News & Events

Path to Housing

Shaundra Bruvall | May 31, 2022

Pictured: 2 Addiction Support Workers at Alpha House's Transitional Housing program

 

Alpha House’s Transitional Housing program has been operating in Lethbridge for roughly 1 year. What began as a program to support unhoused individuals who had tested positive for, or were a close contact of, COVID-19 saw further success by providing housing supports to individuals with a history of chronic homelessness.

The program is delivered out of a hotel in Lethbridge, supporting up to 30 clients at a time to provide individualized goal setting and case management. Its previous success as an isolation program saw over 600 clients supported to maintain their isolation periods.

Now, the clients who utilize the program have different goals.

Those may include housing, finding and accessing a family doctor, obtaining prescriptions for needed medications, or applying to addiction treatment centers. Clients have a variety of needs and staff’s work is about engaging with each to understand their personal stories and support them with their unique goals.

The Transitional Housing program provides a bridge between services like the Lethbridge Shelter or Stabilization Centre to long-term housing programs that support clients towards greater stability.

“The history of homelessness and substance use for this group places them at risk for chronic health issues and premature age related disease. But it is incredible to see the improvements to someone’s physical and mental health when they are provided around the clock supports where staff can build rapport and trust on an individual level.”

– Kathy Christiansen, Executive Director Alpha House

 

Lethbridge’s supportive housing programs sit on a Housing Placement Committee. Groups like Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Lethbridge Police Services (LPS) are also in attendance. This allows each service to advocate for individuals they have interacted with to build a fuller picture of a client’s needs to ensure they are placed into the housing program that makes the most sense.

Oftentimes one of the biggest barriers for services in the homeless-serving sector is the resistance found in the community when the conversation of building supportive housing programs in their neighbourhoods starts. While we can understand that not everyone has the same level of comfort with those we serve, we also know the amount of work that goes into educating community members of the economic, community, and societal benefits of supportive housing programs is extensive.

“Alpha House is committed to responding to community issues, being transparent, and providing ongoing opportunities to connect about concerns but besides the business rounds and follow-ups we did when we first started at the hotel, no one even seems to know we’re operating here.”

– Taylor Holtorf, Team Lead, Transitional Housing, Alpha House

The ultimate question, of course, is whether community members would rather have an individual in a stable setting where their mental health and other basic needs are met OR have that same person unsupported, on the street, confused, with unmet mental health needs doing what they need to do to survive.

For anyone skeptical of the successes of supportive housing, there is no shortage of examples of how they positively impact, not just the individual who benefits from the supports but, public systems and communities as a whole.

Alpha House

Client K was frequently connected with Lethbridge Police Services when he stayed at the Lethbridge Shelter, often acting in such a way that necessitated police response, sometimes as often as once or twice a day. K has been at Alpha House’s Transitional Housing program for 3 weeks and police response has not been necessary even once.

Client B suffered terrible burns to his entire body after an accident in his encampment. While staying at the Lethbridge shelter he was unable to properly take care of his wounds but once admitted to the program, B was able to connect with Home Care and a team of nurses came multiple times per week to change the dressings on his burns. B was discharged from the program into a permanent-supportive housing program where he is continuing his journey towards reconnecting with his children and family.

The real challenge right now is achieving economies of scale. With small programs, which is almost exclusively what currently exists in Lethbridge, the cost per participant, while still less than the cost per individual at an Emergency Shelter, in a hospital bed, or jail cell, is higher than it needs to be.

With Alpha House’s Transitional Housing Program closing today due to a lack of funding, there is now one fewer option for individuals struggling with homelessness and in need of supports to move towards stability. Expansion of these programs or the building of new ones will be crucial to supporting better outcomes for social issues in the city.

-END-

Written by Shaundra Bruvall
Communications Manager, Alpha House Society
Inquiries: info@alphahouselethbridge.com

Downtown Clean Sweep Program

Shaundra Bruvall | March 3, 2022

The Downtown Clean Sweep Program

 

Lethbridge’s Clean Sweep Program (CSP) is currently overseen by the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) but it got its start more than 20 years ago.

CSP began as the Employment Rejuvenation Program, or ERP. Initially created by the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Center, the ERP transitioned to the CSP under new partnerships with the City of Lethbridge’s Heart of Our City Committee, the Shelter, and the Downtown BRZ.

CSP’s mandate is to keep the 27-block area of downtown Lethbridge clean as it relates to garbage, needles and needle debris, graffiti, and other minor safety and aesthetic elements. CSP stipend volunteers are out on weekday mornings from 6 am to 8 am before businesses open to ensure the downtown area is ready and clean for the day, including by raking leaves or shoveling snow.

There are three services provided under the umbrella of the Clean Sweep Program.

  1. Hot-Spotting
  • CSP stipend volunteers travel to different parts of the city to “sweep” for needles and needle debris.
  1. Needle Debris Hotline
  • Provides a dedicated number that citizens can call when they find needle debris requiring disposal
  1. Shelter Service
  • Supports keeping the space around the Shelter (and mobile Overdose Prevention Site operated by Alberta Health Services) clean from the hazards of needles and needle debris

 

Scott Ritter, Clean Sweep Program Manager, has been with the program for a year. His background as a Safety Officer and passion for CSP tells you much about Scott’s priorities – he is profoundly committed to keeping others safe.

The benefits of the program reach farther than a clean downtown. The program helps provide participants who struggle with chronic homelessness, mental health, and addiction the tools necessary to become employable and re-enter the workforce. Participants are able to form connections to help them gain meaningful mentorship and support.

Says the BRZ, “The CSP is a win-win program. Not only does CSP provide a clean and safe downtown core, it also provides stability and meaning for the participants. They learn to take pride in their work and to see the value in themselves and others.”

Businesses in the downtown are likewise happy to extoll the benefits of the program. All the businesses surveyed said they were “grateful” for CSP’s services suggesting, “our downtown would be a mess if it weren’t for the daily hard work by the CSP foremen and crews.”

If you find a needle, please call the Needle Pickup Hotline: 403-332-0722


The Road to Re-Zoning

Shaundra Bruvall | June 22, 2021

PLEASE NOTE: WE HAVE MADE ADJUSTMENTS TO OUR RE-ZONING ASK BASED ON COMMUNITY FEEDBACK AND THE CREATION OF THE SOCIAL SERVICES INTEGRATION GROUP (SSIG). WE HAVE REQUESTED AN AMENDMENT TO FOCUS SOLELY ON STRONGER RECOVERY OPTIONS THROUGH A MEDICAL DETOX PROGRAM. PLEASE GO HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS UPDATE.

 

Alpha House Society is currently in the process of pursuing a rezoning for the property at 802 2A Avenue North. The purpose of the re-zoning is to clarify use descriptions and definitions in order to follow by-law requirements as we continue to respond to social issues such as homelessness and addiction in Lethbridge. Below is more information about what re-zoning means and why we are undertaking this project.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Projects/Proposals

  1. What is a rezoning? [This description is provided by the City of Lethbridge]

A rezoning, also referred to as Land Use Bylaw Amendment, occurs when a landowner wants to change what activities or use of land is allowed on their property with the current zoning. Changes to a property’s zoning may include different land uses or activities, more dwelling units, or a new development and/or building. At a public hearing, anyone has the ability to make comments regarding the proposal to City Council who ultimately decides if the rezoning is a   good idea.

  1. Why are you pursuing a rezoning?

Alpha House currently operates a 24/7 Emergency Shelter and Stabilization Centre out of the building at 802 2A Ave N Lethbridge. A mobile Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) is operated on the street outside the building by Alberta Health. The re-zoning process will not change the services provided at this location but will allow Alpha House to better meet the needs of the population we already serve with more beds, greater medical supports, and a higher quality space. In addition, moving the OPS inside the Shelter facility will provide greater stability and accessibility to services for clients and greater overall security for the community.

We will be pursuing the following re-zoning definition: Substance Use and Recovery Services (Federally and/or Provincially-regulated), defined as: A Development providing federally and/or provincially-approved medical services which may include services such as an overdose prevention site, medical detox, intox beds and services, and sobering and withdrawal management facilities. This use is regulated by the federal and/or provincial government.

  1. Who owns the property?

The City of Lethbridge owns the property at 802 2A Ave N

  1. Will any building improvements or changes be made?

There will be no structural changes to the building but our proposal does include a possible shift of traffic flow to utilize the back entrance and area of the property in a manner that offers higher quality client care and staff safety.

  1. Where will parking be provided?

Apart from the removal of the mobile OPS following the re-zoning, which would increase parking options on the main street, there are no plans to change the parking lot or street parking.

  1. Who should I contact if I have questions about the project?

Please contact Kathy Christiansen at kathy@alphahouselethbridge.com or Nicole Callaghan at nicole@alphahouselethbridge.com if you have questions related to this project.  Additionally, Alpha House hosted a Virtual Open House on June 17th and the recording of that presentation is available on our website.

 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Rezoning Process

  1. What is a rezoning? [This description is provided by the City of Lethbridge]

A rezoning, also referred to as Land Use Bylaw Amendment, occurs when a landowner wants to change what activities or use of land is allowed on their property with the current zoning. Changes to a property’s zoning may include different land uses or activities, more dwelling units, or a new development and/or building. At a public hearing, anyone has the ability to make comments regarding the proposal to City Council who ultimately decides if the rezoning is a good idea.

  1. How long is the rezoning process?

Once an application is made, the rezoning process is two to three months long on average.

  1. Who makes a decision on the rezoning?

City Council is the decision maker for rezonings. This decision is made following a public hearing.

  1. What are the steps in the rezoning process?
  • Initial consultation with the City
  • FAQ letter sent to neighbouring land owners (current step)
  • Application submitted
  • Application notification letter sent to neighbours
  • Internal circulation to City departments
  • Rezoning introduction to City Council – First reading
  • Public hearing notification sent to neighbouring land owners
  • Rezoning presentations to City Council – Public hearing
  • Rezoning decision made by City Council – Second and third readings

 

  1. When and how is the public updated throughout the process?

Property owners within 60 m are contacted directly by the City of Lethbridge two times throughout the process via mail:

  1. Notice of Application Submission Letter when the rezoning application is submitted to the City
  1. Notice of Public Hearing Letter when Council gives the rezoning bylaw first reading and the public hearing is scheduled (usually for 4 weeks after the first reading). The date for the public hearing will also be advertised on the City’s website at https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/public-hearing-notices/Pages/Public-Hearings.aspx.

 

  1. Why is the notification distance 60 metres?

Section 692 of the Municipal Government Act requires that written notice be provided to owners of adjacent land. This is defined in the City’s Land Use Bylaw as a radius of 60 m from the parcel being rezoned.

  1. How may I provide my feedback on this rezoning proposal?

The Notice of Public Hearing Letter will outline the ways you may share your feedback with City Council in person, via email, via phone call, or through the City’s website. This information can also be found on the City’s website at: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/public-hearing-notices/Pages/Public-Hearings.aspx.

 Who should I contact if I have questions about the rezoning process?

Contact the community planner listed below. A copy of the City’s Land Use Bylaw can be accessed on the City’s website at: https://www.lethbridge.ca/Doing-Business/Planning-Development/Development/Pages/Land-Use-Bylaw-6300.aspx

Shelagh Graham; Community Planner

Planning and Development – City of Lethbridge; 910 – 4th Avenue South Lethbridge, Alberta T1J 0P6

Phone: 403-359-6530; Email: shelagh.graham@lethbridge.ca