First-of-its-kind housing project celebrates one year

March 29, 2016

Edmonton indigenous facility seeing success in harm reduction housing

EDMONTON — A local housing project is celebrating its first year of providing safe, affordable homes in a culturally sensitive indigenous environment for individuals with complex needs.

Ambrose Place is the first facility of its kind in Alberta. It provides harm reduction housing for individuals and couples, mostly of indigenous ancestry, with a history of homelessness, mental illness, substance misuse and multiple chronic health conditions/disabilities. The residence includes 28 supportive living spaces contracted by Alberta Health Services (AHS), 14 affordable housing units, and community facilities available to all residents.

“This facility gives its residents a stable, supportive environment to call home, so that they can continue on a road which improves all aspects of their health,” says Jill Kelland, Director of Young Adult and Cross Level Services for Addiction and Mental Health in AHS Edmonton Zone.

“Stable housing improves so many aspects of a person’s health. One man, because he was drinking less, getting good food and sleep, moved from using a wheelchair to a walker to being well enough to have hip surgery and now is using only a cane. 

“We have seen huge reductions in Ambrose residents’ use of emergency services, in emergency departments and ambulances, as well as in hospital admissions.”

Providing both supportive housing units and affordable housing units within the same building offers residents the opportunity to move from supportive housing to an independent living situation while remaining within their existing community.

“Ambrose Place is more than a building – it’s a community,” says Kelland. “In addition to everyone helping and encouraging each other, AHS has support positions in place to help the residents to continue their recovery, however they define that as individuals.”

AHS provides mental health therapists to assist in case management to residents and specialized addiction and mental health support, and a social worker to coordinate intake and transition services into the site and assistance with finances.

Just over a year ago, Steven Gibson was among Edmonton’s homeless.

Since moving to the supportive living facility, he is safer than he has ever been and has a vastly improved quality of life.

“Our city has a remarkable role model in Ambrose Place. I don’t know if Steven would be alive today without its support,” says Nancy Gibson, Steven’s mother. “He’s happy now – he’s grown to trust the staff and feels a part of this community.”

The downtown facility, owned and operated by Niginan Housing Ventures, houses about 40 residents at a time. Steven is one example of the more than 50 residents this housing project has benefited throughout the past year.

“Brain damage limited Steven’s ability to make some choices and yet, at Ambrose Place, there is a balance between expectations and reality, between boundaries and freedom,” says Nancy.

The residence has several features to support Indigenous culture. There is often traditional cooking, beading classes, and the main floor features a ceremonial room designed to look like a tipi, where residents can go to smudge, or to participate in weekly men’s, women’s, or community sharing circles and ceremonies.

Ambrose place is named for Ambrose Daniels, who died from pneumonia while living on the streets of Edmonton.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Shelly Willsey
AHS Communications