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According to Jones, traditional counseling doesn’t work for the homeless, which is why this partnership is key to addressing accessibility and success issues related to mental health programming

Article author:

Alanna Smith

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February 03, 2021 • • February 3, 2021 • • Read 2 minutes Calgary Homeless Foundation President and CEO Patricia Jones poses for a photo on Wednesday, August 12, 2020. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

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The Calgary authorities are rethinking providing mental health support for the homeless with a pilot project dedicated to providing “the right service at the right time.”

The Rapid Care Counseling program, launched later this month by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, CUPS Calgary, and the Catholic Family Service (CFS), will connect participants with a counselor within three business days.

Patricia Jones, CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, said the pilot will help address some of the fundamental issues that contribute to homelessness and act as a gateway to finding and preserving housing.

“People who live without a home are otherwise not okay – there is always something else going on,” said Jones.

“It’s things like childhood and intergenerational trauma, addiction, physical abuse, racism, mental disorders, loss of employment during COVID-19 – often exacerbated by a lack of formal education or professional skills training – (and) people who are after the Reintegrate incarceration. “

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She said traditional counseling doesn’t work for the homeless, which is why this partnership is key to addressing accessibility and success issues related to mental health programs.

CUPS and CFS were selected as partners by the Homeless Foundation after a call for proposals was published last May.

The pilot will merge the CUPS Shared Care Mental Health Program, comprised of clinicians, doctors and mental health professionals, with the CFS Rapid Access Counseling Program, an Alberta-wide one-session counseling service that can be booked online or over the phone can.

“The concept of a virtual booking with quick access at any time of the day or night is really helpful and successful, especially when working with the agencies we fund, as they are at the forefront of people with homelessness.” said Jones.

There are currently 621 Calgarians waiting for accommodation on the city’s triage list, including singles, families, and teens. According to the social agencies, more than 78 percent of these people have had psychological problems.

Carlene Donnelly, executive director of CUPS, said the COVID-19 pandemic had disproportionately affected people without a home or access to shelters.

“I think some of the things that have been highlighted during, through, and from COVID-19 are much more mental health focus,” Donnelly said.

“And more about what it means to go straight to (people in need) and how we can do things differently, either virtually or otherwise, that will serve them instead of having them do all the work.”

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Carlene Donnelly, executive director of the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS), speaks during a discussion on disruptions in social services at the Social Impact Lab in Calgary on Thursday, August 29, 2019.  Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia Calgary Carlene Donnelly, executive director of the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS), speaks at the Social Impact Lab in Calgary on Thursday, August 29, 2019 during a discussion about disruptions in social services. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /.Postmedia Calgary

From February 15, service providers will book customers in emergency shelters and supportive accommodations for virtual or face-to-face consultations with a CFS employee.

After the first session, attendees receive a personalized care plan that connects them with other supporters in the community, including longer term mental health support and community recommendations.

Donnelly said this innovative approach will help agencies change existing services as they identify the pilot’s strengths and potential weaknesses.

It will also strengthen collaboration between local agencies, she said.

“There definitely seems to be a combination of funding and providers,” said Donnelly.

“Change is tough and change is slow, but it really seems like the way we work together has been streamlined, even though this is one of the toughest times we’ve seen in the Calgary community.”

alsmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @alanna_smithh

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