Improving the success rate for people newly housed

Since the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness began three years ago, 1,789 people in Edmonton have a new place to live. A fresh start and an opportunity for a new way of life through the Housing First philosophy,  based on the premise that having a home is the foundation for building a better life.. This is a monumental accomplishment for our community, but unfortunately for a variety of reasons, some of these people will lose their housing.

Imagine that you’ve moved to a new community to start a new life for you and your family.  Would it be easy to meet your neighbours and navigate your new surroundings?  What if you moved away from everyone you knew and all the places you were familiar with?  You might feel scared, intimidated or even lonely?

Research has shown that there is an 85 percent success rate for people maintaining their housing once housed through housing first initiatives.  What happens to the other 15 percent?  Dr. Sam Tsemberis, the founder of Pathways to Housing, indicates that social isolation, staying home or having no communication with anyone including friends and family, is responsible for many of those participants who fail to retain their housing.

To solve this problem, a new program called Welcome Home provides companionship to individuals and families that are making the journey from homelessness to home. Welcome Home is a volunteer based program that provides supportive friendships for people who have been housed through housing first programs.  It operates along side of the professional housing and support services provided by social service agencies. Welcome Home seeks to fill the gap and improve the success rate for people adjusting to their new homes and surroundings.  Most importantly it seeks to connect people to volunteers in their community which we know can be a very beneficial additional social connection.  

The program came to fruition with the vision and commitment of various community partners, including Enbridge Pipelines Inc., the Edmonton Homeless Commission, Catholic Social Services, the Edmonton Interfaith Housing Initiative and United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, to provide people who were newly housed with friendly neighbours to connect with and help them feel truly at home and at ease in their new environment.

When I think of Welcome Home it reminds me of the great friends I am fortunate to spend time with; the ability to get out and explore and have fun in my community.  I know that there are going to be opportunities and great friendships established for so many others through Welcome Home.  

This year Welcome Home is hoping to connect 80 housing first participants to 2 volunteers each.  This means 160 volunteers this year alone.  The first group of Welcome Home volunteers are being interviewed and trained this month.  If you are interested in volunteering please contact Jacqueline Bass at Catholic Social Services at 780-378-2544 or e-mail for more information.