Tag Archives: Calgary homeless foundation

Time to say good-bye.

Today is my last day at the Foundation where I have worked for the past 4+ years.

It is time to say good-bye.

I am sad. I am excited.

Both emotions co-exist in a field of possibility that opens up whenever we begin to step through a portal from one threshold to the next.

Life will change. It will keep flowing. It will adapt. Fill in the spaces behind. Open up the spaces in front.

And I move on. Along. Through. Stepping across this threshold into a new space.

The unknown beckons. The known is carried with me.

For 4+ years I have worked alongside incredibly talented and passionate people. In that time, people have changed, moved on, moved into the Foundation. Yet, no matter the faces at the table, the passion and commitment to ending homelessness has remained constant.

It has been 4 years of growth, of learning new things, of stretching my talents and gifts, of stretching my capacity to lead, to inspire, to collaborate, to share, to listen, to step back, to step forward.

It has been 4 years of being inspired by those I work with, for and amongst. Of building community where every voice matters, of working within a community where every act counts and is valued.

I move on and already the space I held is being filled in by the passion, talent, commitment and brilliance of those who remain.

It is what I love most about this point in time where I stand at the edge of the doorway leading into a new portal. Behind me are the infinite possibilities of change, just as there are before me. Where I stood can never remain the same. It is physically impossibly. As it changes and as I step out of it, it becomes part of the changing spaces behind me that others are creating through illuminating it with their brilliance and passion.  The possibilities of what they can do and create are limitless.

The spaces I move into have been created by others just as committed, just as brilliant in their passion to end homelessness. As I move into that new space, it too will be changed as we find our way together to create a space that is illuminated by our different voices, ideas, passion and creativity.  Informed by the past. Steeped in limitless possibility.

And so life continues.

We move from one space to another, leaving behind the possibilities of change for others to pick up, creating in front of us new possibilities for change for us to enter into.

I have been so incredibly honoured and blessed to work with amazing people. To Andrea, Kayleigh, Aaron, Wendy, Sharon B., Paul, Darcy, Kelsey, Joel, Ben, Sharon D., Teresa, Kara, over the years you have all played a role in creating an amazing space to be a part of and to work within. You have all touched my heart and made a difference in my life.  I carry you with me.

Throughout my tenure at CHF I have worked alongside incredible leadership. John R., Gerrad, Diana, thank you for sharing your brilliance.

To the team at CHF. WOW!  Your passion, commitment, willingness to learn and adapt and take risk to create better continually inspires me to do the same. Thank you.

To the CAC, your courage, commitment, humility and honesty have touched my heart deeply.

I am stepping through one doorway into the next today.

I am excited. I am sad. I am grateful.

Namaste.

HomeSpace: a home in our community for everyone.

Today is the release of the preliminary report of the Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness held October 19th in Albereta.

PIT Counts are interesting beasts. They provide a moment-in-time snapshot of homelessness in any given city. They are not the de facto scientific answer to who is homeless, how long they’ve been homeless, or what are the issues contributing to their state of being.

They are a moment in time of those counted on a given night.

Yet, often, media see the PIT results as the measure of a city’s success, or failure, to end homelessness.

The PIT number only tells part of the story. The part where we count who is on the streets or in shelter, incarcerated with no fixed address, or hospitalized with no fixed address on that night.

The more important data is how well a city is doing at housing those for whom home was a long ago place. How well those who are housed thrive in housing. How much is health, physical and mental well-being improving.

In Calgary, we are doing a stellar job of ensuring the system of care is strong, responsive and proactive. We have agencies who work together to share data, discuss housing plans, develop strategies to ensure the system of care is using its resources as impactfully as possible.

Challenge is, the economic climate, the lack of affordable housing especially for those with lower incomes, is limited in our city.

We need housing.

homespace-logoWhich is why I am so proud to work for an organization that had the courage to take the bold move of transferring its $60 million housing portfolio to an independent entity so that organization could focus on the development, building and management of housing for the h0meless-serving sector and vulnerable Calgarians.

On Friday afternoon I stood amidst friends, colleagues, agency partners, government officials and stakeholders as HomeSpace Society was officially launched.

It was exciting. Moving. Thrilling to see this dream that was seeded in the early 2000’s become a reality.

Some of my favourite people from the Foundation where I work have moved over to HomeSpace — and the enthusiasm, commitment and passionate excellence they carry with them is inspiring, and hopeful.

They know their job like no one else.

They know what it takes to move a project from concept, to land acquisition, to development approval and to final build.

They know what vulnerable people need for housing and to stay housed. And, they know how to work with the funded agencies who provide supports to tenants so that those for whom homelessness has been a long time reality can let go of the ‘homeless identity’ to claim their new way of being in the world, ‘at home’.

It took a lot of hard work, commitment, vision and patience for HomeSpace to become a reality.

Congratulations to everyone involved. From CHF management, board members, and team to the entire team at HomeSpace, and everyone who played a role. Job well done!

I’m excited about what the future will bring for vulnerable Calgarians, the homeless-serving sector, and our city.

This morning we will be talking about the people experiencing homelessness on one night in our city. And while we won’t be talking about those who are housed, it’s their story that must be told, because that the bigger picture of how Calgarians are making a difference, together!

Keys to Recovery: Unlocking the Potential

Karen Crowther is compassionate, dedicated, fiercely loyal and determined. She gives her whole heart and being to creating success for her organization, her staff, and the people they serve. And in return, her staff, the people they serve and the communities within which they live and work love her back.

Karen is the Executive Director of Keys to Recovery and as Broadcaster, Performer and last night’s Emcee Jonathan Love said at the Keys to Recovery (Keys) Unlocking the Potential fund-raiser C.C. and I attended, “There’s a lot of love in this room. I can feel it.”

It’s true.

There was Love. And… passion, commitment, a fierce conviction that we can make a difference. A deep understanding of what it takes to do that and a belief that everyone deserves a second, third, even fourth chance to change their lives. No one is hopeless.

Keys fills a unique niche in the homeless serving system of care in Calgary. They provide housing with supports to formerly homeless Calgarians who would otherwise be discharged from successful completion of rehab back to the streets.

It can be a vicious cycle.

Imagine. An individual knows what they are doing is not working for them. They want to get clean and sober and make the scary, yet liberating decision, to go to rehab. After treatment, they are sober, have the tools to continue their sobriety but, the one thing that is the same, is the lack of housing that contributed to their homelessness, and their addiction, in the first place.

Without Keys, they would be returning to an emergency shelter, or the street, with little support to maintain their sobriety and thus, change their lives.

Keys provides that support. They wrap a person in compassionate care, providing both housing and structure to support them in their efforts to retain sobriety and create a new life for themselves and their families.

Gabriel Chen, the keynote speaker last night shared a powerful and inspiring message of what is possible if we imagine a different way.

Gabriel knows. He is a lawyer whose client base is entirely made up of individuals experiencing homelessness.

In the first story Gabriel shared, “Mary” found herself homeless and, feeling defeated, gave into the lure of drugs to numb her from the dark reality of the life she was experiencing. Eventually, she knew she had to do something different, went to Rehab and got a place of her own and was working on her sobriety. But she was on her own, struggling every day to make ends meet and to retain her sobriety. One day, she got picked up on a misdemeanor and when the police ran her name through ‘the system’ it was determined she had some outstanding warrants from when she was using drugs and stole some food and got caught. She was sent to the Remand Centre and attempted to call Gabriel. Except, she was only allowed one call a day and the phone at the Remand does not allow the caller to leave messages. It was a week before she reached Gabriel when he happened to be at his desk. By then, she was terrified of losing her apartment and told Gabriel to plead guilty on her behalf.

She lost her apartment anyway, Gabriel shared and because he was brought into the cycle after she’d already represented herself at her bail hearing, he could not change the course of her journey. She ended up with a criminal record which, upon release, impeded her ability to get a job, an apartment, go back to school or to make any constructive changes in her life.

And the cycle continued.

Imagine instead, asked Gabriel, if Mary was supported throughout her journey. That upon exiting rehab and being immediately housed with supports, she chose to work with her Case Manager to clean up the outstanding warrants before they created more trouble in her life.

Imagine if Gabriel was able to stand before the Court to plead on Mary’s behalf, before the judicial process kicked into high gear with its judgements and criminalization of homelessness and addictions.

Imagine if he could have demonstrated to both the Judge and the Prosecutor that Mary was maintaining her sobriety, was going back to school and had support to change the course of her life.

Imagine that the judiciary were aware of Keys and respected and supported the work they were doing in the community to end homelessness.

Imagine if…

Keys to Recovery makes this possible, Gabriel said.

It’s true.

************************

Keys to Recovery plays a vital role in Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness. Every Calgarian has a role to play — the board members of Keys who were all present last night, the volunteers who helped organize the event like my dear friend Wendy C., and the people who came out to support Keys in their inaugural fund-raiser like Diana Krecsy, President & CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, all made a difference.  You can too. Check out the Plan and see where you fit. (Action Step No. 14 is a great one for every Calgarian) Let’s take action! Together. We can end homelessness in Calgary.

 

 

 

Hope: the ultimate un-guide.  Beyond hope lives possibility!

Hope banner copy

We spoke of hope yesterday. Of hope and possibility and new paths and new directions.

We celebrated what was and opened doors to bright new futures.

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

The kick-off for Aurora on the Park and Providence House, two new affordable housing projects for formerly homeless Calgarians went without a hitch.

The dignitaries arrived, the guests crowded around the stage and the media stood by and listened and learned and felt drawn into the possibilities and hope of the future for all 49 people who will call one of the two buildings home sometime in the future.

And through it all, the sun shone, the birds sang and people felt optimistic and engaged in what we can do and are doing as a collective to end homelessness.

Alan Norris, President and CEO of Brookfield Residential and Chairman of the board of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and the RESOLVE Campaign summed it up well when he said that the 11 homebuilders who were there representing RESOLVE are competitive in their day jobs but very committed and collective in their desire to work together to make a difference in our city.

And as I stood and watched the crowd and listened to the speeches and took care of any details that needed addressing, I too felt the hope and optimism, the sense of possibility that filled the air around us.

Getting to this moment, where all the pieces came together to create such an exciting and successful event takes a lot of hard work and a lot of people.

I am blessed. I have an amazing team around me. Darcy and Aaron who so generously give of their time and talents. Wendy and Paul who also are gracious and giving. It is because of them and their efforts the day went off without a hitch.

Sure, as with every major event where you are working with many parties to create the desired outcome, there are those moments when all you want to do is throw up your hands and look at someone and say, “Really? You think that’s important or necessary right now?”

Those moments make me smile. They remind me of my human condition. That thing that connects all of us, that thing that keeps us all humble and striving to find new pathways to working together, to getting the job done, to doing it collectively.

Yesterday, as I watched and listened, I felt proud.

Proud that we as a city have a shared vision of ending homelessness.

Proud of our Mayor as he spoke of excellence and vision and commitment and what it means to work collectively to create a great city for everyone.

Proud of the other dignitaries who spoke and shared their support and kudos for all we are doing to make a difference in the world.

Proud of the media for turning up and documenting the events.

Proud of the communities of Hillhurst Sunnyside and Crescent Heights who were open to the possibilities these two projects respresent and welcomed them into their communities with such grace.

Proud of the artists of This is My City who created such a masterpiece as the yarnbombed house which we all stood in front of yesterday to celebrate the beginning of the new developments.

Proud of all my co-workers for turning up and being part of the event, for bringing their best to support what we are working to achieve together.

Proud of the RESOLVE team for caring so much about how the day went, how their donors were treated.

Proud of my team and the fund development team at CHF for giving their hearts to creating a day that truly did touch hearts, open minds and set possibilities for a better future, for all of us, free.

Proud of a stranger named Pedro who lives down the street who came back with his camera because he’s a documentary film maker and he wanted to record the events for us as a gift.

And proud of everyone who came and stood in the hot blazing sun and took a stand for building homes for those who have lost their way.

I felt hopeful yesterday as I listened and watched.

I felt honoured, inspired and humbled.

What a great day!

 

 

 

 

Racing against time: are we there yet?

He rushes onto the C-train, his backpack slung off one arm, a travel mug in one hand, a slice of toast wrapped in paper towel in the other. He stands, both feet planted firmly on the train platform, balancing himself as it lurches forward.

He’s in a rush. To get to school. Gotta eat on the run.

She races towards the doors of he C-train, sticks her arm in between the about to close doors and slips through the crack. Leaning against a glass divider, she pulls out her mirror and begins to apply her make-up.

She’s in a rush. To work. To a meeting. Somewhere. Gotta get prettied up on the run.

He dashes across the C-train tracks as the light is turning from flashing amber to red. Down the avenue, a train is coming closer. It blasts its horn to encourage the man racing across the tracks to get out of the way. He ignores it.

He’s in a rush. Somewhere. Gotta beat the train.

I see it everywhere. People rushing, racing to catch, the train, the light, time.

And I look at my life and wonder, where do I do it too?

And I laugh. Even though it’s not really all that funny.

Some mornings, especially those where I’m driving myself to work and not taking the C-train, I get in my car, to-go cup in the cup holder, cut up slices of an apple in a baggie on the seat beside me. I munch and sip as I drive into the city center and see other drivers munching and sipping all along my route.

We are a hurry up and get there, get ‘er done, let’s get going, times a’wastin’ kind of town.

In my awareness, I am reminded to slow down and breathe. To put thought into each moment, to savour each breath, enjoy the here and now.

In my awareness, I commit to honouring time passing with my presence firmly planted in the here and now.

Namaste.

On Tuesday, the Calgary Homeless Foundation where I work, honoured recipients of the Arthur R. Smith Awards.

The amazing Bandi, photographer extraordinaire, took some wonderful photos of the people at the event. Here’s one of my very favourites.

Sharyn, Louise, Wendy
Sharyn, Louise, Wendy

 

The Bird of Time is on the wing

It’s official.

I’m tired.  🙂

Yesterday, AG, my communications team-mate mentioned that he wasn’t sure if it was all the prep work on the Summit next Tuesday, but he sure wasn’t sleeping very well.

I laughed.

Neither am I, I replied.

My mind, full of details not to be forgotten, ideas germinating and sparking new thoughts on how best to present the Updated Plan to End Homelessness to ignite collective impact, doesn’t want to turn off.

Which means, like AG, short bursts of sleep interrupted by wakefulness streaming with ideas.

This morning, as I lay in bed considering the thought of getting up, my critter snuck in and whispered, “You’re too tired to get up. Sleep awhile more. Day has not yet broken.”

But it had. Light slipped through the open spaces between the slats of the blinds, I could see the outline of shapes in our bedroom. There was light out there and it was calling me to rise and shine.

It was time to get up. In fact, it was past my normal time of getting up.

And the critter hissed, “You’re too tired. Don’t do it.”

Swat!

“Ouch!” he exclaimed at the suddenness of my gesture to stomp him out. “You hit me!”

“And I’ll hit you again,” I told him, my voice steeled with determination. “I am getting up. I am not going to let the thought of how tired I am keep me from leaping into my day and setting the world on fire!”

So there.

Take that you pesky critter!

And he lay silently in a sobbing mass, soaking in a pool of self-pity.

Yup. Definitely tired.

But not down.

There is still much to be done and I am later than normal in getting to it!

Gotta run!

The day has begun and there’s adventure afoot.

Sure, I am tired but AG and I have agreed next Wednesday is a day for total, complete rest. Neither he nor I will cross the threshold of the office.

Until then, mission not so impossible is waiting to be turned into the possibility of every Calgarian standing up and stating, unequivocally, “Count me in. I want to do my part to end homelessness in Calgary. I will….”

And then they will state the thing or things they are willing to do to be part of getting it done.

From supporting the idea of affordable housing in their community, to writing letters to the government to ensure funding for essential social programs is not cut to volunteering or donating, every Calgarian has a role to play.

Our job is to ignite their passion to create a Calgary that is great for everyone.

And just thinking about it revs me up and excites me to get to into my day!

Gotta go.

There’s lots to do and to quote my father whose copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, I treasure, “The bird of time is on the wing and the bird has but a little way to flutter.”

Namaste.