Journey Church warms the fingers and toes and hearts and souls of unhoused Calgarians
In November 2022, The City allocated $2.8 million over four years from the Community Safety Investment Framework fund to Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF) to manage the Coordinated Community Extreme Weather Response. The response connects unhoused Calgarians with daytime service and warming locations, in every quadrant of the city, provides winter essentials and a shuttle to shelters during extreme cold, and coordinates the city’s numerous outreach groups.
"Our approach during extreme weather is to support partner organizations who are best placed to support folks when they need it the most,” said Doug Borch, Team Lead with The City’s Homelessness and Downtown Initiatives. “We rely on the knowledge, expertise, and connections of the Calgary Homeless Foundation to coordinate community partners across the city to help meet the needs of our most vulnerable. He continued, "The collaborative effort of Journey Church and the Distress Centre, along with numerous outreach groups, is a great example of community working together.”
In Ward 1, at the very edge of the city, you’ll find Journey Church, one of 31 (including 21 library locations) daytime service and warming locations. Huge sunlit windows, smiling faces, and the smell of homemade soup greet you as you enter. Offers of homemade cookies, coffee or hot chocolate with marshmallows are immediate. The space itself is spectacular with, on this clear day, views of the Rocky Mountains. Rob, a Journey guest, exclaims “it’s the prettiest sunset you’re ever gonna see!” He makes his trek out to Journey, located 300 metres from the Tuscany LRT (Light Rail Transit), not just for the views but because he feels safe here - “you can leave your stuff here and it won’t get stolen. That’s real nice,” he continues, with a smile.
Journey provides more than a warm space and nourishing food. Yvonne Yau, a member of the Distress Centre Calgary’s Coordinated Access & Assessment Program team at Safe Communities Opportunity & Resource Centre (SORCe) is at the Journey drop-in daytime service and warming location every day, connecting unhoused Calgarians with programs and services that can help them. She says, “the guests have to make an effort to get to Journey and it is appealing to guests that like a quiet and safe atmosphere. Distress Centre recognized the need for social supports in northwest Calgary and jumped on the opportunity to collaborate. We’ve been able complete housing assessments and housing referrals and support with referrals and connection to community resources.”
Another guest, Jan agrees. She says, “Journey is out of the way and that helps weed out the not-so-nice people.”
A young woman, who doesn’t want to say her name, shares “we can sleep here during the day without keeping one eye open, we can get real rest, the food is so good and hot, and you get the feeling that the people that work here and the volunteers really care about you.”
The staff, volunteers, and guests at Journey all agree that the space and the people in it are safe, respectful, and grateful for one another.
“Maybe community safety starts with putting the safety of our most vulnerable first,” says Dave DiSabatino, Pastor at Journey Church. He thoughtfully continues to chat about the importance of community involvement. “We talked to small businesses in the area to let them know that they can send vulnerable Calgarians who are sitting in their restaurants and cafes to Journey, that the drop-in daytime service and warming locations were created for vulnerable people to have a rest, to lounge. The businesses are very supportive, they appreciate knowing they are sending the vulnerable in our community to a safe place and it helps the paying customers feel less concerned about their own safety,” he continues. He also chats about the Journey Church members being involved through clothing donations and homemade cooking and baking. If you want to volunteer or contribute to the Journey Church drop-in daytime service and warming location, email to email@example.com.