The Heartland Housing Foundation

Building a New Kind of Community

Heartland Housing grew from the amalgamation of three former housing providers: Pioneer Housing Foundation, Fort Lions Haven, and the Fort Saskatchewan Foundation. These groups sat spatially close to one another, and catered to a similar client base.

On January 1st, 2013, with the support of Alberta Municipal Affairs, the three foundations came together into a single, unified organization.The company succeeded in retaining all staff while forming a standardized system of policies and procedures. Heartland Housing Foundation’s mandate was then expanded to include affordable housing for all ages in the communities it serves. This came to fruition in September 2014 with the opening of the Silver Birch Court – the first affordable housing building in Strathcona County.

Lynn Olenek joined Heartland Housing as Executive Director during its inception. She has since shared in the foundation’s multiple successes and hopes to see continue positive growth moving forward.

“When we were building our strategic plan, we wanted to reflect the values that spoke to our past as well as our future,” says Olenek, “We came up with what I think is a fantastic reflection of our core values.”

“We demonstrate dignity, respect, and trust through acknowledging the worth of our residents, staff, and partners, by caring and listening to the concerns of others, and by encouraging healthy involvement and connections within our facilities.”

Over the past year, the Heartland Housing Foundation has moved forward and built on these core values. Together, they successfully managed to conquer the steep learning curve associated with the amalgamation of separate organizations. As put by Olenek, “We’ve taken the best from all, put it together, and created a new, stronger foundation.”

Creating Social Capital

Jane Jacobs developed the idea of ‘Social Capital’ in her ground-breaking 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Social Capital refers to the vibrancy and worth a community gains in through the positive social interaction between its residents.

The Heartland Housing Foundation reflects the tremendous rewards of this interconnectivity. The organization currently operates three seniors lodge facilities in Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan, manages one seniors’ apartment complex and one affordable housing complex, and administrates five rent-geared-to-income, self-contained seniors’ apartment facilities within Strathcona county and Fort Saskatchewan on behalf of the Province of Alberta.

These facilities create a connective network to offer optimal support for Heartland Housing’s residents. Should a resident begin to struggle within one location, Heartland Housing can work together with them to find an alternative location to meet their needs.

“Safe secure housing, good nutrition, appropriate socialization, and support allows people to stay more independent and functional in their environment,” explains Olenek, “We focus on a social policy model rather than a health model.”

It is important to note that Heartland Housing is a management body. They aim to create a positive space for residents to thrive without direct interference. The foundation partners with support providers to offer optimal care without intruding into resident independence.

Heartland Housing Foundation has developed an integrated housing community on one of its properties – the Silver Birch site. This seven-acre property holds a 100 unit lodge, a 60 unit seniors’ apartment, and a 69 unit affordable housing complex with a resident age range of 18 months to 70 years. There’s also a facility on site operated by the Robin Hood Association, which offers care for adults with mental and physical challenges.

“It’s kind of like a city block. There’s a variety of people,” says Olenek, “There’s a single property meeting different population needs. As residents grow and change, they can move between different areas while still maintaining community connections.” The foundation hopes to be able to duplicate similar campuses in future projects.

Independent lifestyles and social activity are key concepts in Heartland Housing Foundation’s approach. However, the organization believes in the ability to adapt to specific circumstances. In their Strategic Plan, Heartland is exploring future development in the community. Its aim is to bring revitalization to its older sites, and to plan new, vibrant facilities where needed by the surrounding community.

The Importance of Relationships

Productive, communicative partnerships and associations are important in any business. Pioneer Housing Foundation, one of Heartland Housing’s original founders, brought a plethora of experience in grant and project management to the new foundation. Fort Lions Haven and the Fort Saskatchewan Foundation brought in a rich heritage of care and support experience. Through inheriting this important history, Heartland Housing carries a wide variety of resources to continue expansion.

“It’s about building relationships,” explains Olenek, “When you have this kind of variety of services, the exposure allows you to make strong connections. You work with your partners in the community.”

“Building partnerships gives us depth. It gives us resources we may not have been able to attain on our own. We share in learning and prosper together.”
Heartland Housing holds several partnerships with different associated groups. They are viewed as highly credible by Alberta Municipal Affairs, and have successfully licensed all facilities as supportive living sites with Alberta Health.

Building New Communities

The Heartland Housing Foundation has seen substantial growth in its short history. The organization plans to continue to prosper as it moves forward.

“We’re building a name for ourselves,” says Olenek, “We’re capturing the knowledge and experience of our predecessors and moving forward into new projects.”

Through amalgamating, Heartland Housing can create more unified and solidified future plans. They are now building their five-year strategic plan to present to Alberta Municipal Affairs. This allows Heartland Housing to create more credible and open communications with their municipal partners and assists in constructing future housing developments.

Heartland Housing is currently participating in a needs assessment project under the direction of the Capital Region Board. This is one of the first comprehensive assessments of housing needs done on such a large scale, and will identify housing gaps in the participating communities. With this data, Heartland Housing Foundation, in conjunction with its partnering municipalities, will be able to better plan to fulfill its mandate in meeting the housing needs the communities it serves.