The Catholic Social Services Parish Relations Team includes St. Mary Clare Stack, centre, Jacqueline Bass, left, and Kaeli Feehan and Clair Rolheiser, top and right.

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The Catholic Social Services Parish Relations Team includes Sr. Mary Clare Stack, centre, Jacqueline Bass, left, and Kaeli Feehan and Clair Rolheiser, top and right.

May 14, 2012
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Nearly 30 volunteers will soon undergo training to work with newly housed people who now find themselves somewhat socially isolated in their new communities.

Through the new citywide Welcome Home Program, volunteers from Edmonton's various faiths will be trained and then partnered with recently-housed individuals or families to help them adjust to life off the streets.

The faith communities announced the Welcome Home Program about a year ago. About 1,600 people have made the journey from homelessness to home since Edmonton began its 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness three years ago.

Catholic Social Services has the contract to run the Welcome Home Program, which includes training and matching volunteers with recently-housed people.

Adjusting to a new life off the streets takes time and is usually a lonely experience. Homeless people have left behind their social network and have yet to build a new one.

"The specific goal of this program is to break the loneliness and the isolation for a lot of these people," said Welcome Home Program coordinator Jacqueline Bass.

Volunteers undergo nine hours training. They have to fill out an application and pass a criminal record check, among other things. Most of the 28 volunteers already registered come from various faith communities.

Kaeli Feehan and Claire Rolheiser, both coordinators of parish relations with CSS, will provide the training.

YEAR'S GOAL

Sister Mary Clare Stack, manager of parish relations with Catholic Social Services and the "promotions person" for the Welcome Home team, said the plan for the year is to have 80 newly-housed participants matched with 160 volunteers from the faith community.

Eleven agencies have newly-housed participants. So far, Catholic Social Services' Welcome Home Team has given presentations to four of them, including Hope Mission and Jasper Place Health and Wellness.

The role of the volunteers is to befriend the participants; they are not expected to be mentors or to teach life skills.

INTEGRATE WITH COMMUNITY

They can also connect newly-housed people or families with their communities and offer companionship. It could be a trip to the library, to the sports arena, to the local market or to the community league.

"(Volunteers should) connect participants with anything in the community that will give them low-cost, healthy things they can do," Bass said.

"Many of them are shy and don't want to go out alone and have a hard time stepping out of their homes. So the volunteers will help them get out of their shell, build their self-esteem and integrate them back into the community."

The match between volunteer and participant is re-evaluated at six months. "If they want to go for another six months, we encourage that," Bass said.

Those interested in volunteering with Welcome Home can contact Jacqueline Bass at 780-378-2544 or email jacqueline.Bass@catholicsocialservices.ab.ca.