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March 23, 2020

Local awards luncheon shines a light on those fighting to make housing first and tackling homelessness


LETHBRIDGE – The City of Lethbridge and Social Housing in Action honoured award recipients for their significant contributions to housing and ending homelessness in Lethbridge at the Annual “Bringing Lethbridge Home” Housing Awards luncheon on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Winners were recognized for their contributions through excellence in leadership, innovation and partnerships.

Bob Campbell, Chair of Social Housing in Action, thinks the awards give a profile to the community to show that they are working on the homelessness issue.

“We’re making progress and while there’s a lot of work to be done, there’s a lot of good work already being done by various groups and individuals in our community,” Campbell continued. “We want to recognize them and help increase the awareness of the good work being done and the homeless issue itself in our community.”

The awards and their winners include:

The Innovative Partnerships Award:

- JunkAway

The Community Excellence Award: which recognizes excellence in the community and incorporates features such as volunteerism, community service, and building positive community relations.

- Alberta Health Services First Steps Program

- Lethbridge Family Services FASD Assessment and Diagnostic Services

The Outstanding Leadership in Housing First Award: which recognizes housing professionals in promoting or developing affordable housing or related services.

- Lethbridge Housing Authority

The Lived Experience Award: which recognizes individuals who have experienced homelessness and are now maintaining tenancy for at least one year.

- Mark Brave Rock

The Special Award: which recognizes individuals, groups landlords or businesses who go above and beyond in the community, embrace Housing First, and/or deserve recognition for their significant support of the housing and homelessness needs in the community.

- Lorrie Lefler of Northview Apartment REIT

The issue of homelessness is an ever-present one in many cities, including Lethbridge, and when asked where the city stands on dealing with the issue Campbell says they’ve made a lot of progress but there’s more to do.

“In the several years that we have been working on it we’ve made progress, but we have to put more emphasis into the prevention of homelessness in the first place. That’s a long-range endeavour, our speaker today Iain De Jong, the President and CEO of OrgCode, spoke a lot about that, but we want to work more on the prevention side and also getting people into housing.

“When they have a home, it’s much easier then to help them resolve a lot of other issues in their lives when they are housed. So, getting affordable housing built and people into affordable housing continues to be our first priority as well as working towards the prevention.”

Robin James, the CAO for Lethbridge Housing Authority, says they were excited to win the Outstanding Leadership in Housing First Award.

“It’s an honour to be nominated for an award like this. We’ve been working hard within our community to try and help out all of the Housing First Agencies as best we can with the skillsets we have.”

Tackling homelessness is a personal issue for James who grew up in Lethbridge.

“I’ve seen it change over the last many years, I recognize as I just walk downtown and see the need in our community. As a housing entity, and as the social housing provider in the City of Lethbridge, we recognized right away that we needed to be more actively involved in ending homelessness. We needed to put a plan in motion to help with that and that’s what we’ve done,” James said, adding it’s an absolute number one priority for Lethbridge Housing Authority to keep people safely and securely housed.

The other ticket on the agenda was the Annual Outcome Report, but Campbell says that’s coming hopefully in the New Year.

“It’s looking at different aspects of the community and where we need to put our resources and prioritizing our resources. What are our specific needs, for example, something we weren’t aware of a few years ago is having single fathers who need housing. Of course, we’ve always had the single moms and their kids, trying to find housing for them, but it’s hard for people who are the working poor or people with addiction or mental health issues to get affordable housing,” Campbell stated.

The study is in progress, and it’s looking at neighbourhoods, specifically certain areas of the city that are more prone to homelessness.

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