Community Circles Group

The Cause

We want to develop a Community Circles program which will allow staff and volunteers to work closely with homeless neighbours on issues related to their personal development. Community Circles are an established practice for developing supportive relationships and strong communities, an effective method used across North America.

For people experiencing homelessness, we have found that providing a supportive, healthy community is an essential element in helping them overcome poverty and homelessness. This program would engage neighbours, utilizing their strengths and skills, as we work together to address the obstacles in their journey to building, and sustaining, a healthy life.

This program will provide vital emotional support, and would be used in tandem with other programs operated by The Neighbour Centre. The program will provide tools and resources that will help neighbours increase interpersonal skills (such as conflict resolution and goal-setting), as well as accountability and encouragement, helping neighbours identify and address the behaviors that are inhibiting their ability to reach their goals.

The circle concept is a structured process for organizing effective group communication, relationship building, decision making, and conflict resolution. Circle programming will develop intentional space designed to achieve the following goals:
• support participants in establishing their core values (who they are when they are at their best) and helping them conduct themselves in a way reflective of those values;
• practice value-based behavior when it might feel risky to do so;
• make visible our desire to be an interconnected community in the face of differences;
• recognize and access the gifts of every participant and the communities collective wisdom.

Currently, this is a gap in the services available to homeless neighbours in Edmonton. Our agency would like to be the first to provide a program designed to address personal development in a community supported setting.

Who Will it Benefit?

The Neighbour Centre fights poverty by delivering essential programs and services to neighbours experiencing homelessness and poverty. Providing a supportive, healthy community is an essential element in helping a neighbour overcome poverty and homelessness.

We are a small, grassroots organization, who opened its doors 2 years ago in response to a growing number of homeless men and women living south of the river. Since that time, we’ve seen the number of visits by neighbours experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty grow exponentially, from 15 a day to 60 - reaching record numbers in March with 2,000 visits in one month. With only 8 staff members, we rely heavily on the 100+ volunteers to provide services.

Our philosophy for service revolves around relationship building. We involve our neighbours in the process, which helps them reintegrate more successfully into the community. We provide both emergency relief, as well as community programming – such as Dinner Club, where everyone prepares, cooks and eats, together.

Recently, surveys were conducted asking neighbours what additional services they needed. Throughout the survey a common theme emerged: A need for more intentional, relational support that addresses personal development.

Currently, interaction with neighbours is limited to the Centre’s emergency relief hours of operation which is too hectic an environment to establish the rapport and intimacy needed to address individual’s personal growth.

The Community Circles program would allow us to meet weekly for approximately one hour prior to the opening of the relief hours, with neighbours desiring to take this next step in their journey. It will be open to any neighbours who receive services from The Neighbour Centre. And we would recruit volunteers to participate as well. Recognizing the extreme needs of our neighbours, a meal will be served each week in conjunction with the program.