News & Events

International Overdose Awareness Day

Shaundra Bruvall | September 1, 2023

The Calgary Tower lit up in honour of International Overdose Awareness Day

Time to Remember. Time to Act.

International Overdose Awareness Day is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

The campaign raises awareness of overdose, which is one of the world’s worst public health crises, and stimulates action and discussion about evidence-based overdose prevention and drug policy.

The campaign also acknowledges the profound grief felt by families and friends whose loved ones have died or suffered permanent injury from a drug overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message about the tragedy of drug overdose death and that drug overdose is preventable.

The goals of International Overdose Awareness Day are:

  • To provide an opportunity for people to publicly mourn loved ones in a safe environment, some for the first time without feeling guilt or shame.
  • To include the greatest number of people in International Overdose Awareness Day events, and encourage non-denominational involvement.
  • To provide information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdose.
  • To send a strong message to current and former people who use drugs that they are valued.
  • To stimulate discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy.
  • To provide basic information on the range of support services that are available.
  • To prevent and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice.
  • To inform people around the world about the risk of overdose.

Penington Institute (2023). About the Campaign.


  • There is an international crisis of drug overdose. Over the last twenty years drug overdose deaths have increased significantly in many parts of the world. Each year a record number of deaths are reported, predominantly driven by the misuse of opioids, often in combination with other drugs including benzodiazepines, stimulants and alcohol.
  • In 2020, an estimated 284 million people – one in every 18 people aged 15-64 – had used a drug in the past 12 months, a 26 per cent increase from 2010.
  • Opioids account for two-thirds (69 per cent) of drug overdose deaths. The estimated number of people using opioids globally has doubled from 26-36 million people in 2010 to 61.3 million in 2020. There are currently multiple ongoing opioid overdose epidemics in the world; one is driven by the increased presence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in the United States and Canada, while another in North Africa, West Africa, the Near and Middle East and South-West Asia is due to the non-medical use of the synthetic opioid tramadol.
  • Some of the new drugs available today – most notably synthetic opioids and amphetamine-type stimulants – are more dangerous than their counterparts were 20 or even 10 years ago. There were 1,127 new psychoactive substances reported in 134 countries and territories between 2009 and 2021. Opioids are the fastest-growing and most harmful group of new psychoactive substances – there were 87 different types recorded globally in 2020, an increase from just one in 2009.


Penington Institute (2022). Global Overdose Snapshot.
UNODC (2022). World Drug Report 2022.



  • There was a total of 32,632 apparent opioid toxicity deaths between January 2016 and June 2022.
  • A majority of deaths occurred in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario; high rates were also observed within other regions.
  • In 2021, fentanyl was responsible for 87 per cent of opioid-overdose deaths in Canada. Of the accidental stimulant toxicity deaths during the year, 62 percent involved cocaine, while 55 percent involved methamphetamines.


Government of Canada (2022). Health Infobase.

Recognizing Those Who Go Unseen.

As an agency committed to providing safe and caring environments for those whose lives have been affected by alcohol and other substance addictions, Alpha House acknowledges both the importance of IOAD and this year’s theme, “Recognizing Those People Who Go Unseen”.

Overdose alters the lives of those who experience it, as well as those around them. This includes the family and friends who grieve the loss of their loved ones, workers in support services and healthcare who tirelessly commit themselves to providing safety and stability to those around them, and first responders who provide emergency, life saving care under traumatic circumstances.

This is a crisis that we are all in together, and on this day, we amplify the voices of those individuals in our communities who often go unrecognized.  We acknowledge their strength, compassion, and care as an example to us all.

Today, we say to them: “We see you.”



International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

Shaundra Bruvall | May 17, 2023

Standing Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

By Dawn Lemieux


Canada is becoming increasingly diverse. According to Statistics Canada, one million Canadians identify as belonging to the 2SLGBTQ+ community (2022). While Canada has made moves toward equality, such as same-sex marriage and new protections for gender identity and expression written into the Canadian Human Rights Act, we still have a long way to go in combatting the homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia that is prevalent in society, schools, and other institutions.


Statistically, 2SLGBTQ+ people experience real danger on a daily basis since they are more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted or to sustain injuries as a result of aggression than those who are not 2SLGBTQ+. Alarmingly, 59% of 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada have been physically or sexually assaulted since age 15, a drastically larger proportion than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts (Statistics Canada, 2022). Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia can also take on more subtle forms of discrimination, including microaggressions and online harassment. Folx with intersecting identities, particularly those from racialized groups, can face double or triple forms of discrimination. One of the most vulnerable groups in our society are 2SLGBTQ+ youth who make up between 25% and 40% of unhoused youth in Canada (Statistic Canada, 2022). Whether overt or subtle, all forms of discrimination have negative and lasting implications on an individual’s mental health and well-being. When a person’s mental health and wellness declines, they are more likely to turn to alcohol and other substances to cope with feelings of stress, anger, loneliness, and sadness.


May 17th marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. On this day, people around the world band together to celebrate diversity, disrupt hate, and stand against injustice toward 2SLGBTQ+ people. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and to live a life free of fear. What next steps can you take to help create a safer, more inclusive society?


  • Commit to developing a critical consciousness. Begin by reflecting on your own positionality in relation to dominant culture and the power and privilege that comes from your identity markers. An essential part of becoming more critically conscious is understanding that everyone has prejudices or biases due to the stereotypes they’ve absorbed during their upbringing and through consuming media. These prejudices are not always conscious, and it takes real work to unpack them in order to identify misconceptions about folx from the 2SLGBTQ+ community. You can also commit to learning more about the International Day of Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia and 2SLGBTQ+ identities by browsing the resources on Learn more about queer topics by exploring books, shows and documentaries, and podcasts by people from the community. Consider grabbing a friend or two to attend Calgary’s queer film festival in June, hosted by the Calgary Queer Art Society.


  • Break free of your comfort zone. In an increasingly divided society, it can be tempting to stay quiet and take a neutral stance when complex issues come up in conversation or when you witness an act of discrimination. Remember that standing against injustice is almost never a comfortable experience. Bravely challenge hate-filled comments by reorienting them to focus on equality and equity. Staying silent is what allows injustice to continue.


  • Break down binaries and use inclusive language. It often seems that we live in a ‘two-choice’ society, where binaries such as hot/cold, up/down, Black/White, male/female, and gay/straight are the norm. Embrace fluidity by bending, blurring, or breaking society’s binary codes and welcoming words, actions, and people who do not fit neatly into categories. Language matters! A simple way to use inclusive language and help others feel safe and validated is by respecting their pronouns. Do not feel overwhelmed by the terminology related to gender identity and sexual orientation. If you aren’t sure about a person’s pronouns – just ask. A thoughtful way to go about this is to share your pronouns first. Do not use the term ‘preferred pronouns’, as it suggests that using a person’s pronouns is optional. If you make a mistake with a pronoun, apologize quickly, and move on.


  • Celebrate the heroes of equality-seeking groups and observe days of awareness. Take time to learn about and acknowledge 2SLGBTQ+ leaders and heroes of past and present, such as Harvey Milk, and pay tribute to the important days of awareness for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, including the International Day of Trans Visibility (March 31st) and the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (May 17th).
  • Consider donating to 2SLGBTQ+ organizations and charities. Calgary’s End of the Rainbow Foundation is one organization that creates sponsorship circles, hosts support groups, and provides education to help 2SLGBTQ+ people settle into their homes and communities. Donations to the End of the Rainbow Foundation directly assist 2SLGBTQ+ people, including refugees, in emergency scenarios to obtain safety and support. Check out for more information.


When we embody love and acceptance, we can disrupt the intolerance, discrimination, and violence directed toward 2SLGBTQ+ people in our local and global communities. We all have a role to play in creating safe and caring communities for everyone.




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



National Nurses Week 2023

Shaundra Bruvall | May 8, 2023


Alpha House is so very lucky to work with a cohort of nurses in our Shelter, Detox, and Permanent-Supportive Housing programs. Our in-house nurses provide care, comfort, compassion, and critical medical supports for a group historically underserved and oft discriminated against in healthcare. Check back here to hear from some of our incredible nursing staff about their work for National Nurses Week 2023!

Angela Shanahan

How long have you been a nurse? Since 2012

What drew you towards pursuing nursing as a profession? I wanted to work in the public, in a healing position, so it just seemed to fit.

What inspired you to focus your work on homelessness and addictions support? I’d been working in long-term care my entire career and just wanted a change, so I applied at Alpha House and I love it here. I love this demographic.

What do you love the most about your work? Seeing success is the most rewarding. And my team! I work with an amazing team.

Can you share a favorite story or impactful moment you’ve had with a client since you’ve been with Alpha House? I guess just seeing everyone who leaves Detox and moves onto a treatment center. They change so much in 10 days, it’s like they’re a completely different person. I think it’s very rewarding to see them getting healthy, and they’re always very thankful for all that we’ve done for them

Evelyn Nyangaresi

How long have you been a nurse? I just started. I graduated in December, so this is my first job as a nurse.

What drew you towards pursuing nursing as a profession? To be able to take care of people, to help people, to get them from one point to another and to nurse them back to health.

What inspired you to focus your work on homelessness and addictions support? I was already a case worker with Alpha House at the Vet’s building, and I’ve always been a humanitarian. Back home I worked in a refugee camp. I’ve always worked with the vulnerable population, so I love always helping people.

What do you love the most about your work? To see how clients progress. Seeing them get from one point to another. When I see them come in, and am able to help nurse them back to health, that is my most rewarding moment. Even if it’s a minimal improvement, it is still a plus for me.

Can you share a favorite story or impactful moment you’ve had with a client since you’ve been with Alpha House? That’s tough because there’s so many. There was one client who came, and he had just been admitted when all of a sudden, he overdosed. We were able to Narcan him because he had already started turning purple, just like with all overdoses. But to be able to actually save someone’s life and to be able to help them in that capacity, that’s really the most rewarding part of my job. Just knowing that you really are able to make a difference, however minimal that is, that’s what counts for me.

 Shweta Sobti Sharma

How long have you been a nurse? For 3 years.

What drew you towards pursuing nursing as a profession? I was a dental technician before, but I didn’t like the timelines, and I always wanted to work with people. That’s why I went into nursing.

What inspired you to focus your work on homelessness and addictions support? When I started here, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would like it. This was my first job, but I ended up really liking it, and I never went anywhere else.

What do you love the most about your work? The clients. Helping them get clean and getting them onto Suboxone or Methadone so they don’t go back. Just helping them live a better life and getting to a better quality of life with the clients.

Can you share a favorite story or impactful moment you’ve had with a client since you’ve been with Alpha House? When I see them sober, that’s a special moment. Even if they end up coming back, when they tell me that they didn’t use for 6 or 7 months…we did have a client who was here for almost two months. She did relapse, but she had been clean for 7 months and we would always make sure that she was receiving her treatment from CUPS. It made us really happy to see that her treatment was successful.


Sam Dziuba

Can you tell us a little bit about your nursing background, and what drove you to become a nurse? I’ve spent the past 10 years working as a nurse.. I was raised by a hippie who always told me to never do a job for money, only do what makes you happy. And nursing seemed to have chosen me.

What led you to working with people struggling with homelessness, and substance use issues?  I lived on the streets when I was a youth from 16 till 20 years old…I also fought my own addictions. To me, I am not working with the homeless or people with substance use disorders…I’m just working with people just like myself…they are my people.

What do you like about working with this population? I like working with people who are down to earth and nonjudgmental…and the thing about addiction is that it lets you reach a point in your life where you learn what’s really important, material things come and go…but the people in your life are what really matters. I like the raw feeling of connecting to others based on respect, not what you have or where you live.

What’s your favourite part about being a nurse? I like learning, and people always teach me something new everyday. I love that.

Is there any advice or words of wisdom you would give to someone who is considering a career in health working with marginalized populations? Just be yourself…living on the streets makes you learn real quick on spotting who is being real and who is not.

Meet Harvey

Shaundra Bruvall | September 30, 2021

Harvey has just moved into Alpha House’s Permanent-Supportive Housing Program in Sunnyside; Aurora House. He’s from the Siksika Nation just outside of Calgary and first came to the city at the age of 16. He speaks fondly of his parents and the parts of his childhood spent with them, sharing tales of adventuring across Canada.

At 6 years old, he remembers being removed from home and taken to a Residential School. He was told to speak English but, while his parents spoke both English and Blackfoot, they primarily spoke Blackfoot at home. So English did not come quickly to him. His brothers and sisters attended the same school. Occasionally, he could visit them.

The school, he recalls, was Protestant-denominated, not Catholic. ‘It was 3 miles from home; [I] tried to run away and go back home. My parents were happy when I’d escape, just happy to see me’ he shares. Once, he escaped for a week with three other boys. ‘I kept running, didn’t even stop to use the bathroom or sleep’. But eventually the school would come looking and each time he’d be brought back.

At home in the summer, he would smudge with his family and learn dances like the chicken dance; a dance that celebrates the connection of people and the prairie grouse. He says his Mom would take him foraging to gather mint for tea and mushrooms for soup. ‘Mom took care of us, made sure we had something to eat’. As he reminisces about the mushroom soup, he says he is going to check his cupboards for some after this conversation.

He had a dog named Lucky growing up, a surprise gift brought home by his dad one day. Lucky was Harvey’s constant companion, often accompanying them when his Dad would take him hiking. He moved into Calgary at 16, his siblings and friends had moved so he decided to as well.

He spent some time working for CP Rail ‘lifting railway ties. I was strong,’ he says. And he was married for a while as well. Sandra and Harvey met on a chance encounter roaming around Calgary. ‘I thought she was very pretty’.

Theft at a few shops on the reserve landed Harvey in prison. It was in prison that he first started beading, something he still does today. Prison was ‘hard at the start, beading helped’. He made a few friends that he still occasionally sees.

He spent time after prison hitchhiking across the mountains and sleeping out under the stars with an end goal of reaching his sister in Vancouver. ‘She was surprised to see me walking down the street. What are you doing here?! I got lost I told her. I was off to see the world I told her.’

His sister has now passed on and Harvey says ‘I hope to see her in the next life’. He came back to Calgary to attend the funeral of his nephew and decided to stay in the city. He got connected with Alpha House not long after that.

An Elder visits Harvey in his room at Aurora House once a week. Together they smudge to push away bad spirits and bad emotions. He says he feels strong after the Elder visits and holds his arms up in a strongman pose.

The birds wake him up each morning but he says he likes that; along with starting the day with a cup of Maxwell House coffee. His drum, an important connection to his brother, was stolen from him one day in a park downtown. But he’s been working on beading a necklace lately in lieu of drumming. Another of his creative expressions, a painting, hangs in the staff’s office at another Alpha House building.


Calgary Alpha House Society was established in 1981 as a committed response to a marginalized population of men and women who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs and living vulnerable on the streets of Calgary. Over 50% of the clients we serve are Indigenous. Today, the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we wear orange, come together to drum and sing, and remember and honor those lost to Residential Schools and the survivors still with us.

Mobilizing Technology to Resolve Complex Social Issues

Shaundra Bruvall | March 24, 2021

HelpSeeker is a registered B-Corp Social Enterprise with a mission to scale systems change to resolve complex social issues. One of their most celebrated new creations The HelpSeeker app is a free network of location-based services, resources, and support you need to help your clients and the community. We had the opportunity to sit down with some of HelpSeeker’s team members to get the scoop on how things are going and what they hope their new initiatives will accomplish.


Who is Helpseeker for?

The HelpSeeker navigation tool can be used by anyone who might need to find help, whether for themselves, or on behalf of someone else.  Because HelpSeeker is used by thousands of people seeking help, it is also a great marketing tool for service providers, as it helps to get their information out to more people.

HelpSeeker also offers other digital tools that provide valuable insights for people in decision making roles, who want to understand the needs of their residents better, so that they can make more informed decisions that will lead to better outcomes.


Are you marketing the app to the general public?

Yes!  We have two apps: the HelpSeeker app and the Wellbeing Screener, which are free for anyone to use, anywhere across Canada.

HelpSeeker is a navigation tool, where people can search anonymously for supports in their community that can help them address their needs, including help services, helplines, benefits, and social programs available in a community.

HelpSeeker is great for frontline workers and people who have a good sense of what they need help with.  But sometimes it isn’t always clear to someone that the problem is: they may know they aren’t feeling their best, but can’t quite pinpoint what they need help with.  In instances like that, the Wellbeing Screener is a quick way to assess any urgent needs, and start the process of understanding what resources are available nearby, and connect to them directly, or share with a friend or family.

The HelpSeeker App allows you to privately browse thousands of community, provincial and federal health and social services, programs, resources, helplines and benefits for mental health, counselling, parenting, education and training, addictions, domestic violence, affordable housing, shelters, food support services, recreation, and more.


There are a lot of social service organizations in Alberta. How has the app changed navigation of those services for people who need them?

The most common cited concern we hear is that people just don’t know where to go for help. Which is too bad, because there are thousands of support services available across Alberta ready and willing to help.

HelpSeeker was created by people with lived experience in social issues, who also worked as frontline workers.  They knew firsthand that trying to find help, whether for yourself or for someone else, is a complicated and overwhelming process.  Their goal in developing HelpSeeker was to simplify the process, so that people could get access to help more quickly.

We appreciate that often people seeking help are those in very vulnerable situations, and we designed HelpSeeker using that lens.  The app is completely anonymous to use, and is free to download.  It can be used on any Smartphone (Apple or Android device) or can be searched using any desktop with internet access, in 23 different languages. 

Navigators can select from over 80 different search tags to search for issues particular to their needs, or they can use our smart search bar, which recognizes informal terms that might be used (ie. if someone types in “I’m hungry”, the smart search would know to find services that offer food).  Based on the search results, navigators can click on the listing to see a short and helpful description about the organization and their services/programs, contact information, hours of operation, whether the person fits the eligibility criteria, whether or not the service or building is wheelchair accessible, and in certain cases, whether the organization has enough the ability to help them right away. From there, they can either call or email the organization directly.

There is also a map that the navigator can see where the organization is located, as well as a directions button that connects to Google maps, so that people can plan their route to get there.


What’s the current scope of the app in terms of locations where it is available?

We are currently available in more than 200 Canadian communities, but thanks to a recent investment from CMHC, we will be in every Canadian community within the next 3 years.


What are some of the trends you have been able to see through the app’s data and are you / how are you / using that to improve its efficacy?

Having the ability to compare what supports people are searching for with where supports are located is really useful, as it provides a starting point for identifying where possible gaps and/or duplications exist.  The data can also be used to help improve program design, and to help communities develop responses to rapidly changing needs, like what we experienced with COVID.

We’re always taking feedback from service providers and people using the app on ways to improve the user experience. Look for new improvements later this year!


COVID Social Issues Infographic – 69,000 hits in Alberta & what people are looking for help on (CNW Group/HelpSeeker Inc)

Have social service organizations been open to the idea of the app?

Yes!  The response from social service organizations has been tremendous, especially as they appreciate the important role they play in the overall systems transformation process, and discover how the app can really help their staff and frontline workers spend more time working one-on-one with their clients, instead of spending time in front of a computer navigating services. Organizational leaders like that they can use the service provider dashboard to get a snapshot of their organization’s overall program capacity, which can help guide decisions for future programming and funding allocations. They also like that people who have used their services can send private feedback directly to their organization, so that they can assess how to improve their service delivery.


 What is the biggest roadblock you have faced with the app’s implementation or progress?

Our most exciting challenge is getting the app into the hands of people who need it. We’re continually brainstorming new strategies to do this!  And we are always on the lookout for people that can help us raise awareness in their community.


What’s your favourite feature of the app?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one favourite feature!  I would say that my favourite feature is our smart search bar, which has the ability to recognize everyday, common terms, like “I’m hungry” or “need clothes”, and will show results accordingly.  It’s very cool!  We’re always adding new features, so  stay tuned for more!


You can download the HelpSeeker App and the Wellbeing Screener for free wherever you get your apps!

A Letter from our Executive Director

Shaundra Bruvall | November 25, 2020

The Holiday Season is often a time of reflection as we look back on the year that was and anticipate what will be when the calendar turns on January 1st. Without question, 2020 has been an extraordinarily challenging year for our city, our country and the world.

At Alpha House, we have done our best to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the vulnerable people we serve, both in Calgary and in our new stabilization centre and shelter in Lethbridge. We’ve collaborated with partners to find and provide safe shelter that will meet all protocols and guidelines, asked our staff to go above and beyond in caring for clients, and we’ve taken every precaution we can to keep men and women seeking our help, safe.

Despite many new challenges, our priority remains the same as it’s always been: to meet the needs of individuals whose lives are affected by alcohol and other drug dependencies.

 With our resources being stretched thin, this year more than ever, we need your help. Since 2018, Tom Jackson – a beloved Canadian musician, actor and philanthropist and Alpha House volunteer – has dedicated one of his annual “The Huron Carole” concerts to support Alpha House. Last year’s sold-out concert raised funds for our Downtown Outreach Addiction Program, also known as the DOAP Team.

 On Tuesday December 1, the annual Huron Carole concert “Light Inside” is going virtual in support of our DOAP Team, and recovery programs in Calgary and Lethbridge.

As Tom so eloquently says, “Under the cloud of these challenging times, those less fortunate in our world are going to be the ones most impacted by the current economic fall-out from Covid 19. This Christmas season is going to be different from any other. It’s going to require us, as individuals and as a society, to look inside ourselves for a light of optimism. A silver lining. We must treasure that light and hang on to that silver lining with all our might.”

It is our request and hope that you will join us for this treasured holiday tradition celebrating the music and meaning of the season. Tickets are just $15 or $30 (includes a VIP pre-show experience with Tom).

We understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for our community. If you are able, please join us for an evening that is sure to lift your spirits and that will give hope to other Calgarians as we all reach for the light inside.

Tickets are available here.

You may also donate to Alpha House online.

With thanks,


A Message of Gratitude and Hope

Shaundra Bruvall | December 23, 2019

The Holiday Season is a time of reflection and gratitude. As I think back on 2019, I am inspired by the resilience of the individuals we serve every single day, the dedication of our staff who selflessly go above and beyond to provide compassionate care, and the outpouring of support we receive from the Calgary community.

This year was one of growth, challenges, rewards and renewal at Alpha House. We saw programs, like our Needle Response Team and DOAP, expand to meet new needs emerging in our community. We also faced funding cuts and financial challenges that could impact our ability to continue to provide much-needed services like DOAP in the future. All of the programs within our Continuum of Care remained busy, meeting the needs of vulnerable Calgarians and helping to improve their quality of life. We  also started to work in Lethbridge, sharing our experience and knowledge as the community opens its first stabilization centre.

As we’ve shared our highlights and challenges with Calgarians – through our social media, presentations, community meetings and media stories – we’ve received an outpouring of support from individuals, artists, groups, corporations and government. People are hosting fundraisers, advocating for support, and donating their time, talent and funds. It’s an encouragement to the entire Alpha House team, as well as the men and women we serve.

Thank you for supporting our work, for caring so deeply for vulnerable Calgarians and for giving hope to those who need it most in our community.

On behalf of Alpha House Calgary, have a wonderful Holiday Season.

Kathy Christensen

Executive Director

Q and A with Alex of the DOAP Transit Team

Shaundra Bruvall | June 7, 2019

Alex Harris, a member of Alpha House’s Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) Transit team, and his partner, Peace Officer Kitty Aalders, received The 2019 Life Saving Award at the Calgary Police Service 2019 Chief’s Awards Gala this June.

As one of the Calgary Police Chiefs Awards of Exceptional Recognition, the Life Saving Award recognizes “an act beyond that which would reasonably be expected and in which the person saves or attempts to save the life of another.” The DOAP Transit team provides a new avenue for vulnerable individuals to connect with addiction services and other social supports. We sat down with Alex to chat about the award, the DOAP Transit team, and how relationship building is crucial to meeting clients where they’re at.


Alex, congratulations on receiving the Life Saving Award at the Calgary Police Service Awards Gala! That’s very inspiring!

Thank you very much!

Can you tell us more about the situation you were in and how you and Kitty were able to prevent a tragedy?

We [Alex and Peace Officer, Kitty] were at Victoria Park Stampede Station. We were doing a sweep of the station at the end of the day and we noticed a female that we’d previously seen down at Centre Street station. This lady was acting a bit erratically, and we saw her make her way down the stairs where there was an elderly female and her partner, walking on the platform. There was a train inbound heading into downtown that was probably about 500 ft. away, I don’t know exactly how far but the lady that we’d seen acting erratically ended up shoving her [the elderly lady] onto the tracks. She landed there and was not moving.

So my partner- I was kind of hesitant being that I’m technically a civilian– I wasn’t sure if I should go to the person or if I should go help my partner. I went and helped my partner first, and then other backup arrived. And I hopped down on the tracks and held c-spine for the lady until EMS and the Fire Department arrived.


So the train was able to stop well in time or did it feel like a close call?

Well, at the station when you hear ‘the next train is arriving, stand behind the yellow line -‘ that had already gone off. It was probably still 100 ft. out, but it did have to break pretty aggressively.


What was going through your head at the time?

It was definitely a shock.


Adrenaline rush?

Yeah! It was only our second week of doing this full time- so it was kind of like getting thrown into it right away. It was definitely an adrenaline rush and there was a lot going on but I wouldn’t say it was something that I didn’t expect could possibly happen in this job.


What does it mean to you to be receiving this award?

I’m definitely flattered that someone would think to nominate us and then to eventually actually receive it. I’m a little bit humbled by it but to me I was just doing what I think anybody would have done. I think I was just doing my job and so was my partner. At the same time, I’m very appreciative that someone would take the time to nominate us and that means a lot to me at the end of the day.

How are you liking your job with the DOAP Transit team so far?

I love it! Yeah, it’s great. I worked part time on weekends on the main DOAP team when I first started here [Alpha House] and that was great too, but I like this role in the sense that I’m able to do a lot of case management work with the clients and I’m able to spend a bit more time with them to try to reach some positive outcomes, if they want to go down that route.

What would you classify as a successful day / successful client interaction?

I think just whatever the client wants – if the client wants someone to talk to or somebody to listen to them, I think if we can be that person, that’s a success to me. I also think it’s a success when you’re able to build rapport with somebody who you’ve been trying to build rapport with, and it’s taking forever, and they’ve been kind of closed off, that’s a success to me as well. I don’t always think it’s necessarily fair to call success just getting somebody housed. I think it’s that relationship building and just being able to treat someone with dignity and respect and being that person on the streets for them.

Is there anything about your work you wish people knew more about or asked about more often?

I guess for people to understand a little bit more about what we’re actually doing. I think sometimes it’s hard for people to understand that it’s different from the main [DOAP] team – [the public] is so used to the main vans going around but with transit it can be more proactive work as opposed to reactive work.

We’re spending a lot more time with clients trying to get them connected to resources. The main vans do that but it’s a different dynamic with transit so it’s good for Calgarians to understand a little bit more that we’re doing work in different ways with clients, not so much focused on transport and taking calls – we’re connecting clients to the resources they might need, housing, healthcare, ID programs, on a more day-to-day basis.

What are the long term goals of the DOAP Transit team?

One of our biggest goals is working with high users of the system. We want to try to alleviate the stress of individuals who are constantly on the transit system, getting tickets, getting arrested. We want to try to work with those people to figure out a way to alleviate some of that stress on the overall system, and on officers, and on other resources.

So I think if we can try to focus on those individuals to get them connected to the right resources, obviously not everybody is going to choose to do that or want to do that, but if we can try to start building a rapport with that person we can try to alleviate some of the stressors, and hopefully turn it into less of a criminal matter-justice matter- and make it more of a social issue as Alpha House is trying to do with all of its programs.

Would you find collaboration with the peace officers and bylaw has been really good then, in terms of that relationship?

Yeah for the most part! I think there is still education that needs to be done in those areas. You know, it’s a different mindset at the end of the day and they’re always going to have a different mindset given that they are law enforcement but I think overall Calgary Transit has moved into a positive direction on social issues. They’re doing a lot of great things on their end in terms of moving towards more of a social approach to working with this population and making it less of a criminal matter, which is awesome. But there’s still that education piece around addiction that everybody always needs a reminder on but it’s definitely been working well.

The Calgary Police Service 2019 Chief’s Awards Gala took place Thursday, June 6, 2019, to honour citizens along with sworn and civilian members of the Service who performed exemplary acts of courage and commitment to their community. In total, Chief Constable Steve Barlow presented awards to 14 citizens and 35 officers.

The Alpha House DOAP Transit team can be seen around the CTrain and LRT stations. 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.