Posts Tagged ‘Homelessness’

It is a funny question, and usually how we identify ourselves in new social settings. “What do you do?” It is not some deep existential question looking for validation of vocational calling, rather it is the question of what one does for work to earn money, and then based on occupation and how many spaces on the pay cheque before the decimal point one can assess if you “fit” their societal grouping.

Also along the lines if you mention an impressive job title are questions around your education.

Then there is the abnormality. I pride myself on being the abnormality, when folks here what I do, and the education I have they get the deer caught in the headlights, evil robot short circuiting eye glaze. It is one of the little joys of life. But isn’t bragging about oneself the point of Linkedin and not conversation of getting to know one another at beyond a superficial level?

My kids tell people I give people homes. Many believe I am in real estate, no that is buying and selling housing. An admirable role, but not mine. I believe in homes for everyone, and that is what I do. I walk alongside and aid my neighbours in becoming part of community and growing themselves a home.

I should say this is something I stumbled into, but really it was a path laid out that I chose from a young age. My parents taught me to speak out for what I believed in, to question and critically analyze societal issues, and to be welcoming to the other. I mean c’mon I grew up a child of `78 and was part of a peace march in elementary school to get Gorbachev’s attention to speak out on ending the Cold War.

I was a teenage journalist and activist challenging politicians and world leaders to understand that policy decisions were not just words on paper but affected people as a whole and individually. Yes I was one of those pains in the butt and even ran for office. I lived what the Creator laid on my soul by building communities of welcome for those we like to segregate by labels: homeless; youth; seniors; young adults; differently abled; mentally ill… think of a few more can you? The drive was a label-less world.

Follow your heart

-My Daughter, Justina, age 8, Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living

Some may read these words and say with a drive like that your home life growing up must have been perfect hell. That’s a nugatory. I had an amazing childhood with loving family, that encouraged my dreams and passions. Let us as children to develop into the adult’s we were meant to be, and to shape beliefs that resonated beyond the surface level. They showed us what a home was, and this is what everyone deserves regardless of situation and with proper supports it can be achieved.

See that is why I do what  I do…because it is part of my created being. I have answered J.S. Woodsworth’s over 100 year old question, who is my neighbour? It is each and every person I connect with in this world.

Discover your passion, then figure out a way to make a living at it.

-My Dad, Wayne Ragan, to me 16 years old in a Marketing Research Project at Lester B. Pearson High School.

So why do I do what I do?

Four little letter everyone desires, deserves, and I have been blessed to know deeply.


It is mixed emotions when I saw the article that Inn from the Cold in Calgary had ended their church based inns. The rationale behind it made sense as with the larger family inns, the more scattered inns became home for singles in need. Unfortunately the singles in needs mental health was becoming more than church based volunteers could deal with in a safe manner.

I get this. It saddens me though because in the early 2000’s I was an overnight volunteer at a community inn and I saw how it transformed the local parish that hosted it. I look on the picture of my wall of my last night volunteering at the Inn, with Sister Josie and myself. A group of volunteers that worked to welcome families and singles in need. Ensured that for that one night even with moving around they felt like they had a home. Whether it was helping kids with homework, listening to the adults, seeing what clothes and food could be provided. Making lunches, cooking breakfast, serving and evening meal. Father Bob the parish priest who volunteered and realized a basic necessity was needed…showers for the families going to work and school so they could feel truly refreshed, calling in a plumber to have them installed and then at Mass requesting open hearts to give to cover the costs.

Hearts opened up to who was our neighbour. Realizing every Calgarian is in this crisis of hopelessness and loneliness together.

Now the closures opens up a new challenge to the hearts of Calgarians. A realization that there is not only a lack of homes that are affordable. BUT there is a lack of homes that are appropriate, ones with the proper supports for those lost in the shadows can come into the light and live fully engaged lives within the community as a whole.

This may seem like an ending, but it is not, what it is is a call out to the city, to neighbours to fully engage and demand proper homes for all our neighbours, so everyone has a safe place to lay their heads and feel welcome and hope.

It is a question that needs to be asked within the confines of the 10 year plan to end homelessness. I have contacted MLA’s to no avail in discovering the answer to a serious question:

What is the recidivism rate for those exiting homelessness?

There seems to be an ignorance within agencies of the PTSD an individual suffers from when exiting this barbaric form of institutional life that is the wearhouse style shelter system in Calgary. A system that many participants (staff or clients) akin to a jail system for the poorest of the poor.

We in Alberta have a Ten Year Plan read here.

The City of Calgary has amassed some decent research to be read here.

And information from the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness can be read here.

Much like PDD funding for the differently abled, funds for ending homelessness are directed to one funding stream, The Calgary Homeless Foundation .

The smoke and mirrors is that by all accounts from the Governmental end the “Plan” is on track, and as such shelters should begin closing shortly. Yet then we hear this in the media, that this winter shelters are once more nearing capacity and that this is normal for this time of year.

What is not reported, which has been confirmed by anonymous sources is that the capacity almost reached is not what the building is zoned (funded) for. The capacity is the second capacity number issued as the true capacity of the building is to be filled to when a “state of emergency” is declared by the province. No such decree has come out this winter, as the state of emergency is declared when there is an eminent risk to human life.

Yet these same sources have revealed to Musings, that this capacity quandries the shelters have been experiencing since late spring/early summer. A traditional time when shelters are running drastically under capacity.

So the question is, what is actually happening with this Ten Year Plan?

There is quite a bit of political shell gaming going on, millions of dollars being invested to turn service providers into landlords, year or more of financial support being given to individuals with case workers to support housing, but once supports are gone people are once again entering the poverty cycle.

What are the stats on re-lost homes to be re-housed?

What is the field doing to make shelters less traumatic for individuals and more healthy communities? This will aid the individual in then seeking healthy community (essentially how are shelters becoming places for healing instead of abuse).

Seriously, ending homelessness is a great theory. The theory though has challenges upon implementation when our leadership is a sound bite culture that just wants to throw money at the symptoms of the issue, instead of investing in true societial change that elements the cancer we know as homelessness and poverty.

The question that needs to be answered at first, is the question I would pose when I taught at Mount Royal University: In the wealthiest province in Canada, what level should our poor be expected to live at?

Write your MLA (Find MLA here), demand answers. Demand accountability. Demand an Alberta where all citizens are housed and cared for and where OUR OIL MONEY is spent ON US!

Let’s shatter the mirrors, and blow the smoke away. Let Premier Redford, Opposition Leaders Danielle Smith; Raj Sherman, and Brian Mason and all their caucuses’ know that as Albertans we demand more than soundbites…we demand an end to the cancer of poverty within this province.

For a society is judged not upon how the healthiest and wealthiest live, but rather on how we as a society care for the elderly, the poor and the sick. Looking at our province currently, we as a society are ill and dysfunctional. Let us rise up and change that.

Let us demand the government of vision to continue building Alberta as the best place in Canada to live.

One Person, one vote, one letter. Writer today (MLA INFO HERE)

Op-ed piece on our brothers and sisters in homelessness (2000, Herald)

Lose the Soul, Lose the Community: The Role of Community in Healing & Ending Homelessness (Eisner Institute & The Mustard Seed, 2010)

Short-Term Mission Reasearch Committee (Canadian Theological Seminary, 2006)

ASQC Training Manual (1996)

The Problems with Killing (Theatreblitz 1996, Alberta Theatre Projects)

The Great War (Cecil Swanson School Library 1988)

BMX & Me (Cecil Swanson Newsletter 1986)

As well as thousands of stories, novels, plays, and a short-movie from 25+years of storytelling 🙂

University of Calgary

Image via Wikipedia

Today I had an incredible blessing in my journey as I prepare to be apart of the Emerge Youth Conference. My ministry with The Mustard Seed opened up the opportunity to be apart of the University of Calgary‘s Festival of Faith & Justice. Students supported by the Reformed Chaplain brought together faith based NGO’s for discussion, encouragement, and brainstorming on next steps.

I was blessed to host two table talks on Homelessness in Calgary: Engaging the Faith Community where we discussed the root causes of poverty, the difference between proactive/reactive, governmental responsibilities, citizenry responsibilities, and what it actually means to be an intentional neighbour and how to recognize injustices within our own communities regardless of the context and how to do little things to correct them. There was talk about engaging in politics, voting, joining community associations, how faith isn’t always a belief in God or being apart of an institution, but it can be living into the values of inclusion, love, & justice.  There was talk of what it means to welcome individuals reintegrating from the shelters and the sanctuary trauma that brings into communities, but the deeper challenge is how do we engage with our neighbours already, and welcome new comers to our neighbourhoods regardless of their past. It was also interesting to explore with the students the unethicalness of shelters, and that no one system is the answer, but rather it comes with the community supports and loved ones that are needed.

It was also great to connect with other NGO’s today and hear their stories:

International Justice Mission Canada

Action Coalition for Human Trafficking-Alberta


Consortium for Peace Studies, University of Calgary

Initiatives of Change

Mennonite Central Committee

Project Ploughshares

Servants Anonymous

Stephanie Jager Photography, partner with Athentikos

World Vision

After today, I am looking forward to 2013’s Festival. Thank you students for pulling this together.

Growing hope, building community and supporting change is not just the responsibility of any one agency, but rather of each and every Calgarian to renew our communities as open places of welcome, healing, and renewal of community life.

Join with The Mustard Seed to transform Calgary:

To volunteer, donate or learn more go to The Mustard Seed

The Mustard Seed Society in Calgary broke ground today on its long anticipated affordable housing tower:

I am honoured to call this team effort my ministry. Hallejuah! That is all.


Planting the employment seed

<!–Employment Centre –>Employment CentreThe Mustard Seed Employment Centre offers services and support for clients looking for work.

Updated:  Tue Aug. 02 2011 17:51:27



A local agency that houses and feeds Calgary’s homeless has launched a major new employment initiative to prepare people for a return to the work force.


The Mustard Seed has opened a new employment centre that will help the homeless get off the street and into jobs.


The Seed’s Director of Support Services, Cliff Wiebe, says a large segment of the homeless population wants to work and move their lives forward.


The goal of the program is to work with clients to find suitable work and guide them to be self sufficient.


Wiebe also understands that looking for work can be intimidating for anyone, especially if you have limited skills and no fixed address.


Wiebe says helping a homeless person get stable housing is a big part of the employment plan.



“We are working with the Homeless Foundation and the City of Calgary with the ten year plan to end homelessness and the Housing First model and getting people into housing, and once they are in housing we give them wrap around care and support for a whole year,” said Wiebe.


The Employment Centre will also work to build positive relationships with prospective employers and volunteers have stepped up to help clients with resumes and interviews.


The centre will continue their relationship with the client even after they find a job by providing coaching, problem solving, and support.


To learn more about the initiative visit the Mustard Seed’s website.