Victory Foundation have been working with low income Calgarians for 29 years. They are currently providing housing for 76 men, women, and children – and recently acquired the Town and Country Motor Hotel which they are in the process of converting into another 48 units of affordable housing, predominantly for women, women with children and seniors. We’ve gotten to know the Victory Outreach Team well through their use of the Food Link and Fresh Tote Food Rescue Program.
With so much going on for Victory Outreach, we thought it would be a good time to sit down with Operations Director Matthew Bannerman to find out more!
Tell us about Victory Foundation and your services
The Victory Outreach Foundation has two main thrusts in terms of our efforts, that is we provide safe, secure, and affordable housing to men, women, and women with children. As well, we provide subsidized rent to other Not-For-Profits that provide a variety of services to Calgarians.
Our housing is staffed by highly experienced caseworkers and systems navigators to assist residents as they move in. This includes accessing internal and external referrals, including social benefit entitlements, taxes, child maintenance, and physical and mental health support. Really the breadth of the accessibility to referrals is impossible to articulate. Most of our residents are truly low income, unable to move their incomes vertically for a variety of reasons. Our median age is approximately 54 years old, with 70% of our residents having lived in our housing for five or more years, many of them over ten years.
How does the issue of food insecurity interact with the work you do at Victory Foundation?
Our housing provides various food programs. For instance, our housing in Ogden provides a daily meal, Monday to Friday, prepared in our commercial kitchen. In addition, we provide access to food ingredients for their other meals as needed, both made possible primarily through the Calgary Food Bank. In all cases, food security for our residents is a legitimate issue, and without the Calgary Food Bank our residents would not have the means to access the food they need, this is especially true given the means tested nature of our housing, where income is static.
In addition to our Housing, the Victory Outreach Foundation also offers subsidized rents to other community Not-For-Profits and/or Churches to deliver their own services to Calgarians. Through these partners, some of whom also collaborate with the Calgary Food Bank – including a satellite location in the Forest Lawn community, an additional 300,000+ meals are delivered through onsite meals, hampers, etc… As you can see, the Calgary Food Bank, the Victory Outreach Foundation, and their partners are truly working collaboratively and innovatively on behalf of Calgarians.
Why Do You Do The Work That You Do?
On an organizational level, we receive no ongoing funding from any level of government, and we have no debt on our properties. All our housing has been purchased through fundraising, with many of our donors being with us since the beginning. This shows the heart and commitment of partners to our organization’s mission to provide safe, secure, and truly affordable housing. We love what we do, we love providing high quality housing that is truly someone’s home while they need it where community guidelines are supportive but not difficult. The stories and relationships that have developed over many years are powerful, meaningful, and borne from mutual respect.
How Can Someone Access Your Programs?
For Housing, referrals take place through community partners and/or a self-referral process. Prospective residents can make contact through the firstname.lastname@example.org located on our website under Housing / Housing contact / Housing contact form. Once a Housing Contact form is submitted, we will contact that individual. We do not accept intake forms through the website and/or through email as we prefer to complete these face-to-face with someone. Wait lists are not kept given the flow of applications and residents
Anyone in housing or working with our community partners can access the food programs, including the ones supported by the Calgary Food Bank
What Does Success Look Like For Your Programs?
Success can be difficult to measure given that we have so many unique situations. We work deliberately to ensure that residents are maximizing their potential income. Maximizing incomes (we realize that this may sound strange, but many of our residents had income potential that was not realized when they come to us) affords the opportunity to move towards personal sustainability. While success can mean personal financial sustainability, it often means much more given that many of our clientele are often physically ill, seniors, have long term and serious mental health issues, or deal with innumerable other challenges. Success can mean long term community, it can mean giving back, which many of our residents choose to do weekly with food distribution efforts through our community partners and the Calgary Food Bank. Success can mean access to medications, immigration services, mental health, and physical health support where housing and food security are not lost when they return from their respective treatments, and it can mean finding one’s identity through faith.
What have you learned from your work in communities that you would like other people to know?
I would like people to know that there are many reasons why people lack food security, housing, and community. The challenges that people face are diverse, complicated, and can be overwhelming for people that do not have the personal and social resources to rely on; things many of us take for granted. Many people that I know that are and/or have faced significant challenges are the most generous of people; people that come together and form the community bonds they need to navigate the challenges of life. People want the opportunity to move towards independence and community, and it may seem counterintuitive, but often that opportunity is not as accessible as we might think for many people.
Thank you to Operations Director Matthew Bannerman for taking the time to answer our questions!