Sharing the same building as a popular Calgary café is a five-unit apartment building that changes the lives of everyone who lives there.
Highbanks Society is a local organization that offers housing and a nurturing community where young families can learn and grow. The organization owns and operates the Bowview Apartments in Hillhurst, which has five units for young mothers between the ages of 16 and 24 and serves a cohort of 12 families annually, including those that live in affordable housing in the community.
“Housing in Calgary is a significant issue,” says Patricia Glenn, the executive director of Highbanks.
The organization was founded in 2001 to offer housing opportunities and community to at-risk young, single mothers in the inner city, nearby support services, education and transit options. They purchased the two-storey building in 2003. There are also two commercial tenants in the apartment building – Dairy Lane Café and Velvet Style.
Providing affordable housing is just one way Highbanks benefits the lives of young families.
“We see housing first, but then there are so many steps beyond that,” says Glenn, who oversees a team of three other staff, on-site guardians and many volunteers.
There are a variety of resources available to the young mothers, including support for mental health, nutritional health, social supports and one-on-one coaching. From yoga to budgeting to parenting classes and resiliency coaching, it is Highbanks’ goal to help form stable, educated and self-sufficient families.
“We’re very hands-on with their lives,” says Glenn, adding that Highbanks is “a very unique model.”
The families also receive food kits, cleaning kits and personal hygiene products, many of which have been donated by local businesses and Calgarians. On the roof of the building is a small garden that was constructed this past year, offering a chance for the mothers and kids to learn about growing food. There are also many opportunities to cook and eat healthy meals together.
The families usually stay at Highbanks for two years, and the mothers have to attend school the entire time, whether high school or university.
Blush Lane Organic Market in Bridgeland has chosen to support Highbanks. Customers receive points when they shop at Blush Lane, and they can donate their points to the Calgary organization. Twice per year, Blush Lane will match donations to Highbanks.
Partnering with an organic market makes sense for Highbanks because they focus a lot on nutrition and community, says Glenn.
“We’re really excited to work with Blush Lane who share our value of building the well-being of communities.”
Blush Lane also contributes to Highbanks by donating produce and food, in addition to leading cooking classes.
If you would like to support Highbanks beyond donations, they are always looking for volunteers. Everything – from helping with the garden to leading workshops – goes a long way at Highbanks. Learn more about contributing to this organization at highbankssociety.ca.