Calgary group takes grassroots approach to homelessness – Calgary

A group of Calgary women has exhibited tremendous kindness and generosity in their effort to find a home for a man in their community.

Sabrena Stauffer and Jenn Lofgren, along with three other women, said they connected through the community Facebook group.

They started talking about how they could help Richard Rossell, a man that Stauffer had met five years ago.

“He was on the bench outside at 6:30 a.m. with no shoes,” Stauffer said. “I just introduced myself, brought about a coffee, and he’s been in the community for a really long time. That’s kind of how our relationship started.”

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Stauffer said she learned that Rossell could afford rent thanks to government assistance, but coming up with the damage deposit and finding a landlord willing to rent to him had been barriers.

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Rossell said he’d had difficulties going through the official channels, and Stauffer recognized how frustrating that process could be.

“There’s a lot of mistrust with the system, with not being able to access housing and different priorities on the triage list,” Stauffer said. “There’s such a high need in the city that not everyone gets access right away.”

Stauffer was able to find a basement suite in the community, and the group raised enough money to cover the damage deposit and first month’s rent for Rossell.

A social media thread also started up, with people offering to help furnish the apartment and stock the kitchen, something Rossell said he never expected.

“It’s exciting. [What’s in the apartment] is pretty much all from them,” Rossell said. “All I had was a pair of pants, a couple of jackets, two pairs of socks and a pen.”

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He hopes the certainty of knowing where he’ll be sleeping will allow him to focus on his hobbies and giving back to those that helped him.

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“[I’m going to] learn to be myself and focus on my writing and the community,” Rossell said. “I guess it means I’m loved. It’s been a long time.”

Inspiring others

As the community has banned together to help Rossell, Jenn Lofgren said she hopes others start their own projects.

“They can be empowered to do something,” Lofgren said. “We’re a group of five women that had never met before this and in a few messages and a little bit of work, we had the opportunity. It started with us taking initiative and I hope other people do too.”

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Stauffer points to the city’s homelessness objectives as a reason for people to get involved at a grassroots level.

“The community aspect of it is something that’s really necessary,” Stauffer said. “It’s actually something that’s brought up in the 10-year plan to end homelessness. There’s the role of the systems but also the public.”

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Rossell is just thankful the group stepped up to help him start a new chapter in his life.

“I guess it means I’m loved. It’s been a long time.”


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