Aspen Family & Community Network

Aspen is about People First, Community Always. Working with Calgary and area families, youth and communities we partner with others to unlock potential and transform lives.

Mom playing with her young son, TristanOur Story Why We Exist

I was raised in a family with alcohol and drugs. That was my life.

I want to be the one that breaks that cycle.

I want to be the one that creates opportunities for a good future for my son, Tristan -- opportunities I never had. That’s what Aspen gave me… opportunity.

Aspen’s Winter Breather program helps cover the cost of utility bills and groceries for families in need during the holiday season and winter months. This program has helped nearly 5,000 Calgarians.

Winter Breather gave this new mom the ability to take a moment to breathe, take stock and say, “Okay, I can buy cranberries... because I didn’t have a Christmas with Tristan. It was totally ruined by the abuse that was going on. Afterwards, Tristan and I got to have a meal, like a fresh good meal, just for the two of us. And this gave me a chance to just – breathe.

I know that I will achieve what I need to achieve, because I have the determination and I have that power and control over my life now.

I never ever had the power, control or confidence but I have it now.

I just want a stable home, so that we can grow together and make his dreams come true.

-- single mom, Aspen client


Whether we're helping transition families from homelessness to stability, or providing opportunities for youth in foster care or support homes to learn life skills, or facilitating networks within neighbourhoods to strengthen community development, our work lives beyond the lifespan of the interactions themselves. People’s lives change for the better because they are in charge of how they are going to change them.

I’ve been here six years and I can tell you that our CEO is invested in every person connected to Aspen. She cares. And she is strategic in seeking out opportunities to ensure Aspen can continue to positively impact families, youth and community in ways that make a real difference on both the personal level and the systemic level. I am proud to work at Aspen.

People here care about one another. Staff support each other and there is such passion for the work we do.

-- Vicki MacDonald, strategic lead, Practice & Quality Improvement

The Aspen Team - more than 50 people standing on large stairwayOur Impact What We Do


Our people and partners contribute to the city's poverty reduction initiative, help Calgarians leave or avoid homelessness, promote social inclusion and contribute to well-being. Together, we have made significant, measurable strides to support families and individuals and overcome layers of vulnerabilities. Here are examples of the impact our partnership has had in 2015-16:

FAMILIEScan be stable and enjoy enhanced well-being; homeless or near-homeless families can gain appropriate, safe housing, and sustainable livelihoods; and children can actively participate in the family and are ready to learn.

  • Parent Link Centres: Program support for families with children under six reports, on average for our three centres:  96% increased friendships and connections through parent link centres; and 94% improved access to play-based activities and resources
  • Preventing homelessness: Helping families at imminent risk of homelessness or who are experiencing homelessness, we can report the following:  155 families participated in home stay prevention (compared to 135 families in 2014-15); and 98% avoided eviction and maintained their housing (compared to 97% in 2014-15)

COMMUNITYDiverse populations, including immigrants and Aboriginals, can be included and belong; and residents can meaningfully participate and engage in their communities.

  • 1,297 residents were meaningfully engaged at Crossroads; 683 residents were meaningfully engaged in Deer Run, Deer Ridge and Queensland; and 788 residents were meaningfully engaged in the heart of the northeast (HOTNE).

YOUTH: Youth​​ can overcome a variety of issues they may face: homelessness, addiction, eating disorders, finding a job, staying in school, mental, physical or social health concerns, reuniting with family, finding adoptive homes or learning to make the leap to adulthood.

  • 100% of support homes youth who attended eating disorder or additions programs reported feeling safe and well supported; 93% of Youth Matters participants demonstrated increased skills/competencies toward a more sustainable livelihood; and 80% of eligible youth transition to adulthood participants graduated from high school.

Young woman standing in courtyardOur Programs How We Do It

First, we deal with the immediate crisis. We find a place to live for people who are experiencing homelessness, food for those who are hungry, a job, a school or health-care support. Next, we help uncover why someone is in this situation in the first place and work with them to overcome their challenges for good.

Programs and one-on-one personalized support are designed to meet the needs of each client or program participants.

Currently, we offer:


In Home Family Support - When conflicts and problems exist at home, the safety and well-being of children can be at risk. The In-home Family Support program works to prevent, reduce or eliminate factors that may place a child or family in jeopardy. Families are referred by Calgary and Area Child and Family Services; most families referred to this program are also dealing with poverty.

Sustainable Families - Staff work with families who are either experiencing homelessness or are at imminent risk of homelessness. These families have complex needs, are facing multiple barriers to success and/or are living in poverty. Staff work with shelters and other community resources to help families find and keep stable housing, assess their personal, social, physical, financial and human assets and work towards increasing their capacity to build self-sufficient futures.

Hand in Hand Parent Link Centres - With two Parent Link Centres operating in Northeast Calgary and one in the Town of Strathmore, PLC staff support parents in their roles as their children's first and most influential teachers. Aspen partners to collaboratively deliver high-quality programs in parent education, early childhood development, and family support, and to connect families to community resources.

Home Stay Prevention Program - We support families at imminent risk of homelessness to stabilize and maintain housing. Families receive immediate and short-term interventions to support them in their current housing situations, preventing homelessness and/or loss of stable housing. Staff work with the family to empower them to establish a sustainable future, focusing on the family's personal, social, financial, physical and human assets.


Foster Care - Aspen supports foster p​arents who provide safe, warm and health homes and positive family environments for children unable to live at home. Aspen screens and trains prospective foster parents, works to find the best match between child and family, and provides ongoing training and support.

Community Group Care Homes - ​Young people may not be able to remain at home or find him/herself on the street. Aspen's group homes provide caring, home-like environments that facilitate healthy development of youth through school attendance, access to resources, and participation in sports and leisure activities. Staff also help young people begin the process of working toward independence, promoting like skills development.

Youth Addiction Community Support Homes - ​Collaborating with AHS Youth Addiction Services, Aspen recruits, screens and trains host families to provide safe, secure living environments for adolescents with addictions while they attend a 12-week AHS Youth Addiction program. The host provides a temporary home, meals, support, transportation, supervision, recreational opportunities, life-skills training and encouragement in making healthy lifestyle changes.

Eating Disorder Community Support Homes - ​Collaborating with AHS Eating Disorder Services, Aspen recruits, screens and trains host families to provide safe, secure living environments for adolescents with eating disorders while they attend an 8-12-week eating disorder day treatment program. The host provides a temporary home, meals, support, transportation, supervision, recreational opportunities, life-skills training and encouragement in making healthy lifestyle changes.

Youth Transitions to Adulthood - Aspen staff work to empower young people who come from difficult home settings or who have been living in foster or group care, to become as self-sufficient as possible by the time they graduate from the program. Staff help participants set goals to: obtain appropriate accommodation, enhance their own life skills, continue their education and/or find employment, attain financial empowerment, and connect with positive supports in the community.

Wendy's Wonderful Kids - The David Thomas Foundation for Adoption Canada's proactive, child-centered program is dedicated to increasing the adoptions of hard-to-place children, many of whom are in Canada's foster care system waiting for permanent homes. Aspen is the only program grantee in Alberta.

Youth Matters - ​Youth and young adults are empowered to make good decisions around family/peer relationships, employment, finances, school and housing. Aspen creates opportunities for youth connections with one another, adults, resources and their communities. The program's Headspace bus brings music, art, sports and educational materials/equipment to natural gathering places (parks, community centres, etc.), where staff offer programming to engage youth.


Community Connections - This grassroots community development uses programs, activities and resources (financial literacy, tax clinics, food programs, clothing exchanges, community events, etc.) to engage people to contribute to positive lasting change and build capacity within communities. The program builds on strengths and connects people to resources, contributing to the sustainable future of the community.  

Family Resource Centres - Heart of the Northeast and Heart of the South - Calgary families are offered programming that is timely, holistic and tailored to meet the needs of community families. Programs include: parent education, family support, and child development. Families also bring forward ideas and requests for needs-specific services.

1000 Voices - Managed and operated by Aspen at the Genesis Centre of Community Wellness, a Northeast Calgary community hub, the 10,000-square-foot human services centre houses cultural activities, settlement services for newcomers, and programs and services offered by more than 40 service providers who work collaboratively to meet community needs.

Grandmother and grandson Our Requests What You Can Do

Be part of the transformation:

Foster parents and support homes: Young Calgarians who are unable to live in their family homes need your support. Youth who attend specialized addiction and eating disorder programs also need a caring place to stay. If you can provide a safe, secure, nurturing home environment, connect with us. Become an Aspen community support home or foster parent home by emailing We provide training and ongoing support.

Give: Whether supporting Winter Breather or our youth, family or community programming, donating to Aspen makes a sustainable difference in the lives of Calgarians in need.

  • Donations to the Winter Breather program help Aspen provide at-risk families who are currently connected to an Aspen program  with basic need support such as heat, electricity, groceries, telephone and transportation assistance so that the stress of coping over the holidays is a little less. The cost of electicity may range from $100 to $200, so any donation between $50 and $300 will help Calgarians in need.


Colleen Donahue
director, Development & Community Engagement
403.219.3477 x106
Charitable Number: 119047017RR0001

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