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April 15, 2019: Dr John Rook, Managing Director (Calgary) and Director of Strategic Initiatives at The Mustard Seed, Author of "Beyond Shelters".       website

Our guest speaker, Dr. John Rook, was introduced by Robyn Braley. Dr. Rook is the managing director and director of Strategic Innovations with The Mustard Seed in Calgary.

He has a strong background in working with people in poverty and the homeless. He said he grew up with economic poverty, not social poverty. Absence of the second implies missing a strong support system, such as an extended family. Dr. Rook told us that poverty is usually the result of a significant trauma experience in someone’s life.

The focus of The Mustard Seed (now with offices in Edmonton and Kamloops, as well as Calgary) is on moving people out of the need for their services. He refers to people who work there not as shelter workers but as exit strategists.

The statistics he provided speak to their success: In the four years he has held his current position, the average number of nights stay for clients has dropped to less than half, from 23 to 11.2.

The two buildings on Centre Street house 254 people. The Mustard Seed provides 55,000 services per year to 3,131 clients. The provincial government pays $126 per service provided, and the Mustard Seed cost is just $8.82 each for the same level of service.

The Mustard Seed has developed community hubs for program delivery, and these make possible the inclusion of children who can now access these programs with their parents, not possible in a primarily men’s shelter.

Dan Pigeon gave a thoughtful thank you to Dr. Rook, who was quite delighted to receive his gold-hatted Boltman.

  • Dan Pigeon, John Rook, and Gerry Meek Dan Pigeon, John Rook, and Gerry Meek

reported by Don Campbell

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