By Lethbridge Herald on December 17, 2020.
The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs ended its year by inviting Byron Bradley, managing director of The Mustard Seed for Central Alberta, to talk about his organization’s plans for opening a permanent supportive housing facility at the Ramada Inn on Mayor Magrath Drive South during its weekly YouTube livestream speaker series on Thursday.
Front and centre for Bradley, and those who tuned in to ask questions, was how The Mustard Seed plans to address community safety and other concerns if the facility was to go ahead as planned.
“This is permanent supportive housing,” stressed Bradley. “This is not transitional housing, this is not a shelter, and this is not a detox centre. This a multi-residential building where a number of individuals can live in this building for the rest of their lives. The residents who move in with us will be screened just like the residents in any other multi-family residential building. They would meet with the property manager just like they would in any other building. This is for people who cannot afford the market rent in (Lethbridge), and people that need a safe and secure building.”
Bradley said potential residents would have to be at least 30 days sober before moving in, and would have to pass a rigorous screening process to ensure they were a correct fit for The Mustard Seed.
“We let people know right out of the gate that this is our bar,” Bradley said. “Here is our level of accountability. And we ask for people to follow those rules, and we hold them accountable to those rules. People need to be showing signs of sobriety for 30 days before coming into our (permanent supportive housing) building. And so we are looking for people that are, again, not needing (drug) treatment — we are looking for residents that are fairly stable in their lives just like another property manager would. We would be looking for law-abiding citizens to live in that building, and our bar is very high.”
Bradley said the Mustard Seed enjoys great relationships with the communities where it operates, and has a track record of success in greatly reducing homelessness and even crime in its host cities.
“These will be totally self-contained units,” he explained. “This will be a totally sober, safe and secure living environment so that when individuals are mingling with one another, and they are in this building and interacting with one another, this will be a very safe environment with a very high level of accountability and care for them. We will also have 24/7 support workers there to care for people, and be there for them. We will be there because we want them to become sustainable members of the community.”
Bradley said trust and respect is a two-way street. They would give their residents trust and respect, but would expect those things in return.
“Trust is critical,” he stated. “Trust is not given, and respect is not freely given. Trust and respect is earned. But at The Mustard Seed our goal is to build relationships with people, to accept, to do our very best to not judge them, to show them love, and in that process we build a number of incredible relationships with people. With those deep-rooted relationships, what happens is people respect you, for the most part, and they will agree to high levels of accountability.”
Bradley said he had already begun the process of meeting with local business owners and residents around the proposed Ramada Inn location, and The Mustard Seed would be holding a virtual town hall meeting in January to allow all nearby residents and businesses to have their questions answered. He said was thrilled to be bringing all the experience The Mustard Seed has gained over these past 36 years to help those in need in Lethbridge, and to be continuing here what it feels is its Christian calling to minister to the poor and the downtrodden.
“Every day across our five cities where we are currently located we are doing everything we can do to eliminate homelessness,” Bradley said. “We don’t want to have people sleeping on a mat in a shelter. We want people to be in a safe and secure home. A place they can call home. We want to give them a safe place where they can hopefully move forward. Or if maybe they didn’t have hope, they would have hope again in their lives. That is what we want to do.”
“Whatever those barriers are that have them facing homelessness,” he added, “those are the barriers we want to address — at their pace, meeting them where they are at.”
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