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Recognition given to individuals, organizations for work toward homelessness

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By Heather Andrews Miller Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







Elsey Gauthier, from Alberta Health Services, was one of five recipients of this year’s  ROOPH awards recognizing those for their work towards ending homelessness.

“I was honoured to be recognized by (Homeward Trust Edmonton),” said Gauthier, who works with the DiverseCity Housing Initiative. “It’s been part of my work to help people find a home and they are often Aboriginal. As a Cree person I’m able to help them as they feel comfortable with me. I’m dealing with people at the tertiary level, who often have issues with addictions and mental health and are coming from the corrections institutions.”

The annual ROOPH awards – Recognizing Outstanding Organizations and People in Housing – began in 2005 and celebrate the achievements in gaining affordable housing and homeless initiatives in Edmonton.

Gauthier was recognized for her Outstanding Service for the Aboriginal Community. As an Aboriginal consultant and housing worker, she serves as a valued advisor to the entire DiverseCity team and her contributions to the community extend well beyond her day-to-day work. She also shares her knowledge with community members, including Housing First teams, who learn from her workshops about Aboriginal culture and DiverseCity’s work in the community.

Gauthier’s typical day includes helping people find an apartment, then finding furnishings for it from Homeward Trust, and getting them established with their shopping and banking, paying for utilities and other household duties, and learning independent living skills.

 “We do that for the first year and then they have to make a commitment. It’s a three-way agreement, between the landlord, myself and the tenant, and we are all on the same page,” she said.

To date there have been very few problems as clients know they have 24-hour support from Gauthier and the home team and they also wish to return to living independently so have the desire to live up to expectations. “We keep in close touch with them but we also treat them with dignity and respect.”

“Within the ROOPH awards, we created an opportunity to recognize those individuals who are leaders, such as Elsey,” said Susan McGee, executive director at Homeward Trust Edmonton. The non-profit organization administers resources on behalf of the three levels of government to help end homelessness. “In the first three years of the 10-year plan to end homelessness we’ve housed over 1,800 individuals. But we have a lot of work yet to do.”

McGee added that Gauthier exemplified the kind of role in the community where individuals are caring and demonstrate the value of considering traditional responses to needs. “People learn from her. She has the opportunity to have an effect on our entire program and that is really valuable.”

Other ROOPH award recipients were Alfred Nikolai, Habitat for Humanity, presented with the Larry Shaben Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Housing Sector; Integrated Management and Realty Ltd. took the Excellence in Building Design for Canora Place; Les Umpherville won  Exceptional Volunteerism in the Housing Sector; and, Shaw Conference Centre took Partnerships for Success.

Photo caption: Elsey Gauthier (centre) received recognition for her tireless contributions from Homeward Trust Edmonton representatives chair Martin Garber-Conrad and executive director Susan McGee.