A monthly publication by the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative (CRIHI)
It's been an exciting month at CRIHI, in Edmonton and in housing efforts all across the country, and we are happy to celebrate it with you. In fact, so much has happened, it will take us a few months to explore it all properly. But we give you an initial glimpse in this issue of the Neighbourly. CRIHI also hosted two major events ourselves including an action-packed Plenary gathering, and a workshop on the West End.
This month, we feature an overview of November Housing Month highlights, a faith reflection from a member of the Mennonite Church, an article highlighting choices families have to make trying to live on minimum wage, and December campaigns from our partners at Habitat for Humanity and No Room in the Inn.
We have much to celebrate, with a lot of exciting work ahead.
Peace and blessings,
Batya and Mike
IN THIS ISSUE:
Faith Reflection: Mennonite Church, Alberta
Housing Month Highlights
No Room in the Inn Campaign, 2017
National Housing Day Fact Sheet - Edmonton Social Planning Council
ACTION HIGHLIGHT: Home for the Holidays campaign
Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities
A Glimpse of the Plenary - November 28, 2017
Around 80 people gathered at Beulah Alliance Church this week for an energizing engagement in our continuing work together. In the last year, the City of Edmonton updated the plan to end homelessness. This significant event prompted CRIHI to consider how we too will work for the future. In this gathering, we received together a revised call to action and had opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the work.
Numerous faith communities were in attendance, including Muslim and Jewish groups, Unitarians, Hindus and a wide range of Christian denominations. We also welcomed many partners from non-profit agencies and city representatives. What made this plenary particularly exciting was the emphasis on creating space to work together. To help provide us with that space, CRIHI received a gift of facilitation expertise from Homeward Trust and the City of Edmonton. It gave us not only the opportunity to hear from faith leaders and to learn together, but also to sit at table and dig in around actions and strategies that will mobilize and energize our movement to collective action. In our January issue, we hope to showcase some of the fruit of our collaboration, but for now enjoy these pictures that give us a glimpse at the engaging gathering - that was Plenary, November 2017.
Presented with enormous thanks to our hosts at Beulah Alliance for their warm hospitality, and to our faciliators: Jeannette Wright, Cindi Cunningham, and Elliot Young.
A Mennonite Reflection: Isaiah 58: On Worship and Social Action
Spiritual Disciplines like fasting, prayer and gathering for worship are important ways people connect with God. But in the Bible, there is a clear connection between practicing spiritual disciplines and performing acts of compassion and justice.
The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 58 offers a powerful rebuke to the people of Israel for not practicing their faith on both fronts:
In verse three, the children of Israel call out to God wondering why God is not responding to them. “‘Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’ God answers the following, "Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, and oppress all your workers. You fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high." Finally God says in verses six and seven, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?" In verses eight and nine the result for those following God’s suggestion of right action is described. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”
The key verses of this passage reiterate that faithful fasting is made tangible by breaking the bonds of injustice. They get very close to “home” (literally) when they state that we are to share bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into our houses, cover the naked, and not hide from relatives. Our responsibility as faith communities is clear. The focus in many of our faith communities is often on how we can worship God faithfully. The answer here is clear that God cannot hear our voices in worship if there is unaddressed injustice we are causing directly, or that we are close enough to do something about.
Could it be that some of us who claim to be worshiping God are trying to address the issue of Homelessness but could be involved in structural injustice that makes us even complicit in the problem? Whether we are the cause of the problem, or serving our own interest, we are to get right up close in bringing those who are without a home into our houses. What does that mean for us in our modern society? It is clear that we need to have real personal connection, perhaps even friendship with those whose housing issues are more complicated than ours. Bringing someone into our home must mean that they are at least respected as we respect family members. Does fear make us inactive on this count? Through our disciplines, God helps us deal with our fears!
Donna Kampen Entz,
Mennonite Church, Alberta
Housing Month Highlights!
November was a very exciting month on the housing front; punctuated by numerous events, workshops and announcements. Here's a little of what we saw, heard and did together this month!
We heard excitement around the updated plan here in Edmonton, with numerous front line providers welcoming efforts to fine-tune work on the three fronts of ending chronic homelessness, preventing future homelessness, and better integration and coordination of services.
We heard the city of Edmonton formally recognize November 22 as Housing Day in our city, in line with National Housing Day efforts across the country.
We heard MLA David Shepherd speak to efforts by the Province to ease restrictions for those seeking help affording a home. Families owning a vehicle or having a few assets to their name would often find themselves unable to qualify for assistance unless they liquidated these assets and spend what little extra they have in the bank. New changes will make vehicles exempt, and allow for up to $25,000 in assets.
We heard Housing formally recognized and verbally expressed as a human right by the Federal Government.
We heard the formal announcement of a National Housing Strategy by the Prime Minister, and by Minster Amarjheet Sohi here in Edmonton. As Jay Freeman noted, "43 years after the National Housing Act, we finally have a National Housing Strategy!" We will unpack this strategy more in the next few months, but a few initial highlights are as follows:
A stronger portable housing benefit to take root in 2020; providing rent assistance to low income families.
We will see federal energy and dollars moving into the renovation and creation of new affordable housing across the country.
There will also be new funding agreements created with Housing Coops to replace those set to expire.
We heard the city's desire to integrate affordable housing all across the city; building inclusive, complete, diverse communities with a range of housing choices. We also heard the need to engage the private sector in this effort, as they are critical partners that currently provide housing that is affordable for 80% of Edmontonians.
And of course, CRIHI hosted two major events ourselves: our [What's your Wisdom on Affordable Housing?] workshop at West Edmonton Baptist Church on November 18, and our Plenary gathering on November 28 at Beulah Alliance. We will have more detailed reports on these events in our January issue of the Neighbourly.
Lots to be thankful for in this season! New projects are being announced and are finding homes in community, and there is a spirit of welcome growing in many quarters of the city. Let's continue to bathe our city in prayer for the future, that the work we are all doing together may bear rich fruit!
NO ROOM IN THE INN Campaign - 2017
Canadian Mental Health Association - Edmonton Region's Northern Arms complex
Christian churches in Edmonton are once again joining forces at Christmas to assist those at risk of homelessness through the annual No Room in the Inn (NRII) campaign. This year NRII has chosen to support the Edmonton Region of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
CMHA is a non-profit charitable organization that receives funding through the United Way and other government programs. In Edmonton, the CMHA has seven properties with a total of 146 independent living units. Presently, there is a wait-list and an influx of applications.
The property receiving support through our 2017 NRII Campaign will be the Northern Arms apartment complex (in the Queen Mary park neighbourhood) which CMHA purchased in August 2015. Although a structural assessment deemed the building had good bones, renovations are still necessary to replace ALL the windows and balcony doors. Exterior siding, painting, carpet in common areas will also be updated. In individual units, renovations are also needed to update flooring, appliances, and window coverings. As outlined in this year’s NRII pamphlet, tenants of CMHA’s affordable long-term housing can readily access all the services provided by CMHA-Edmonton including a supportive landlord who can assist them when their mental health is not well.
How to donate:
1) Through your church – make a cheque payable to your church and enter “No Room in the Inn” in the memo line. Drop the cheque in the church collection or mail it to your church. The church will then forward donations to A Safe Place.
2) Making a cheque payable directly to 'Canadian Mental Health Association - Edmonton Region," enter “No Room in the Inn” in the memo line and mail it to:
CMHA; #300, 10010 - 105 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5J 1C4
This Christmas, please prayerfully consider being a blessing to the Canadian Mental Health Association - Edmonton Region's Northern Arms complex and its mission through the No Room in the Inn campaign.
National Housing Day - Fact Sheet
What is national housing day?
In 1998, a Toronto advocacy group called the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC), declared homelessness a national disaster. The State of Emergency Declaration was released in October 1998 and was immediately supported and disseminated by various government agencies, faith groups, nonprofits, agencies, and individual citizens. Beginning in 2000, November 22 was recognized as National Housing Day, with events focusing on raising awareness of housing and homelessness issues of specific communities (Homeless Hub, 2014).
What is affordable housing?
In Canada, affordable housing is defined as shelter costs being less than 30% of household before-tax income. Affordable and social housing are terms that are often used interchangeably, although social housing is only one category of affordable housing and is generally subsidized by the federal government. Affordable housing is a broader term encompassing housing provided by the private, public, and nonprofit sectors (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2017).
What do the numbers say?
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of their income on shelter costs: 308,485
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of their income on shelter costs: 15.1%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of their income on shelter costs: 36.0%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.4% (Statistics Canada, 2017)
City of Edmonton:
Tenant and owner households spending 30% or more of their income on shelter costs: 86,665
Percentage of owner households spending 30% or more of their income on shelter costs: 16.5%
Percentage of tenant households spending 30% or more of their income on shelter costs: 38.1%
Percentage of tenant households in subsidized housing: 10.6%
(Statistics Canada, 2017)
What do housing affordability issues look like for those making minimum wage in Edmonton?
This section utilizes the calculation guide created by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to complement the 2017 living wage calculation for Metro Vancouver. The calculation guide includes a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the living wage amount after local family expenses, deductions, tax credits, and government transfers have been applied. We replaced the living wage with the current minimum wage of $13.60/hour to recalculate yearly budgets of low wage workers and to showcase affordable housing challenges in the City of Edmonton and the choices that many Edmontonians are forced to make because of their low wages and high housing costs (Ivonova and Reano, 2017).
Single Person making $13.60/hour
For a single person living in a $1,000/month one bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
They will have no contingency or emergency fund
They will take $150/year off the food budget and may need to go to the food bank
They cannot afford cable television, but can have internet and one cellphone
They cannot afford health insurance through Alberta Blue Cross
They cannot afford to go to night school
They must take $500/year off their furniture and supplies budget
Even with these cuts, this individual saves only $4 monthly and $50 yearly
The single person is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
This individual must spend 50% of their income on rent
Single parent with one child making $13.60/hour
For a single parent family with one child living in a $1,106 two bedroom apartment in the City of Edmonton making $24,752/year:
A single parent will receive the maximum amounts for the Alberta Child Benefit, the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, and the Canada Child Benefit
Even with these extra benefits, a single parent making minimum wage cannot afford to go to night school
They must take $150/year off their contingency or emergency fund
They must cut their furniture and supplies budget by half
They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
They must take $100/year off their food budget and may need to go to the food bank
They cannot afford television but can have internet with one cellphone
This family can save $1 monthly and $7 yearly
A family of two is eligible for the Ride Transit Program and receives a $35/month bus pass
A single parent family must spend 33.9% of its income on rent
Two parent, two child family, making $13.60/hour
For a two parent family with two children living in a $1,377 three bedroom in the City of Edmonton making $49,504 a year:
This family receives a significant amount in child and family benefits
This family must take $300/year off its furniture and other supplies budget
They must take $200/year off their clothing and footwear budget
This family cannot afford to have one parent go to night school
They must cut their contingency or emergency fund by half
This family can save $2 monthly and $28 yearly
This family must spend 24.7% of its income on rent
The purpose of this exercise is to showcase the impossible choices that many Edmontonians making minimum wage are forced to make daily. A single person making minimum wage must choose between receiving an education or having enough food to eat. While a single parent receives the maximum amounts for a variety of federal and provincial child benefits, they are still unable to go to night school and are forced to take $100/year off their food budget, possibly having to use the food bank. A two-parent family with two children also cannot afford to send one parent to night school, and are forced to choose between buying clothing and furniture or paying the rent.
By Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator,
Edmonton Social Planning Council
Ivanova, I., & Reano, P. (2017). Working for a Living Wage 2017. Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver. Calculation Guide. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity - Help give fifteen families a home for the holidays!
What's all needed?
Between Dec 5 -16, Habitat for Humanity is looking for 300 volunteers to help complete up to 15 homes that will be turned over to Partner Families in time for the holidays. Build locations are South East Edmonton, and Fort Saskatchewan.
2017 was a huge year for Habitat for Humanity Edmonton. This summer we hosted former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn. They and thousands of volunteers helped us to bring 75 homes to various stages of completion. It’s time to complete up to 15 of these homes before the New Year!
No construction skills are required, just a willingness to lend a hand and share of your time and energy. Groups and individuals are invited! Beginners to tradespeople are welcome. Join us for one (or more) shifts!
Tasks are mainly indoors and may include painting, paint touch ups, construction cleaning, installation of doors, casings, handrails, and boarding.
We are looking for 300+ volunteers to come out and help at both our Fort Sask and Carter Place (south Edmonton) build sites.
1. We provide all equipment and tools
2. We provide safety training and orientation
3. We provide lunch!
How to sign up: Groups and individuals are welcome.
Sign up for any Fort Sask or Carter Place volunteer shift from Dec 5th – Dec 16th at hfh.org or contact Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-451-3416 ext 237 for group information or any questions.
Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities
One of the biggest reasons people struggle or fail as they come out of homelessness into housing is loneliness. Welcome Home assembles and trains a small team of volunteers to walk with someone as a friend. This is a one-year commitment to go for coffee, go bowling, take long walks, to encourage and pray for a fellow human being on a tough stretch of the road. To find out more information about volunteering contact the Welcome Home Coordinator at 780-378-2544. https://www.cssalberta.ca/Our-Ministries/Volunteer-Mentoring-Support
Get Firsthand Experience
CRIHI's website has a strong list of opportunities where volunteers can learn by serving. Here's the link: http://wp.me/P20ewB-5R
Get involved in your Local Community
Visit or Join your Community League - engage in your neighbourhood's efforts to build community, go for coffee with the leadership, and learn about some of the justice issues taking place in your neighbourhood. http://www.efcl.org
Explore the social dynamics in your neighbourhood
Unsure what the needs are in your community? MAPS Alberta is a great resource to see how your neighbourhood stacks up on a range of social demographics. Explore their Social Atlas and numerous other useful resources at: www.mapsab.ca
Connect, Contribute, Inspire!
Join our Learning Community! The Interfaith Housing Initiative was formed in response to a City of Edmonton and Province of Alberta commitment: the Ten-year-plan to End Homelessness. Faith leaders from across the city came together to say, “Addressing homelessness is important to our communities too! How can we help?”
Get Involved! Join the conversation! Sign up for our email newsletter and learn with us. This is a monthly publication where we will be provide good information, generate ideas that work, tell each other’s stories, and share how communities and organizations around Edmonton are responding to the needs of Edmonton’s most vulnerable.
Share your stories with us! A good story reminds us of what is possible. The work of providing help, support and home to a neighbor is nothing new, and people of faith tell many stories that inspire. Stories from today, or stories from a thousand years ago; we want to hear them! Share the stories of compassion, hospitality that inspire you and your community so that their sharing can inspire others around Edmonton.
Submit stories and insights to email@example.com
Rabbanit Batya Friedman Pastor Mike Van Boom Coordinator Housing Ambassador
(780) 938-5558 (780) 554-2703
Religious and spiritual communities working to end homelessness in Edmonton