YWCA of Calgary Announces New Housing First Program in Partnership With the Calgary Homeless Foundation and First Calgary Financial

April 06, 2011

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - April 6, 2011) - As Robina King moves from transitional housing at the YWCA of Calgary into her own apartment, she is not only getting a home — she's also joining a community of women who share a past of homelessness and a hope for a brighter future. The 54-year-old will live at The Ophelia, which provides housing for low-income women, along with supports from the YWCA. Today's move ends a 20-year chapter in King's life where she was relocating from place to place every six months.

"Having my own place, where I can have the freedom to come and go and have people over when I want, is a very big deal for me," said Robina.

"This is one of the few programs in Calgary to provide housing and support exclusively for single women experiencing homelessness," said Sue Tomney, CEO of the YWCA of Calgary. "It's another way the YWCA is expanding its continuum of services in line with the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in Calgary."

The Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) bought the apartment building in lower Mount Royal in March 2010 for $2.27 million, using a $1.59 million grant from The City of Calgary and accessing$681,000 from an interest-free Evergreen Line of Credit from First Calgary Financial. In March 2011, the line of credit was paid off in full with a private donation from David Bissett.

"We're really excited about this at the City of Calgary. We're backing up our commitment to help end homelessness with real dollars, and we're directing funds to help those most in need," said Councillor Brian Pincott for Ward 11. "In the last two years, we've added more affordable housing in Calgary than we were able to add in the previous decade. That's something we, as a city, can be proud of; we're a leader in this initiative."

Paul Kelly, President and CEO of First Calgary Financial said, "Homelessness and poverty are incredibly complex issues, but together we can create real and lasting social change by taking innovative approaches to supporting our city's non-profit organizations' greatest needs."

The building, which was originally called the "Oscar," was renamed the "Ophelia" to recognize the plight of young woman in North America having low self-esteem, as described in "Reviving Ophelia," the best-selling book written by Mary Pipher. There are 15 bachelor and one-bedroom apartments, and women will pay rents of about $350 per month, based on income level and suite size. Eighty percent of the units are designated for low-income women transitioning from the YWCA Mary Dover House program. The remaining 20% will be open to other agencies that serve women experiencing homelessness, including local women's treatment centres.

In addition to providing housing units, the CHF and YWCA of Calgary signed an 18-month Community Housing pilot project, which will run from October 2010 to March 2012. The pilot project uses $638,000 in provincial Housing and Urban Affairs (HUA) program dollars to support tenants in Ophelia and tenants in another building in Bridgeland. About $370,000 in program dollars will be directed toward Ophelia. The YWCA of Calgary will provide case management support, as well as a program to integrate tenants back into the community.

"Having a safe and stable place to call home, together with the supports to address the underlying causes of their homelessness, will empower these courageous women with the resources they need to help build healthier and more independent lives," said Jonathan Denis, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs.

"The beauty of this project is not only are we providing housing and support for these women, but they are also able to mentor each other," said Tim Richter, President and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation. "We have a community space and programs that will encourage the women to form their own support network."

The women who were rehoused with support at The Ophelia will hold a cupcake-decorating party and invite representatives from the Government of Alberta, The City of Calgary, YWCA of Calgary, the CHF and First Calgary Financial to join in as a thank you for the help they are receiving.

Media are invited to attend the official announcement of The Ophelia project

WHAT:Cupcake-decorating party for women experiencing homelessness, as they are rehoused with support by the YWCA of Calgary in partnership with the Government of Alberta, The City of Calgary, CHF and First Calgary Financial
WHEN:Wednesday, April 6, 2011 from noon to 1:00 p.m.
WHERE:Lower Mount Royal Note: to protect the residents of The Ophelia, some of whom may be victims of domestic violence, the address will be provided upon request.

On-Site Interview Opportunities:

  • Carrie Daniels, one of the first residents to move into The Ophelia
  • Jonathan Denis, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of Alberta
  • Paul Kelly, President and CEO, First Calgary Financial
  • Robina King, most recent tenant to move into The Ophelia
  • Brian Pincott, Councillor for Ward 11, The City of Calgary
  • Tim Richter, President and CEO, Calgary Homeless Foundation
  • Susan Scott, author of "All Our Sisters - Stories of Homeless Women in Canada"
  • Sue Tomney, CEO, YWCA of Calgary

The YWCA of Calgary

In 2010 the YWCA of Calgary celebrated a century of serving women in Calgary. We promise to be here until all women and children are safe and have housing. In addition to being one of the oldest and most established social services organizations in the city, the YWCA of Calgary is one of the only agencies active in the community that places women at the centre of a holistic service model along a life-cycle continuum. Although other agencies focus on violence and abuse against women, the YWCA focuses on moving women from dependence to independence by offering pre-employment programs, child care, transitional housing and outreach supports. For more information, visit the YWCA of Calgary's website: www.ywcaofcalgary.com.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation

The Calgary Homeless Foundation leads the implementation of Calgary's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. Issued in January 2008, Calgary's 10 Year Plan was created by the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness, a community-based, multi-stakeholder, leadership group who issued the Plan and selected the Foundation to implement the Plan. The Foundation is moving forward on Calgary's 10 Year Plan in partnership with the many homeless serving agencies, the private sector, our government partners, the faith community, other foundations and all Calgarians to end homelessness in Calgary once and for all. Calgarians wishing to contribute by making donations or volunteering are encouraged to visit the CHF website: www.calgaryhomeless.com.

First Calgary Financial

Recognized as one of Alberta's Top 50 Employers, First Calgary Financial is one of the 10 largest credit unions in Canada with over $2.5 billion in assets under administration. In addition to its 16 retail banking branches, First Calgary Financial also offers wealth management services, a Commercial Banking group, a Dealer Services team, a locally-based contact centre and Business Solutions Centre. Since 1999, First Calgary Financial has been selected as one of Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies – a Platinum Club member. First Calgary Financial's 500 employees are proud to be leading, learning and living in the communities they serve. For more information, visit firstcalgary.com.