The needs of Calgary’s vulnerable population are complex, and the people helping them are busier than ever.
This past fiscal year marked the largest number of transportation Alpha House has provided since the Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership Team began.
The DOAP team transported 27,000 people to places such as shelters, hospitals and clinics. The team also helps people to be connected to housing and social services.
“We’re seeing more individuals on the street in general,” says Shaundra Bruvall, the communications and fund development manager at Alpha House.
“There is a lot of speculation about the impact of the pandemic and what it has done to people, pushing individuals to the poverty line or into homelessness. Mental health complexities and addiction complexities — there’s really been an unfortunate combination of many different factors that we attribute to some of the increase that we’re seeing.”
Bruvall predicts they are on track to see a similar or higher number this fiscal year.
Number of people sleeping rough in Calgary is on the rise
In June 2021, Alpha House expanded its Outreach Encampment team to pair five members with Calgary bylaw officers in an effort to respond to vulnerable individuals sleeping rough.
Bruvall said it has been a success so far.
“Alpha House is able to provide a connection to social services, client report and a mental health and addiction background with bylaw officers who can provide data on knowing where the active camps are,” Bruvall said.
But the outreach work requires putting thousands of kilometers on vehicles.
“One thing that is difficult to maintain is our vehicles. There is wear and tear on our outreach vans, so we are always looking to update them and it is difficult to get funding for that,” said Bruvall.
Alberta to provide more funding to addictions, homelessness to Calgary, Edmonton
Musician, actor and activist Tom Jackson, who lives just outside of Calgary, is a DOAP team volunteer.
“The DOAP team has the opportunity to create miracles for people, and you’d have to be pretty hardcore not to get hot from that,” Jackson said.
He said the team saves lives and he feels like he has benefited from his volunteer work.
“It was a life-giving experience for me. It gave me oxygen to be on the streets with the people I love and to be able to help them,” Jackson said.
“I was lucky enough to have these angels in the back of my van – to move them from one place to another. I basically only had 12 minutes of their life to tell them I love them and ask them if they wanted to be anywhere other than where they were,” he said. “If they said yes, I’d say, ‘Let’s make a plan.’
Jackson is part of a Nov. 30 concert at the Bella Concert Hall in Calgary to help raise funds to keep the Alpha House vans on the road.
The Stories, Songs and Santa Causes concert series will be held in support of Alpha House Society.
Jackson said people who come to the show are going to save lives.
“Our job is to take the weight off your shoulders that you’ve been feeling for the past few years and to make you happy, because happy is healthy,” he said. “Our job is to make you happy and to really help you help us help others.”
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