The Welcome Home Project is an initiative that aims to decrease homelessness and accompany newly-housed people in Red Deer through their transition.
Linda Ervin, the minister of Sunnybrook United Church brought the project to Red Deer after a social planning representative approached her following a conference on poverty and housing.
“The important thing is getting people housed. Once they are in a safe, secure place, then we can work with the issues that are negatively affecting their lives,” said Ervin.
Ervin came together with other City congregation representatives to form a group known as PLURA, which acts as the Welcome Home Oversight Committee. This includes representatives from Presbyterian, Lutheran, United, Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
The Welcome Home Project is upheld by the efforts of several groups including the PLURA oversight committee, Housing First Red Deer and Women’s Outreach.
“To ensure accountability, we have a partnership with Women’s Outreach. The supervision of the project and financial accountability will be monitored from there,” said Ervin.
The project requires volunteers to be trained and to make a one-year commitment to meet with those who have been newly-housed, accompanying and supporting them as they deal with transitional skills such as job searching, budgeting and establishing relationships of trust.
“Why Welcome Home works so well with the volunteers is it creates stability for the person that’s newly housed. One of the issues is that we may be able to get people housed, but they may not be able to maintain being housed,” explained Ervin.
“All volunteers are trained. Every volunteer can express if they feel worried about being in the situation, and will also work as part of a team – there are two volunteers for every one newly-housed person.”
Relief volunteers are also needed in case the committed volunteer is unable to keep a scheduled visit appointment or if for any reason, feels they need to remove themselves from the project.
Volunteers are welcome from everywhere. Housing First Red Deer is looking for people to commit themselves to the project, as are all groups involved in PLURA. Volunteers can come from outside a congregation community and are welcome to contact Barb Borley at 403-346-9623 for more information on how to get involved.
“We’re just a group of people who have come together because we see the vision of this project as being not only exciting, but it’s going to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Ervin.
“Having newly-housed people supported will make a difference in their lives, and make a difference in the life of the City.”
Funding has been secured for about a year of operation, but corporate or business sponsorships are welcome to join the initiative.