unmanageable when compounded with other challenges like addictions, tri-morbidities, and/or mental health. The reality is that ecological responsibility is not a burden that can always be shared equally. It doesn’t mean we excuse poor environmental actions, it means we do the best we can until we have the means to do better, and then we do better.

How is Alpha House working on reducing our impact on the environment?

  • Planning a community cleanup? Our Needle Response Team would love to be a part of it! Reach out to [email protected] for more information
  • Speaking of community cleanups, we’ve hosted a number of community cleanups over the past couple of years to reduce waste in the communities that we serve and have several more on the docket this spring/summer
  • We partner with SkipTheDepot to dispose of all of our bottle recycling
  • We partner with SkipTheDepot to help us recycle textiles that we can’t use, like damaged clothing we can’t distribute to our clients
  • We partner with the City of Calgary as a designated drop-off location for reusable shopping bags, which we distribute to clients to help them carry their belongings

Visit the official page for Earth Day 2024 to learn more about the environmental crisis our planet is facing and to find Earth Day focused events near you.

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