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Alpha House transports record number of vulnerable people in Calgary

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Alpha House transports record number of vulnerable people in Calgary
The past fiscal year saw the highest number of transports Alpha House has provided since the DOAP Team started. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has the details – Nov 13, 2022

The needs of Calgary’s vulnerable population are complex, and the people helping them are busier than ever.

The past fiscal year saw the highest number of transports Alpha House has provided since the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership team started.

The DOAP team transported 27,000 people to places like shelters, hospitals and clinics. The team also helps people get connected to housing and social services.

“We are seeing more individuals on the street in general,” said Shaundra Bruvall, the communications and fund development manager with Alpha House.

“There’s lots of speculation about the impact of the pandemic and what that has done to folks in pushing individuals to the poverty line or into homelessness. Mental health complexities and addiction complexities — there’s really been an unfortunate combination of lots of different factors that we are attributing to some of the increase that we are seeing.”

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Bruvall predicts they are on track to see a similar or higher number this fiscal year.

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In June of 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 that’s been a success so far.

“Alpha House is able to provide a connection to social services, client rapport and a background of mental health and addiction with bylaw officers being able to provide data about knowing where the active encampments are,” Bruvall said.

But the outreach work requires putting thousands of kilometres on vehicles.

“One thing that is difficult to maintain is our vehicles. There’s wear and tear on our outreach vans, so we are always looking to update those and that’s tough to get funding for,” Bruvall said.

Read more: Alberta to provide more funding to addictions, homelessness to Calgary, Edmonton

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Musician, actor and activist Tom Jackson, who lives just outside of Calgary, is a DOAP team volunteer.

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“The DOAP team presents the opportunity to create miracles for people, and you would have to be pretty hardcore to not be warmed by that,” Jackson said.

He said the team saves lives and he feels as though he’s benefited from his time volunteering.

“It was a life-giving experience for me. It provided oxygen for me to be out on the street with the people that I love and being able to help them,” Jackson said.

“I was fortunate enough to have these angels in the back of my van — to move them from one place to another. I only had 12 minutes of their life basically to tell them I love them and ask them if they would like to be somewhere else other than where they are,” he said. “If they said yes, I would say, ‘let’s make a plan.'”

Jackson is part of a concert on November 30 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 last couple of years and to make you happy, because happy is healthy,” he said. “Our job is to make you happy and really, to help you help us help others.”

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