SORCe is ten years old! SORCe (Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre) opened its doors on June 18th, 2013, with the goal of creating one location where multiple agencies work together to help people experiencing or facing homelessness.
Distress Centre has been at SORCe serving Calgary’s most vulnerable since the beginning – from the 2013 flood that unfolded days after SORCe opened, to COVID-19 response, to the housing and addictions crises we face today in our city.
As we reflect on ten years of SORCe, we want to say a special thank you to the staff and volunteers who work out of SORCe. Thank you for all that you do to support the people we serve through housing, health, financial empowerment and community connection.
Candice Giammarino has served as Director of Programs at SORCe, leading the Distress Centre team at SORCe, for the past two years.
“I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to be part of this remarkable team and space, where true magic happens,” Candice shared. “Witnessing frontline workers and team members from various agencies unite and approach their work with a common goal of providing comprehensive support to individuals and families is nothing short of awe-inspiring.”
The “OG Sorcerer”
Susan Mcleod has been at SORCe since day one. In 2013, Susan was employed by the City of Calgary and her supervisor was on the team that formed the committee to start SORCe. Susan signed up to work out of SORCe and was there on opening day – June 18th, 2013.
Susan worked as a resource specialist, providing information and referral support to people on a walk-in basis and directing program participants to the appropriate on-site agency. Her and the other resource specialists – three in total – worked at the front desk – the role that System Navigator and Resource Specialists fill today.
When Calgary experienced major flooding just days after SORCe first opened, the building – which is located on the City Hall LRT station on 7th Avenue – was forced to close and after flooding.
Part of Susan’s role with the City of Calgary was disaster social services and she began working at reception centres during the flooding until SORCe was able to open again.
Over time, it became Distress Centre staff who greeted people upon entry to SORCe and provided information and referral services. Susan worked for the City of Calgary’s Information Centre, updating the database that populates Inform Alberta and is used by our 211 team to provide information and navigation support. When Distress Centre took over the management of that database in 2019, Susan stayed on as a volunteer two days a week.
She puts together food hampers with the Calgary Food Bank for the program participants at SORCe and generally helps out wherever she’s needed. The knowledge she has amassed about resources in Calgary over her career is frequently used.
Coordinated Entry at SORCe
When someone first walks in the door of SORCe, they’ll be greeted by a Distress Centre System Navigator and Resource Specialist, members of the Coordinated Access and Assessment team. This person will build rapport, assess areas of need, provide information and connect to resources both at SORCe and in the community.
The person may be directed to speak with a Housing Strategist from the Coordinated Access and Assessment (CAA) team. The Housing Strategist acts as the entry point for housing services through the Calgary Homeless Foundation. They’ll complete a Needs & Services Questionnaire, develop an individualized housing plan and provide information and navigation support to address other needs and issues.
The CAA Team’s Prevention & Diversion program at SORCe is focused on helping individuals at risk of homelessness or who have recently entered into homelessness by connecting them to resources, helping with system navigation, and goal planning to avoid homelessness. The intention for this program is to keep the experience of homelessness is as short as possible, prevent unsheltered homelessness and prevent people from becoming unhoused.
The CAA team also supports the Communications Hub at SORCe, offering a place for people to access phones and computers – this access is a lifeline for someone who does not have a phone or computer in an increasingly tech-reliant world. The System Navigators in this space provide support for income support applications, housing searches and applications, employment resources, and any other goals the program participant has in mind.
Recently Distress Centre was able to relaunch the ID Replacement program. This program assists individuals in obtaining government issued identification. Having identification allows someone to access benefits and services and is necessary to obtain things like employment and housing.
If someone needs assistance related to the finances, they’ll meet with the Financial Empowerment Coach who provides services for income support, financial coaching and assistance in completing their taxes so the person can receive tax related benefits.
These are life changing and lifesaving services that helps thousands of people every year.
The power of collaboration
All members of the Distress Centre team at SORCe work together with the other agencies at SORCe, to provide the best possible support to the person seeking help.
“Somebody asked me, ‘what’s so great about SORCe?’” Susan recalls. “It’s the collaboration of agencies.”
Susan shared that a few years ago, a social worker came to her and asked if it would be possible to get a bike for one of their clients who was struggling with transportation issues. Susan reached out to an agency and explained the situation.
Their first reaction was, “well we don’t normally do that, but considering the circumstances, let’s go for it.” Susan met the client at the agency where he received the bike and helmet.
“He climbed on the bike with a huge smile, then turned to shake my hand and tears were streaming down his cheeks,” Susan shared. “It was a moment that you never forget – seeing the impact that it made on him, through this collaboration of different agencies.”
Many agencies work together to make the work of SORCe possible.
Programs and services at SORCe currently on-site include:
- Probation – Alberta Justice & Solicitor General
- Victim Services – Calgary Drop-In Centre
- Family Housing Supports – Inn From the Cold
- The Street Team – The Alex
- Mobile Care Clinic – The Alex
- Rapid Care Counselling – CUPS
- Unity Youth Diversion – Trellis Society
- Urgent Mental Health Outreach – AHS (Crossroads integrated services)
- Adult Mental Health & Addiction – AHS (Crossroads integrated services)
- Aboriginal Friendship Centre
- Be the Change YYC
Support the work of the agencies at SORCe by donating needed goods: