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Alpha House Discussion

Social Justice

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It happens in other cities. I used to live around the corner from a shelter of similar size to Alpha House in Toronto (+100 beds). It had very little impact on the neighbourhood. I think the big difference is that there was sufficient density and street life in the neighborhood that the dozens of people who used the shelter just blended in with the hundreds of people walking around the neighborhood. Additionally there was a level of "eyes on the street" that kept people feeling comfortable.

Alpha House wouldn't be an issue if this section of the Beltline wasn't so bleak. Blame the terrible street level treatment of all the new architecture in the area. Blame the car sewer that is 1st SE. It's hard to see how this area becomes significantly better even if Alpha House vanished tomorrow.
I think you're absolutely right in the sense that the area has shitty urban design. Two 'freeways', a casino, few street retail options and low pedestrian traffic.

But let's be honest. The clientele the Alpha House attracts doesn't do any favours for the area. No two homeless shelters are alike.
 

Silence&Motion

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I think you're absolutely right in the sense that the area has shitty urban design. Two 'freeways', a casino, few street retail options and low pedestrian traffic.

But let's be honest. The clientele the Alpha House attracts doesn't do any favours for the area. No two homeless shelters are alike.
It really depends on whose perspective you take. Alpha House does plenty of favours for people without homes. The fact is, homeless people are also car-less people. Shelters will always need to be located in inner-city areas that are within walking distance of the services that poor people rely on.

I seem to recall that you were particularly critical of homeless people sleeping on the streets and in parks. The main solution to getting people to move out of parks/streets is to provide them with accessible shelters. If we got rid of all the shelters in the Beltline, I guarantee you we'd have a tent city set up along the Bow or the Elbow. Would that improve the area for anyone?
 

Mountain Man

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Keep in mind Alpha House isn't an ordinary homeless shelter, they deal with the people who get turned away from the other shelters because of severe substance abuse issues. The CPS also take dozens of people there every night, but they can't keep people, so as soon as they are sober enough to walk, most leave to go get wasted again. Alpha House is a pretty rough place, it still amazes me that Vetro faces right at it.
 

Zoom

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The Alpha House is in a league of its own. I don't how it compares to the one in Toronto, but it's much worse than the other shelters here in Calgary. People would gladly trade out the Alpha House for the Salvation Army facility in EV if they could. More people and businesses, and more eyes on the street might help, but it's hard to get that with the Alpha House already there. I've heard from different people it's one of the reasons the retail in Nuera/Alura can't find tenants. Everyone who has looked at those spaces mentions the Alpha House, and they want extra low rates because of it. I've also heard rumblings the Shopper's in Vetro is looking to move. There's no easy answer for the issue.

It happens in other cities. I used to live around the corner from a shelter of similar size to Alpha House in Toronto (+100 beds). It had very little impact on the neighbourhood. I think the big difference is that there was sufficient density and street life in the neighborhood that the dozens of people who used the shelter just blended in with the hundreds of people walking around the neighborhood. Additionally there was a level of "eyes on the street" that kept people feeling comfortable.

Alpha House wouldn't be an issue if this section of the Beltline wasn't so bleak. Blame the terrible street level treatment of all the new architecture in the area. Blame the car sewer that is 1st SE. It's hard to see how this area becomes significantly better even if Alpha House vanished tomorrow.
 

UrbanWarrior

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It really depends on whose perspective you take. Alpha House does plenty of favours for people without homes. The fact is, homeless people are also car-less people. Shelters will always need to be located in inner-city areas that are within walking distance of the services that poor people rely on.

I seem to recall that you were particularly critical of homeless people sleeping on the streets and in parks. The main solution to getting people to move out of parks/streets is to provide them with accessible shelters. If we got rid of all the shelters in the Beltline, I guarantee you we'd have a tent city set up along the Bow or the Elbow. Would that improve the area for anyone?
Exactly. How do people not understand cause and effect, especially with such a relatively clear-cut issue. Homelessness exists, we're trying to stop it, but the most ridiculous proposal I've ever heard in regards of how to deal with it is to think moving shelters out of the core areas will help. I mean, sorry you chose to live in a major city in... the world? But that's a you problem. Homeless people suffer enough without people trying to further marginalize them. Christ almighty...
 

Surrealplaces

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I agree with Zoom, the Alpha House is a special case. It's one thing to have a shelter for homeless nearby, but another to have one like the Alpha House. I have heard from people that one of the problems with the Alpha House is how the people run it. This is second hand info, but supposedly the people running it have little regard for their neighbors, and that's part of the problem.
In theory I agree with the idea of having homeless shelters like Alpha House, but in reality, if I'm choosing a place to live or set up a business, it's not going to be near Alpha House. Maybe East Village or near one of the other shelters, but definitely not Alpha House.
 
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Zoom

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Exactly. How do people not understand cause and effect, especially with such a relatively clear-cut issue. Homelessness exists, we're trying to stop it, but the most ridiculous proposal I've ever heard in regards of how to deal with it is to think moving shelters out of the core areas will help. I mean, sorry you chose to live in a major city in... the world? But that's a you problem. Homeless people suffer enough without people trying to further marginalize them. Christ almighty...
You're right, most people don't really understand the issue of homelessness or how to fix it and suggestions such as moving a shelter to an industrial area aren't an answer, but I disagree that this is a relatively clear-cut issue. If anything homelessness might be the most complex issue out there. There are so many facets to it, and not a solution. For the most part traditional shelters seem to work, and can co-exist with the surroundings. In the case of Alpha House, it's a different cup of tea. There's no magical solution for that one.
 

Zoom

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I agree with Zoom, the Alpha House is a special case. It's one thing to have a shelter for homeless nearby, but another to have one like the Alpha House. I have heard from people that one of the problems with the Alpha House is how the people run it. This is second hand info, but supposedly the people running it have little regard for their neighbors, and that's part of the problem.
In theory I agree with the idea of having homeless shelters like Alpha House, but in reality, if I'm choosing a place to live or set up a business, it's not going to be near Alpha House. Maybe East Village or near one of the other shelters, but definitely not Alpha House.
That could very well be. Surely, other cities have something like an Alpha House as well. Do they have the same issues?
 

CBBarnett

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Keep in mind Alpha House isn't an ordinary homeless shelter, they deal with the people who get turned away from the other shelters because of severe substance abuse issues. The CPS also take dozens of people there every night, but they can't keep people, so as soon as they are sober enough to walk, most leave to go get wasted again. Alpha House is a pretty rough place, it still amazes me that Vetro faces right at it.
This is often forgotten in these conversations. Homelessness (and homeless-adjacent) issues aren't some monolithic block, there is a complex set of needs and web of social services that cater to the various niches of the wider population. Alpha House is unique in that it supports the substance abuse population - most other shelter kick folks out for any abuse at all. The results of this concentration of perceived "undesirables" to one location in a cul-de-sac is well noted as a classically poor design response for an already tough problem.

But the location isn't the issue - or not the main one at least. The challenge comes with lack of alternatives, lack of a systemic approach and a lack of truly resourcing what is needed to address these issues which stem to far larger problems than just a shelter (e.g. alcohol and drug abuse, systemic poverty etc.)

It does raise a point on the ol' suburban-urban spectrum: waaay too many people are happy to drive by on MacLeod Trail every day right past Alpha House on their way home to the burbs and not think that it's their problem because they happen to live somewhere else. This is dangerous and helps perpetuate stereotypes while undermining the inner city as a healthy community. It's all of our problems and ignoring it or whitewashing issues with incomplete solutions is exactly how we got in this mess in the first place.
 

maestro

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It happens in other cities. I used to live around the corner from a shelter of similar size to Alpha House in Toronto (+100 beds). It had very little impact on the neighbourhood. I think the big difference is that there was sufficient density and street life in the neighborhood that the dozens of people who used the shelter just blended in with the hundreds of people walking around the neighborhood. Additionally there was a level of "eyes on the street" that kept people feeling comfortable.

Alpha House wouldn't be an issue if this section of the Beltline wasn't so bleak. Blame the terrible street level treatment of all the new architecture in the area. Blame the car sewer that is 1st SE. It's hard to see how this area becomes significantly better even if Alpha House vanished tomorrow.
I agree with you on mixed income densities. We may not agree on how we got there. Homelessness becomes a concern when it is highly visible over blending into the background. It's acceptable when the patrons are tucked away in the facilities and usually only becomes an issue when they spill out onto the street from lack of funds and overcrowding. I don't blame people for having a NIMBY stance on homelessness either. It's ingrained in our culture and affect the value of property.
 

Just build it

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The city has a high level goal of trying to build up the east side of the Beltline by adding more residential and building an entertainment district, but you've got a small, extreme case shelter right in the heart of it all, and it's affecting the city's goals of building up the east end of the core. For the sake of the greater good, why not look at another location?

To those who are proponents of keeping the Alpha House where it is let me ask you a simple question....are you prepared to take your family and live across the street from it yourselves? Of course you wouldn't. Instead of criticizing people for being harsh, I think it's better to find a solution for everyone. What's so wrong with moving a 100 people with extreme addictions to a lower profile location that they can still get to?
 

Silence&Motion

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To those who are proponents of keeping the Alpha House where it is let me ask you a simple question....are you prepared to take your family and live across the street from it yourselves? Of course you wouldn't. Instead of criticizing people for being harsh, I think it's better to find a solution for everyone. What's so wrong with moving a 100 people with extreme addictions to a lower profile location that they can still get to?
You're acting as if this is somehow our decision to make. As far as I understand, Alpha House is an independent organization that owns its own property. It predates all the recent development in the area. It's theoretically possible that the City could adopt some very draconian tactics to try to force them out of the neighborhood, but that would open up all kinds of other legal, financial, and political problems. It's just not realistic. Even if the City could somehow pick up the building and move it to a new location, SimCity style, they'd be going to war with whatever neighborhood they chose for the new location.

The current strategy employed by the City and the Calgary Homeless Foundation is to gradually shrink the shelter population through permanent housing provision. That makes the most sense to me. From what I understand, shelter populations haven't really grown over the past few decades even as the city itself has grown a lot.

If, as many people are suggesting, Alpha House is more disruptive than the other shelters, then the obvious strategy is to work with Alpha House to manage the problem and perhaps look to some of the other shelters for policy solutions.

I'm not trying to be morally superiour here or shame anyone for being uncaring. Homelessness is just a complicated issue that we can address in many different ways, but often the easiest thing to do is to develop a little more tolerance. Again, I say this from a position of pragmatism, not morality. Plenty of people who live in larger cities walk by panhandlers everyday without worry. Many Calgarians are relatively new to big city life, and are more troubled by this than people from other cities. The view that we should just "get rid of them" is just a rant. It's not a realistic strategy.
 

Just build it

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The Alpha House is a separate organize, and probably do own the land, but they are also subsidized. It was there before the recent development, but did expanded at a time after the development was there. The city could have denied the application and instead helped them along with a move. Here we are now, and yeah, maybe there isn't anything that can be done. At some point maybe the city and the province (who subsidizes them) could work some plan out, that benefits all.

My commentary wasn't meant to be a rant. The idea of moving all or any shelters away from people is a rant, the Alpha House is a different case. There may not be a solution to it, but it's better to admit it's an issue and discuss possible solutions to the issue rather than simply dismiss it as a rant. I also don't buy the assessment that the Alpha House isn't really a problem, it's only Calgarians not being big city enough to understand it's not a problem. I'm sorry, but that's bullcrap. It's one thing for people to gripe about the Salvation army or the drop in centre (which many Calgarians do), it's another for people to complain about the Alpha House. I'm not trying to be snarky, but have you really spent any amount of time around it? Ask anyone who does, and they'll tell you it's an issue, even people from big city Toronto.
 

UrbanWarrior

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You're right, most people don't really understand the issue of homelessness or how to fix it and suggestions such as moving a shelter to an industrial area aren't an answer, but I disagree that this is a relatively clear-cut issue. If anything homelessness might be the most complex issue out there. There are so many facets to it, and not a solution. For the most part traditional shelters seem to work, and can co-exist with the surroundings. In the case of Alpha House, it's a different cup of tea. There's no magical solution for that one.
I most definitely didn't mean that the issue of homelessness is clear-cut, I meant that the issue of moving shelters out of the core is clear-cut. They're all saying they want less homeless people around or whatever, and somehow think taking away shelters from the core areas is going to do that. It's completely asinine. All that endeavour would serve to do would be to make a bad problem a hell of a lot worse.

One of the biggest problems with homeless in the western world is lack of funding for mental health, addiction, and abuse survivor services. On top of that, there is virtually no services targeted for men except for Alpha House (basically just a sober-up location) and another one which deals specifically with anger issues. There is literally no service out there for male abuse survivors. Wrote a paper on it recently; the last guy in Calgary who ran a male survivor shelter in his home was laughed out of the offices of every level of government when he asked for financial help. He had to close his personally financed shelter, and killed himself a week later. He too was a survivor of abuse, until the system proved that it would not stop failing people like him and those he was trying to help.

We as a society constantly throw money at the problem while not paying nearly enough attention to the systemic reasons that are creating the problem. It's very frustrating.



Also, if it seemed like I was raving at those talking about moving Alpha House, I was really just raving generally at anyone who would consider moving one or both of the major shelters in the EV. Wasn't really considering Alpha House in my rant. However, talk of moving AH is all well and good, and someone suggested move it to "a place they can still get to"... so where is this place they can still get to... where it wont create havoc in a community or drop property values or whatever, and yet still be even remotely accessible? I can't think of a single place in the city, honestly. There's nowhere better suited than where it already is, if we are taking all considerations - plus the fact that it's already established there - into account.
 
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