Welcome Home program sees results

Newly housed Edmontonians and volunteers alike discover friendship through Welcome Home

The Welcome Home program  matches community volunteers with newly housed Edmontonians. The intent is to welcome people into their new communities, show them around a bit and ensure that they have the companionship they need to feel at home. For some people who are newly housed, loneliness can be a significant problem: many have left behind their old lives and friends on the street, and sometimes end up living in a part of the city they are unfamiliar with. That's where the community volunteers come in: they go out together for coffee, go grocery shopping, visit the local library or maybe take in a hockey game. 

The program has grown significantly over the last year and a half. It has matched 33 newly housed Edmontonians with volunteers. Here are some of their stories.

Hank's story:

At their first meeting, Hank and his volunteers Joe and Mark, discovered that Hank’s father was from a small town in North Western Europe just down the road from Joe’s hometown. Hank had visited both his father’s home town and Joe’s town as well. Hank was happy to discover that he and his volunteers had more in common than he thought they would, and enjoys having friends that he can go for coffee with instead of to a bar or pub. 

 Cheryl's story:

Cheryl discovered the Welcome Home program through her support worker. Since joining the program, Cheryl is re-building a relationship with her daughter. With the support and encouragement of her volunteers, Cheryl has maintained a good job that she enjoys and is proud to say she has become financially independent. She works out of town, and on her one week off each month continues to visit with her volunteers, as she values their continued support.  

Justin's story:

Justin recently travelled abroad to get married. When he returned to Canada, the first people he called when he landed at the airport were his two volunteers and the Welcome Home Program coordinator to reconnect and share his exciting news. The volunteers matched with Justin have found joy in sharing the many pictures of his homeland and new wife. The three continue to meet for regular visits.

Get Involved

If you'd like more information about Welcome Home, or you'd like to volunteer for the program, please go to the website. Please note, that the program is also in need of ongoing operating funding in order to continue to grow.

Tackling youth homelessness

In the 2012 Homeless Count we learnt two important things: the numbers of Edmontonians without a home of their own is going down; but – the numbers of young people who are homeless is a growing problem.

  • 258 homeless youth aged 14-24 were counted – excluding dependent children
  • That’s 13% of the total number of homeless Edmontonians counted
  • Proportionally more youth were sleeping rough than the adult population

Edmonton’s Mayor Stephen Mandel called these numbers unacceptable. He challenged the community to tackle the issue of youth homelessness.

The community is responding with several new initiatives.

The Foyer program and Nova are based on a harm reduction model, which means getting youth in a safe and stable situation and then working with them on other issues. Both are for youth with a history of long term homelessness, which often means involvement in child protection or institutional care. Most experience serious mental illnesses and/or addictions. They are often the victims of abuse and exploitation. They might be gender or sexual minority youth. Many are Aboriginal.

The Nova Project

Nova is a building owned and funded by Homeward Trust. The John Howard Society is the operator and provides services on site. Nova gives a home to youth between 16 and 24 who have tragic backgrounds but have chosen to turn their lives around. John Howard Society works with Alberta Health Services and other partnersto make sure youth have everything they need to get back on track.

The Foyer project

This is a pilot project officially launched in September. It offers enhanced services to youth in the Housing First program who are staying at Nova. The Foyer project is operated by Bredin Centre for Learning with funding from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada through Homeward Trust. The Foyer is rooted in a holistic approach, connecting each young person to the services he or she needs: counseling, education and employment. That means bridging to existing employment programs, skill enrichment or removing barriers to education and employment. The ultimate goal is self-sufficiency. 

Edmonton Homeless Commission’s Youth Training Proposal

The project under discussion is for youth with less significant needs than the Foyer Project. The idea is to prevent youth from falling in to chronic homelessness – youth who have already been homeless, are disengaged from school and who have challenges getting, or holding onto, a job. The goal is to give them housing and the training and employment skills they need to transition on to a permanent home – to transition from adolescence to adulthood.

A review of best practices identified the following key elements of successful programs targeting youth:

  • Focus on transitioning youth from adolescence to adulthood
  • Stable long-term housing
  • Focus on job readiness skills, training & education upgrading
  • Importance of paid work – so we need support of employers to provide internships and occupational training
  • Life skills


Housing First More Cost Effective Than Managing Homelessness

New research confirms that ending homelessness through Housing First is more cost-effective than catering for the status quo. Edmonton’s Plan to End Homelessness is built on the principle that ending homelessness isn’t just morally right – it also makes economic sense.

Stephen Gaetz is director of the Canadian Homeless Research Network. Gaetz recently released the Real Cost of Homelessness: can we save money by doing the right thing?, research from across Canada and the United States showing that emergency services, shelters and soup kitchens are considerably more expensive than providing people with the housing and supports they need. As an increasing number of  Canadian cities embrace Housing First, the body of evidence grows to prove that Housing First produces better social outcomes – and saves money. 

Understanding Tenancy Failures and Successes

Edmonton Social Planning Council and Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness have released a report looking at the barriers that prevent newly housed people staying successfully housed. The report also suggests some solutions and enhancements that can be put in place to support those who are newly housed or who are on a low income and struggling to hold on to their homes.

Some of the reasons for tenancy failure

  1. People can't always afford suitable accommodation so end up in precarious or sub-standard housing
  2. People can't always get housing because they need references, have a criminal record and/or a poor credit history
  3. Sometimes people lose their home because it is unsafe and/or infested with cockroaches, mold or above all bed bugs
  4. People occasionally also lose their home because they return to addictions and/or suffer an episode of severe mental illnes
  5. Some people lose their housing due to conflicts with landlords and other tenants
  6. Some people lose their home because they have trouble managing their finances or other essential aspects of daily living.

Investing further in solutions already in place

  1. Increased development of quality affordable housing run by landlords motivated by a desire to help their tenants succeed.
  2. Ensure a Housing First approach that recognizes that tenants with higher acuity (e.g. addictions, mental illness, and/or previous episodes of homelessness) may well require second and third chances.
  3. Develop better programs to help those with low or modest incomes housing. This includes help with the first month’s rent, utilities, furnishings and damage deposit. Many of these programs are being provided to persons who qualify for the Housing First program, but not to thousands of other Edmontonians with similar needs but not in Housing First.
  4. Recognize that some tenants will require ongoing rental assistance and supports on an indefinite basis.
  5. Bed bugs are forcing many low income tenants to lose their housing and/or their personal belongings on a repeated basis. Bed bugs represent a public health emergency, and a more city wide approach to fighting this menace is required.

Policies that will encourage housing retention

  1. Construct or renovate additional safe and affordable housing of a wide range of types and sizes throughout the city and region, and thereby maximize tenant choice.
  2. Eliminate long waits for affordable and suitable accommodation by developing and implementing a more comprehensive, seamless and fully funded rent supplement program; rental assistance for qualifying low income persons and families is an essential homelessness prevention approach.
  3. More effective and better support services to keep people housed. These services include addictions treatment, mental health services, and improved financial literacy skills.
  4. Ensure low income tenants are heard and included in any of the changes and decisions being contemplated to improve tenancy retention.