As 14 cm of snow blanketed the city last Friday night, Transit peace officers, members of the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) Team and a Calgary Transit operator worked to help transport unhoused Calgarians to emergency shelters, hospitals, and other services across Calgary. Weathering temperatures below -20C and finishing at 3 a.m. on Monday, teams completed over 150 transports last weekend alone. Since the program started at the end of November, more than 600 transports have been completed by the shuttle service over 16 cold weather nights.
The emergency shelter shuttle service is a vital component of the Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response (CCEWR). CCEWR is a four-year pilot program led by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and funded by The City of Calgary to provide support to unsheltered individuals facing extreme weather conditions. Teams work together to bring vulnerable Calgarians to safe spaces during dangerously low temperatures, acting as a lifeline to those who don’t have a warm place to go to. This outreach work happens year-round but the shuttle service, using buses operated by Calgary Transit, enables teams to move larger groups to where they need to go, reducing waiting times and increasing efficiencies for the DOAP Team throughout the city during cold temperatures.
“LRT stations are not appropriate places to seek shelter because they do not have the necessary amenities like beds, potable water or restrooms, nor do they have the resources to support peoples’ wellbeing,” said Deputy Chief of Transit Public Safety Will Fossen.
“Our city’s shelters have been operating at around 75 per cent capacity so far this winter. Demand increases during extreme weather conditions, but they have enough space to accommodate everyone that needs it,” he added.
The goal of the Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response is to limit barriers to accessing resources. Emergency shelters work with individuals, including those with pets or those who have partners, to find alternate locations and additional services and supports with the goal of finding safe and affordable housing.
Last Wednesday night, the team managed 42 transports. Mark Chevrier, Outreach Program Coordinator at Alpha House had this to say: “42 transports prevents 42 people from getting frostbite, it helps keep people out of hospitals, it’s 42 people who don’t need 911 dispatch or EMS to respond. Most importantly, it’s 42 people who don’t have to worry whether they will even make it through the night.”
Earlier this week, Alpha House notified some community members that we would be temporarily pausing some upcoming community engagement sessions regarding a potential overdose prevention site (OPS) at our Calgary facility. We believe in the critical need for these services in the community and the pausing of these sessions should not be taken as an indication that we have paused the exploration of the OPS project.
Given the recent news about the Drop-In Centre no longer pursuing an OPS at their Shelter site, we are working with our government partners and community stakeholders to better understand what the new vision is for overdose prevention services in Calgary. Once we have that information, we will have a better idea of the path forward and whether an OPS at Alpha House is the best option for service users and the community.
Alpha House is meeting with the Government of Alberta and other key stakeholders in the coming weeks and we look forward to resuming discussions with the community as we consider the real and pressing need for these services and how, as a city, we can create safe and inclusive communities for everyone.
Thank you for your interest in Alpha House and our work with vulnerable individuals in southern Alberta. We are a trusted non-profit agency that provides safe and caring environments for individuals whose lives are affected by alcohol and other substance dependencies. We currently operate in Calgary and Lethbridge.
Originally established in 1981, Alpha House has a long history of innovating and evolving to meet the changing needs of our clients, the communities where we operate, and the increasing complexities of homelessness and drug use.
Today, we partner with all levels of government, community first responders, and other agencies to help address key social issues such as the opioid crisis, the growing need for supportive housing for vulnerable Albertans, mental health and addiction services, and evidence-based, harm reduction policies such as safe consumption sites.
Permanent-Supportive Housing (PSH)
PSH reduces the use of publicly funded crisis services, including jails, hospitalizations, and emergency departments
A study of HF programs in Alberta published in 2020 reported cost savings of $1.17 to $2.84 for every dollar invested in housing first
A study of 7 SCS programs in Canada found evidence of cost savings through Reduced disease transmission
Prevention of overdose deaths (reduced cost of EMS/medical system)
HOW OUR PROGRAMS HELP ALBERTANS
Our programs and services make up a continuum of care, which clients can enter at any point, based on their needs. Our services include:
Short-term, crisis-oriented emergency shelter 24/7 for Albertans under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
*CALGARY AND LETHBRIDGE
Residential care for clients to safely withdrawal from drugs in a socially or medically supportive environment and a temporary residential care program for clients to transition safely into housing or drug treatment facilities/programs.
*CALGARY AND LETHBRIDGE
Community and permanent-supportive housing programs to ensure housing stability and individualized supports for over 300 individuals.
Mobile response teams for individuals on the streets or in camps to meet clients where they are at and provide immediate supports ultimately reducing the impact of intoxication and homelessness on the broader community and public systems.
DOWNTOWN OUTREACH ADDICTIONS PARTNERSHIP (DOAP) TEAM
provides roughly 20,000 transports per year to Shelter, Housing, and Medical services.
works 7 days a week connecting with rough sleepers. At any given time, the team is supporting ~200 individuals
NEEDLE RESPONSE TEAM
collected 73,155 needle debris in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
OUR STRATEGIC PRIORITIES AND RESPONSES
The needs of those we serve and the communities we are part of are constantly changing. New, unique responses are required more urgently as a result of an increasingly toxic drug supply, increased uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the housing crisis across Canada. Alpha House continues to evolve our programs and partnerships to help meet these needs, including:
Expanding of our Encampment and DOAP Transit teams to increase services to vulnerable clients
Building stronger partnerships with Calgary Police Services, Calgary Community Standards (Bylaw), and Calgary Transit as well as first responders for increased community-based supports including the introduction of the new DOAP Indigenous Team in October 2021
Advocating for more permanent-supportive housing, increased harm-reduction supports such as naloxone and Engaging Vulnerable Persons training for community members, increased access to stabilization and detox facilities and engagement with businesses around responsible, compassionate action for individuals experiencing homelessness
WORKING TOGETHER WITH GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITY
Our work is a direct intersection of homelessness and addiction and mental health. It requires a robust and compassionate community response with extensive supports and programs. Many of the people we serve have experienced significant trauma throughout their life and the resulting coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drug use often lead to increased instability and a greater need for wrap around supports.
Alpha House operates from a Housing First perspective meaning individuals are better able to work on other aspects of their lives if they have shelter security and a place to call home.
Based on over three decades of frontline experience, we know that the best response to helping vulnerable adults is to bring together the collaborative resources, expertise and support from local residents and businesses, as well as key partners and all levels of government. Through a unified, holistic approach, we can support vulnerable Albertans to meet them where they are at and help them find greater stability and wellness in their lives.
To learn more about our work and the latest Alpha House news, follow us on social media.
For many of those who know Alpha House, you know that recovery and harm reduction principles and practices are part of our work culture and go hand-in-hand…two sides of the same coin.
The shared principles that bridge the dichotomy between harm reduction and recovery include:
Building trust and relationship
Being non judgemental
Increasing our quality of response
Alpha House has developed wise practices that work for people and their willingness for change. From our understanding change is incremental and begins with small steps. As someone recently coined it …practicing harm recovery.
“It may be that traditional <office-based> substance abuse programs continue to operate according to the philosophy that people with addiction disorders need to ‘‘hit bottom’’ and seek help for treatment to be successful. There has been a challenge to this paradigm in the trans-theoretical model proposed by Prochaska and DiClemente which posits that behavior change involves a process that occurs in increments. Change is viewed as a progression from a pre-contemplation stage—where the person is not considering a change; to contemplation—where the person is carefully weighing the pros and cons of changing; to preparation—where planning and commitments for change efforts are secured; to action—to make the particular change; to maintenance—in which the person works to sustain long-term changes. Also, Motivational Enhancement Therapy is an evidence-based practice in addictions treatment that views ambivalence as a part of the recovery process, and employs strategies to reduce ambivalence by building motivation.” 
Alpha House staff are keen observers of the stage of change model and motivational interviewing and use these tools to support the recovery of the men and women they serve. Along with our understanding of crisis management, trauma informed care, brain science, the complexity of alcohol and drug use, and the importance of fellowship and mentoring, Alpha House has created an extensive tool kit that help staff to build motivation with and for its clients. Alpha House’s commitment to those with alcoholic and substance abuse issues, often marginalized, homeless, and street engaged is to bring empowerment and inclusion while meeting them where they are at. In doing so, Alpha House responds daily to the chronic nature of addiction not just to its acute manifestations.
“You don’t get over an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it’s easier to not use. If you don’t create a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will catch up with you again.”
Alpha House, its staff and its clients are on the front line of COVID-19 and recovery. By building relationships, we are helping people to create new lives no matter what challenges precipitate. Many years ago in my first year at Alpha House a value statement emerged from the staff …simply put it stated that people we worked with were more than their addiction. How great is that…at the time 24 staff worked together to foster that value statement as part of its strategic plan for the agency. Now we have over 300 staff and that value statement still stands as we move forward with our clients every day. COVID-19 doesn’t preclude recovery…it provides an opportunity to re-frame a person’s belief that recovery isn’t possible. There is no good time for recovery except for the willingness to begin…one small step at a time.
The process begins anew every day. Stabilization and care are key as clients move through our programs of outreach, shelter, detox, and housing. Keeping people safe during COVID-19 is not different from reducing harm from their addiction and making space in people’s lives for recovery.
Given that clients don’t have access to treatment centres or to peer support step programs these days due COVID-19 it would seem that recovery has been pushed out of the picture. Crisis management however tells us otherwise…dialogue, active listening, and reframing as well as providing a safe and caring environment does foster change and can influence positive outcomes. Our work is more than planting seeds for change, it is observing and responding to what is already growing within each client. As we face this pandemic we do so together and we see clients as more than their addiction. We have been able to maintain detox scenarios throughout our pandemic response, though sometimes with reduced capacity. We have been able to encourage abstinence for those that want it by providing supportive touch and verbal and nonverbal communication as we move them from outreach, shelter to transitional beds and housing.
In our shelters in Calgary and Lethbridge, we educate and model for clients the importance of social distancing, hand washing, and continuous masking and we have increased access to nursing care including symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. The variables fluctuate but the path doesn’t, we don’t compromise on recovery because of COVID-19.
“The waveform that overwhelms a maturing human being from the inside is the inescapable nature of their own flaws and weaknesses, their self-deceptions and their attempts to create false names and stories to place themselves in the world; the felt need to control the narrative of the story around them with no regard to outside revelation. The immense wave on the outside is the invitation to give that self-up, to be borne off by the wave and renamed, revealed and re-ordered by the powerful flow. “ 
In our shelter and detox, stabilization and recovery includes offering things that make a difference:
Increase phone access for clients so as to contact those they are worried about and encouraging them to reach out to those who may be worried about them due to COVID-19.
Although in house services have been impacted that has meant an increase in staff time for each person with staff able to engage clients more deeply and frequently.
Recovery includes providing respite and nourishment when other sources have closed or limited access.
It also means making sure people have access to their medication and being able to address medical and mental health needs.
Encouraging clients to develop routines and check-ins with staff
The people we work with have given us many anecdotal statements over the years. Their voices continue today to counter the judgements of those that don’t often value or know the nature of our work…but even more their voices counter the narratives that have constrained them in the past… they deserve to have the last comments of this post…
This was a life lesson for me, thank you for the opportunity and hospitality
Alpha House acknowledges the potential anybody has and is willing to help. I think that is magical
Everyone who helped me are angels! Thank you for giving me the first step towards taking my life back.
Thank you everyone for all the tools to set me sober, I fell as if this is a huge step forward in the right direction for me and my family, thanks.
The staff have been extremely helpful, especially with helping to get me through my low moments and to help me stay focused on what I have accomplished and steps I’m taking.
From dry out to sober living, Alpha House has been instrumental in my recovery
COVID-19 has impacted and limited activities [in Detox] but the positive influence of staff have helped me to stay sober.
David is marking his 25th year of service at Alpha House with a series of blogs. If you would like to share your story or comments with him you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Assertive Outreach: An Effective Strategy for Engaging Homeless Persons with Substance Use Disorders into Treatment Deborah Fisk, L.C.S.W.,1Jaak Rakfeldt, Ph.D.,2andErin McCormack, M.S.W.
 CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. 2014. David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
As community cases of COVID-19 rise, Alpha House will continue to follow PPE protocols to keep staff and clients safe. However, our specific COVID-19 response programs (transitional housing in the East Village and overflow Shelter space at the Mustard Seed) have closed.
As in Calgary, we continue to have PPE protocols in place at our Shelter and Stabilization Centre. However, our COVID-19 isolation program has closed.
As of April 14, 2021
We are happy to report Alpha House’s Shelter is no longer in outbreak status after a long stretch of positive COVID-19 cases. We continue to work with The Mustard Seed to operate nightly beds out of their downtown space and we have transitioned our temporary shelter in the East Village to a transitional housing program.
Lethbridge continues to see high COVID-19 case numbers and we continue to work to support unhoused individuals who have tested positive or were deemed close contacts. Thus far we have supported over 284 individuals through their isolation period.
As of March 29, 2021
Alpha House continues to operate temporary shelters out of a hostel in the East Village and in partnership with The Mustard Seed out of their downtown shelter. This has enabled us to keep people safe while not sacrificing capacity. We are pleased that front-line workers in our Shelter in Calgary will soon be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. Ultimately, we continue to operate every day to support client needs and to keep people safe.
The Lethbridge Shelter (and the Lethbridge community more generally) continues to struggle with positive COVID-19 cases and we continue to operate a hotel for isolation supports for positive cases and those who are identified as close contacts. We are pleased that front-line workers in our Shelter in Lethbridge will soon be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.
As of February 3, 2021
We are sorry to share that we have had news of the first death from COVID-19 for those experiencing homelessness in Lethbridge. We know those experiencing homelessness are more likely to have comorbidities that make them higher risk for complications due to COVID-19, which is why we are working so diligently to support those who are most vulnerable. We continue to operate isolation spaces for those without a fixed address who test positive for COVID-19 or who come into contact with someone who has tested positive, and we continue to operate both the Emergency Shelter and Stabilization Centre. If you would like to support our efforts, learn more about ways to help here.
Alpha House’s transitional housing program in the NE, though now closed, is proud to have successfully transitioned over 105 individuals to long-term, stable housing since it opened in March 2020. Our alternative program, which we shifted resources to as our NE program concluded, is now up and running in the East Village out of the HI Hostel. This new program provides safe shelter and transitional housing services for up to 60 clients at a time.
As of January 15, 2021
Alpha House continues to operate the Stabilization Centre and Shelter, increasing our withdrawal management capacity and working closely with AHS to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission. We are operating an isolation unit within the Shelter to immediately isolate and test individuals who present with symptoms or who are deemed to be a close contact of an individual who recently tested positive.
We also continue to operate isolation units out of a hotel in Lethbridge to support individuals without a fixed address to safely complete an isolation period with supports. Additionally, we are in talks with the City and Province to identify possible sites to expand our shelter services while the pandemic is ongoing to address physical distancing challenges in our current shelter facility.
Alpha House will be closing down the hotel in the NE that has served as a transitional housing/overflow shelter site for Alpha House for the past 10 months. We are extraordinarily grateful to the staff who have supported our efforts. Since April, we have moved over 70 individuals into stable, long-term housing from this program. As this program closes, another one opens.
In our ongoing efforts to reduce risk of transmission of COVID-19 in our downtown Shelter, Alpha House will be temporarily opening a second site in the East Village to safely maintain capacity for those who use our services. This program will provide low barrier safe shelter as well as transitional housing opportunities. Although different than the hotel program, this second site will be crucial to supporting clients and ensuring the safety of clients and staff.
As always, if you are looking for ways to support our work, please consider a monetary or in-kind donation.
As of January 6, 2021
The pandemic response continues into 2021.
Alpha House’s Stabilization Centre and Shelter is still in “outbreak” status and we continue to work closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure we are following all public health guidelines. We continue to operate a hotel to provide isolation units to individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or for those who are deemed “close contacts.”
Alpha House’s Calgary programs continue to move in and out of outbreak status as positive COVID-19 cases remain high in the community. We remain prepared to manage these situations and continue to work closely with all levels of government to ensure the safety of clients, staff, and the public.
As of December 18, 2020
Alpha House continues to see an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB. We are continuing our efforts to safeguard clients and staff to the best of our ability and working closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure we are following all public health guidelines. Positive COVID-19 cases along with individuals who were considered at-risk of exposure due to close contact with a positive case are provided isolation units at a hotel in Lethbridge with 24/7 monitoring and access to social and medical supports. Thus far, we have successfully supported 50 clients through their isolation periods and we will continue this model as it is needed. Lastly, we continue to work with the provincial government and City of Lethbridge to identify space for a second shelter site to accommodate increased physical distancing in the main shelter and the increased need for shelter space with the cold weather.
Alpha House also continues to see an increase in positive cases in the population we serve in Calgary, AB. Our pandemic response has continually adapted to meet the protocols of public health and to safeguard our clients and staff from increased transmission. As community transmission increases, so does transmission within the vulnerable population in Alberta. We are still operating two satellite sites for additional shelter space and will continue to do so as long as the need exists. It will remain our priority to support those needing our services as safely as possible.
Over the weekend of Dec 5-6, the Lethbridge Shelter moved into “outbreak status” as characterized by Alberta Health Services (AHS). As of December 9, we have identified a total of seventeen (17) positive cases.
All positives cases are safely in isolation spaces with 24/7 monitoring, social supports provided by Alpha House, and medical supports provided by AHS.
We are currently working with two hotels in Lethbridge to provide these isolation spaces in partnership with AHS. We will continue to work within this framework to ensure anyone who tests positive or anyone who is at-risk due to possible exposure are able to safely isolate with supports. We will support this model while ensuring our shelter continues to respond to the needs of those experiencing homelessness.
Enhanced protocols are in place at our Shelter; universal masking is in place and all staff are in full PPE.
Alpha House’s Calgary shelter remains in outbreak status with all positive cases currently in isolation. Enhanced entry and cleaning protocols are currently in place in the Shelter. All staff are in full PPE and clients are masked.
Additionally, we have had an outbreak at one of our place-based supportive housing programs and are continuing to manage that situation. All individuals are currently isolating in their units with supports from staff.
As of November 30, 2020
Through our continuous screening efforts, Alberta Heath Services (AHS) has confirmed two (2) positive COVID-19 cases at Alpha House Lethbridge. Under AHS definitions, the shelter is now in outbreak.
Alpha House has been preparing for the possibility of a positive case in Lethbridge for some time and we are ready to open a satellite location to accommodate increased spacing between beds in the main shelter as needed.
Alpha House staff diligently follow protocols to screen clients upon entry to all programs and to immediately isolate individuals presenting with symptoms. There are available isolation spaces in Lethbridge to accommodate symptomatic clients and Alpha House is on hand to provide transportation as needed. Staff are also screened upon entering our facilities daily, and are equipped with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across all programs.
In Calgary, Alpha House’s main Shelter remains in outbreak status with our last positive identified on November 17th. We are currently operating 2 other satellite shelters in the city to accommodate temporarily reduced numbers in our main building. We have temporarily paused new admissions to our Detox program as well.
As of November 27, 2020
Alpha House has temporarily reduced capacity at is main downtown shelter to accommodate greater spacing between clients; we continue to operate an overflow shelter at a hotel in the NE and have also partnered with the Mustard Seed in Calgary to utilize their unoccupied space for an overnight shelter space staffed by Alpha House. We are extremely grateful for the ongoing collaboration in the homeless-serving sector and for the opportunity to continue offering shelter to those that need it.
We continue to expect to see positive cases throughout the population we serve given the high number of overall cases in the city and will continue to work closely with Alberta Health Services to be responsive to the needs of our clients and the community.
As of November 17, 2020
Alpha House has identified a total of fourteen (14) positive COVID-19 cases (clients) across its Calgary programs. All clients are safely isolated. Contact tracing and swabbing has been completed.
We have increased our efforts to educate clients on best practices in terms of hygiene and COVID-19 do’s and don’ts and we made further adjustments to our Shelter and Detox programs to address the safety of clients and staff in the facility. However, it will remain the priority of our shelter to provide clients a safe place to stay as the colder weather settles in.
As we are seeing greater transmission in Calgary more broadly, we anticipate continuing to see greater numbers within those experiencing homelessness and will remain vigilant in order to best support our clients and staff. We are working with the other shelters to ensure there is enough space across the city for those who need a warm place to stay and following all Alberta Health Services (AHS) recommendations and guidelines.
As of November 11, 2020
Alpha House can confirm eleven(11) positive COVID-19 cases (clients) across its Calgary programs, which were identified over the weekend and throughout the day today.
There has recently been a rise in positive COVID-19 cases identified within the population of individuals experiencing homelessness in Calgary and we are seeing greater transmission in Calgary more broadly, which helps to explain the increased transmission reflected in our programs. We are working with the other shelters and speaking daily with medical officers to continue our pandemic response and to follow Alberta Health Services (AHS) recommendations and guidelines.
We feel well equipped to manage the cases in our housing programs as we know the best non-medical intervention for COVID-19 is to isolate at home and that is something these clients are able to do. We will also be increasing our efforts to educate clients on best practices in terms of hygiene and COVID-19 do’s and don’ts.
We are making further adjustments to our Shelter and Detox programs as we address the safety of clients and staff in the facility, though it will remain the priority of our shelter to provide clients a safe place to stay as the colder weather settles in.
As of August 27, 2020
Through Alpha House’s continuous screening efforts, Alberta Heath Services (AHS) has confirmed one (1) positive COVID-19 case (client) at Alpha House. This individual is safely in isolation.
Alpha House staff continue to diligently follow protocols to screen clients upon entry to all programs and to immediately isolate individuals presenting with symptoms. We were prepared for the possibility of another positive test in our Shelter but are not concerned about additional positive cases at this time. As all organizations are, we continue to work closely with Alberta Health Services to follow all COVID-19 guidelines.
The safety of our clients and staff remains our top priority.
There remains no positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.
As of July 23, 2020
No new updates to share. Be safe everyone.
As of July 13, 2020
We do not have any additional updates to share at this time regarding our COVID-19 pandemic response. Please see below for previous updates.
As of June 26, 2020
We are pleased to say that we are out of “outbreak” status as of June 23rd. We have expanded our Shelter back to our pandemic response numbers (88) and we continue to support our clients in all the ways available to us.
As of June 18, 2020
There are no updates at this time. Please see below for the latest developments in our pandemic response.
As of June 12, 2020
We continue to have no further positive COVID-19 cases at Alpha House since May 25, 2020. Our Detox services continue to intake new clients. Our Outreach Teams are busy working with individuals on the streets. Alpha House Staff continue to abide by Alberta Health Regulations.
As of June 8, 2020
There have been no positive COVID-19 cases at Alpha House since May 25, 2020.
Our Detox services in Calgary continue to intake new clients and we continue to conduct asymptomatic tests daily.
There continue to be no positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.
As of June 3, 2020
As of June 3, 2020, thirteen (13) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House. The last positive reported case at Alpha House was May 25th. At this time, we are still considered to be in “outbreak.” Please see below for more information on Alpha’s preparedness for positive cases. We are following all AHS guidelines and testing clients daily.
There continues to be no identified positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB. If you are able to donate, we are accepting monetary and in-kind gifts. For details, please see https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/
As of May 22, 2020
As of May 22, 2020, twelve (12) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House. The last positive reported case at Alpha House was May 22nd. At this time, we are still considered to be in “outbreak.” Please see below for more information on Alpha’s preparedness for positive cases. We are following all AHS guidelines and testing clients daily.
There continues to be no identified positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.
As of May 20, 2020
As of May 20, 2020, eleven (11) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House. At this time we are still considered to be in “outbreak.” Alberta Health Services classifies an outbreak as “any one (1) client or staff member confirmed to have COVID-19.” As a result of this classification, we anticipate being in “outbreak” for some time given our commitment to our clients and the fact that we are testing daily, including for individuals who are asymptomatic.
At this time, the last positive reported case at Alpha House was May 16th. We expect to see more positive cases within our client population as we continue to fulfill our mission of serving vulnerable Calgarians. When someone comes to our Shelter in a vulnerable state, we will care for them. Strict guidelines for PPE and sterilization of equipment are in place, however we have opened up a small number of detox intakes.
There continues to be no identified positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge, AB.
As of May 14, 2020
As of May 14, 2020, eight (8) positive COVID-19 cases have been identified at Alpha House through our continuous screening efforts and contact tracing processes with the most recent positive case reported May 13, 2020 Programs continue at Alpha House with reduced capacities and additional AHS measures to keep clients and staff safe.
As operations evolve with our pandemic response, we are asking the public to consider donating individually wrapped snacks (chips, jerky, granola bars, juice boxes…etc.), puzzles, and board games to support clients across all our programs as we continue to implement social distancing guidelines. For a full list of our needs, please visit (https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/)
As of May 7, 2020
Alpha House has had a total of 5 clients test positive for Covid-19. No staff have tested positive at this time. All positive tested clients are staying at the city’s Assisted Self-Isolation Site. The hotel we are operating as an overflow site is housing 60 asymptomatic clients. We have also begun rapidly moving clients into our new Transitional Housing Program in Sunalta.
There continues to be no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge and operations remain as before.
As of May 4, 2020
Alpha House has a total of 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19. All positive test cases are clients and all are now staying at the city’s Assisted Self-Isolation Site. At this time, no staff have tested positive. Teams from Safeworks, Public Health and CUPS conducted testing for staff and clients throughout Friday May 1st and Saturday May 2nd. Since Friday May 1, 2020, we have relocated 20 asymptomatic clients to our hotel overflow site. Our Shelter will operate at a capacity of 45 clients. All admissions to Detox have been suspended until further notice. We will continue to operate 15 Health Beds for symptomatic clients waiting test results.
There continues to be no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge and operations remain as before. Please see below for an earlier update on Lethbridge operations.
As of May 1, 2020
Through Alpha House’s continuous screening efforts, Alberta Heath Services (AHS) has confirmed two (2) positive COVID-19 cases (clients) at Alpha House.
Alpha House is currently operating Health Beds for clients presenting with symptoms who are waiting on test results. As such, we have been preparing for the possibility of a positive case for some time.
There have been other positive COVID-19 cases identified within the homeless population in Calgary. These are the first at Alpha House. We are working with the other shelters and speaking daily with medical officers to continue our pandemic response and to implement any new AHS measures, on top of the guidelines we are already following, to prevent a spread of the virus.
There are currently no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge and operations remain as before. Please see below for an earlier update on Lethbridge operations.
As of April 28, 2020
As you may have read elsewhere, there have been four positive Covid-19 cases identified within the homeless population in Calgary. At this time, Alpha House does not have any Covid-19 positive cases.
We are working with the other shelters and speaking daily with medical officers to continue our pandemic response and to ensure we are following all Alberta Health Services guidelines. Alpha House staff continue to diligently follow protocols to screen clients upon entry to all programs and to immediately isolate individuals presenting with symptoms.
We have increased our capacity to isolate symptomatic clients who are waiting on test results. We had been operating with 2 spaces, but have increased that number to 15 this week. In addition, Alberta Health Services has isolation spaces available in a separate location.
There are currently no Covid-19 positive cases in the population we serve in Lethbridge. As a precautionary measure to better prepare staff for contact tracing in the event it becomes necessary, we will be separating all clients between our two shelter spaces. Starting tonight, clients will be dedicated to one Shelter or the other and will not be permitted to go back and forth between buildings.
As always, we appreciate the kind words of support we have received throughout these trying times. Our How to Help page (https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/) is continuously updated, if you are able to support our work monetarily or through a gift-in-kind donation. Stay safe.
As of April 21, 2020
Some updates on operations for Alpha House during the pandemic:
Screening clients prior to Shelter entry and spraying hands with disinfectant
Working with Community Paramedics to isolate and test any client presenting to the Shelter with symptoms
Re-configured how we serve meals to clients in Shelter and Detox Programs to increase physical distancing and better protect staff and clients
Continue to operate health beds to appropriately isolate clients who are waiting for test results
Continue to work with Alberta Health Services on regulations across all programs
Continue to operate the DOAP and Encampment Teams to support individuals on the street
Continue to have clients socially distance in their rooms across all our housing programs
We have no new updates to provide. All programs are operating within their capacities given the pandemic. Our staff continue to do phenomenal work. Thank you to all who have donated funds or goods during this time and for adhering to our donation protocols. You can find more information about How to Help at https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/
As of April 7, 2020
No Covid-19 positive clients to date
40 clients currently settled in our overflow shelter units in the city
Staff are well-trained and equipped in all programs to triage and screen clients for covid symptoms
Shelter capacity steady at 88 clients as we continue to follow distancing guidelines
Encampment Team working with rough sleepers to spread health information, setup wash basins in camps, and support individual’s immediate needs
A small number of detox assessments open every few days to intake new clients and transition clients who have completed treatment
Two health beds in operation for individuals presenting with symptoms, awaiting test results
Continue to triage and screen clients
Continue to provide shelter services at both main building and overflow space
As of April 2, 2020
No new updates to provide. Please see below for most recent changes to services. Thank you, as always, for your continued support of our work.
As of March 30, 2020
No Covid-19 Positive clients to date
Successfully transitioned 40 clients to additional shelter space in the city (please see below for a list of items needed, if you are interested in donating to these clients)
Hired new staff to support overflow space and additional operations
Continue to triage and screen clients
Shelter capacity steady at 88 clients
Continue to disinfect and sterilize all equipment and supplies frequently and diligently
Detox assessments briefly opened to intake a small number of new clients
Taken on full operation of the Lethbridge Stabilization and Resource Shelter (capacity 125-beds)
Opened overflow shelter space in the city
Transitioned some clients to additional units in the city, with supports
Continue to triage and screen clients
Continue to disinfect and sterilize all equipment and supplies frequently and diligently
We are looking for donations of coffee, puzzles, cards, games, crafting supplies, and female makeup for our clients who have transitioned to new individual units in the city. We thank you all for your continued support of Alpha House and our clients. for a full list of our needs, please visit https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/
As of March 26, 2020
Prevention continues to be our greatest safeguard for our clients, staff and the general public. Our leadership group has been working diligently with all levels of Government to continually implement best practices across all our programs: Shelter, Detox, Housing and Outreach. Alpha House does not have any positive Covid-19 clients to date.
We are grateful to the City of Calgary and CEMA for collaborating with agencies across the city to provide overflow shelter space and isolation units. Alpha House has successfully transitioned some of our clients to the overflow space to help reduce strain on our main programs.
Other prevention measures continue:
Triage and screen clients before building entry
Utilize health beds in an isolated unit for clients awaiting test results
Encourage and make it possible for clients to practice social distancing and good hygiene
Disinfect and sterilize all equipment and supplies frequently and diligently
Keep suspended all volunteer groups and external programming
Donations of food, cleaning supplies, PPE, and new underwear and socks have been wonderful to receive. We thank you all for your continued support of Alpha House and our clients. If you would like to get a better idea of our needs, please visit https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/
As of March 23, 2020:
At Alpha House we know that prevention is our most effective tool to safeguard our clients, staff, and the general public. We have implemented and continue to implement new measures to remain in the prevention stage for as long as possible. We do not have any positive Covid-19 clients to date.
We continue to work within the system of care and all levels of government to:
Finalize agreements for additional space for shelter in the city
Triage and screen clients before building entry
Create an offsite isolation space for clients with Covid-19
Hire additional front-line staff
We are pleased to be working with the City of Calgary and CEMA for overflow shelter space and isolation units at this time.
Current prevention measures across all programs, include:
Checking clients’ temperature prior to their entry to the Shelter or Outreach Van and spraying hands with disinfectant, providing masks where necessary
Converting building space to increase distance between shelter beds
Immediately isolating a client presenting with Covid-19 symptoms and contacting community paramedics to determine next steps
Increasing the frequency of sterilization of our equipment, especially in high priority areas
Suspending all external programming and volunteering to decrease the number of people coming in and out of the shelter
Alpha House is suspending all daily, weekly, and monthly volunteer activities including:
Out to Lunch Sandwich Group
Corporate and Faith Group Onsite Support
If you wish to support Alpha House, we are able to accept monetary donations through our website. In-kind donations are accepted with some restrictions. Please see https://alphahousecalgary.com/how-you-can-help/ for a list of needed items that can be dropped off at the Shelter (203 15 Ave SE). We ask that you do NOT come to the Shelter if you are feeling unwell.
As of March 16, 2020:
Alpha House will no longer be assessing or accepting clients for our Detox Program. All clients who wish to will be able to stay in the residential program until other options are available to them.
As of March 13, 2020:
In light of a growing number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Alberta and Calgary, I want to give you an update about the situation from Alpha House’s perspective. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are monitoring recommendations from Alberta Health Services and all levels of government.
To do our best to keep the risk of COVID-19 low, Alpha House has established an internal committee working with both the City of Calgary and the Government of Alberta, as well as other agencies in the shelter system. The goal of this committee is to ensure we are all prepared with a coordinated response to protect those who enter the shelter as well as the public at large.
As an emergency shelter, we understand that the population we serve is particularly vulnerable. If anything changes and to keep everyone healthy, we may cancel volunteer shifts, tours or activities on short notice. As part of our collective preparedness, we ask that everyone takes precaution and does not come into the shelter if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Alpha House is continually monitoring the situation in Calgary and will adjust programming and operations on an as-needed basis. We are taking measured precautions in all areas, including:
providing additional medical supplies to our buildings
increasing client’s awareness of and access to good hygiene practices
increasing the frequency with which we are cleaning and disinfecting spaces and equipment beyond our high normal standards
implementing protocols in place for staff to take all necessary precautions
We are diligently in communications with Alberta Health Services and other agencies to help monitor and minimize the chance of an outbreak from occurring within the vulnerable homeless population in Calgary.
Finally, while the current risk is low, it is important that we are prepared in case that changes. We all have a role to play to keep each other safe and healthy.
It is natural that we worry about new threats to our health, and the best thing you can do if you are worried is to get up to date information from reliable sources such as Alberta Health (www.alberta.ca/coronavirus) and Alberta Health Services (www.ahs.ca/covid). You can also take preventive steps, like hand washing regularly, to reduce your risk of infection.
We will provide updates on an ongoing basis and encourage anyone with specific questions to contact us at email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued support of Alpha House.
Calgary – A beloved holiday season tradition, The Huron
Carole, is dedicating its proceeds to helping to keep the Alpha House DOAP team
on the street in 2020.
Tom Jackson, founder of The Huron Carole
Benefit Concert Series, is a musician, beloved TV personality (North of 60,
Star Trek, Law and Order), long-time champion for the marginalized and a
volunteer member of the DOAP team. Having experienced life on the streets
himself, he discovered music was a way to help others. This year’s concert
on December 3rd at the Bella Theatre takes on an urgent purpose as
it raises money to continue funding the DOAP team that is impacted by an 8%
reduction in provincial funding to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, which is a
funder of the program.
is an essential mobile and outreach service that is doing unique work within
our city. Team members travel throughout
the inner city, Beltline and outlying communities to assist people under the
influence of drugs or alcohol who need help navigating shelter, detox, medical
services, housing and other programs and resources,” says Kathy Christiansen,
Executive Director, Alpha House. “We are working to identify new sources of funding
through various levels of government, corporate and community partners. Tom’s
generosity in dedicating one of this year’s Huron Carole concert proceeds to
DOAP brings our community together to continue to help the evolving and unique
needs of vulnerable Calgarians. We are asking Calgarians to buy tickets and
get involved through sponsorship and silent auction donations.”
current shortfall is about $20,000/month to operate the DOAP team that averages
57 transports a day. The larger cuts projected for
April 2020 without replacement funding will lead to a reduced presence of the
DOAP team across the city and a much more limited response. DOAP will then be
focused solely on the Beltline and downtown areas at reduced hours and will not
be able to assist those who need help in surrounding communities.
member of the DOAP team, I see firsthand the impact we have on marginalized
people every single day. Dedicating one of this year’s Huron Carole performances
is a way that I can invite Calgarians to be part of the solution in a meaningful
and soulful way,” says Tom Jackson. “Path
to a Miracle is our theme this year as we pay attention
to the light inside all of us…the path we create and the path we leave behind.”
If you are interested in supporting the DOAP Team through The Huron Carole, you can purchase tickets, become a sponsor, or donate to our silent auction.
The Huron Carole, Tuesday, December 3, 2019, Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal University
The Huron Carole is a seasonal music
tradition spanning more than 3 decades touring from coast to coast to coast.
Expect an evening of contemporary and signature Christmas music, along with
stories creatively crafted by Tom Jackson. Award winning musicians
Tom McKillip, Darryl Havers, John MacArthur Ellis, Kirby Barber and Diane Lines
join Tom onstage. This performance will be one of 16 across Canada
raising funds for local food banks and family service agencies.
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.
This is the 6th International Harm Reduction day and it has got us thinking about the principles of harm reduction. Alpha House supports a harm reduction approach in all of its programs. We know every individual has their own journey and should be treated with support and dignity while they navigate that path.
There is some great discourse happening lately on harm reduction, addiction and mental health. We want this discourse to continue in Canada and around the world. By continuing to learn, collaborate, and educate others, we can continue to provide hope to individuals caught in a cycle of addiction. Last month, Policy Options shared a great article on the need for greater resources and investment in health care that we thought we’d highlight today.
“”I’ve met thousands of people with substance addiction and I’ve never met any for whom this was their life plan,” says Dr. John Weekes, director of research and academics at the Waypoint Research Institute in Penetanguishene, Ontario.” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019)
We have been fortunate in Alberta to have non-profit agencies and local government that have made harm reduction a principle of their work, but there is more work to be done still. Research continues to show the factors that fuel, and put individuals at risk of, addiction.
“Dr. Sheri Fandrey clinical assistant professor at the University of Manitoba said it well, “We don’t have an opioid crisis or a methamphetamine crisis. We have a trauma crisis; a housing crisis; a poverty crisis; a stigma crisis.”” (Cordy, Gagne, 2019).
We are so excited to be continuing our partnership with
Calgary Transit to bring the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP)
team to city transit, providing a new avenue for vulnerable individuals to
connect with addiction services and other social supports.
Alpha House started the pilot for the DOAP Transit program
alongside Calgary Transit in September 2018. Funded by the City of Calgary’s
Crime Prevention Investment Plan, the Community Outreach Team consists of a
Calgary Transit Peace Officer and one of Alpha House’s DOAP team members.
In the 6 months since its creation, the program has had 667
interactions with individuals on city transit. These interactions have led to
over 200 welfare checks, 148 case management portfolios, 124 transports, 43
referrals to other community outreach programs, and 16 hospital visits.
“The Calgary Alpha House Society and Calgary Transit
partnership has enriched our ability to bring the appropriate support to
vulnerable Calgarians while improving safety and facilitating access to
services individuals require.” Kathy Christiansen, Executive Director, Alpha
House. “We look forward to continuing the collaboration and building on the
great work that has already been achieved.”
If CTrain riders see someone who may need assistance, they
are encouraged to use a Calgary Transit Help Phone or dial 403-262-1000 (option
1). If an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.
It takes a certain type of person to work at Alpha House. There is a level of passion and heart that has to be present within someone in order for them to stay in the work. Addictions can cause many complexities in an individual’s life. The work is often heavy, and can take from you both mentally and physically, but in the same breath offers many blessings.
Within these walls we bandage scrapes, mediate disagreements and try to help mend hearts, all while trying to influence change in people’s lives. A listening ear or thoughtful words can do so much because often that’s all people want is someone to listen, someone to care. Everyone has a story and deserves the gift of human compassion, the feeling that when the roads are rough there is still a collective of people who will never stop caring, that will never give up.
Chrissy was one of those people, but she was more than that even. Chrissy was a person who made you want to always be a better person. No matter the circumstance, Chrissy always remained so patient, so kind, and so genuine. Her heart for the work was evident from early on at Alpha House. Chrissy handled every situation with such good intentions, and always maintained a sense of calm about her, even in the most chaotic situations. Chrissy always found the silver lining that would make you know it was all going to be okay, and that the work we do has a purpose – to spread love not hate.
Chrissy’s smile and the little giggle that went with it…this woman was the definition of a beautiful, genuine, all rounded human being. Chrissy showed her passion and love for the people she served through the countless hours she would sit with clients and let them talk about anything they needed to talk about. She always gave them that time to feel important and to feel heard, never needing to raise her voice. Chrissy cared so much for everyone, taking the time to make every person feel like they were valued.
The world has suffered the loss of a beautiful soul. Chrissy reminds us that we need to be more kind to each other and spread love throughout our communities. If more people in this world embodied the spirit and accepting nature that Chrissy did, this world would be so much easier, and so much more bearable for everyone to live in because love and acceptance really do change everything.
Written by Rebecca L., Shelter Team Lead at Alpha House