Creating Rural Connections 2017

Creating Rural Connections 2017

Creating Rural Connections

Through Education


Robin Miiller
Through 19 years of experience in her role as Chief Administrative Officer, and a total of 32 years with the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society, Robin has gained deep experience and insight about successful leadership in both non-profit housing & community based work around ending homelessness. Robin is passionate about advocating for the rights and improved quality of life for vulnerable citizens, and challenging the status quo. She is inspired every day by the amazing differently-abled people in her life. She is a member of several housing industry associations, a founding member and current ANPHA Board Director, a Chartered Member with the Chartered Institute of Housing, and Board VP for Inclusion Medicine Hat. Robin has two very special daughters, aged 22 and 27, and has been happily married to her husband Murray for 31 years.

Jaime Rogers
Jaime Rogers is the Manager of the Homeless and Housing Development Department with the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society. Ms. Rogers is charged with leading the oversight, implementation and monitoring of At Home in Medicine Hat – Our Plan to End Homelessness utilizing a housing first and systems planning approach. Jaime holds a Master of Social Work from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Calgary. She is also a certified Charrette Planner.

Peter Silverstone
Peter Silverstone has a wide range of interests that intersect with many of the goals of ARDN. He is a scientist, researcher, and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta, but also has an extensive business background. Currently he is working in the area of developing novel shelter solutions. In the past he has founded and run two international companies based in Edmonton, having grown both to between 40 - 60 employees in Canada, USA, Europe, and Latin America. He has also been Chair of the Board of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at TEC Edmonton.


Jay D. Freeman
An award winning urban planner, Jay has enjoyed a diverse number of positions with the City of Edmonton including heritage preservation, downtown revitalization, housing and neighborhood renewal. The City’s Heritage Policy and the Whyte Avenue Streetscape improvements both won national planning awards. Jay is currently the Executive Director of Housing and Homelessness for the City of Edmonton. From 1997 to 2008 Jay was Director of Housing for the City helping to launch the City’s Cornerstones Affordable Housing Program and Secondary Suite Program, amongst others. He also chaired the community based, Edmonton Joint Planning Committee on Housing and was a founding member of Homeward Trust Edmonton. In 2007 Jay was nominated for a ROOPH (Recognizing Outstanding Organizations, People & Housing) award acknowledging his “visionary, articulate and trustworthy leadership in the housing field”. In 2008 Jay was seconded to support the preparation of Edmonton’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness and in 2009 was appointed as Executive Director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission, which was responsible for stewarding the implementation of the Plan. Jay is also Past Chair of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and a CEASE (Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation) Man of Honour.

Joshua Bénard
Josh joined the ARDN in June 2016 as the Project Manager of the Sustainable Housing Initiative (SHI). His work experience has been diverse: from sales, estimating and project coordinating for a manufacturer of exterior building envelopes, to project managing residential, commercial, institutional and industrial construction projects. Josh received a scholarship to George Brown College in 2006 and was involved on the Program Advisory Board of the technology department. He has also been working with the department of Applied Research and Innovation at Red Deer College on a contract basis to help develop emergency and transitional shelters.

Lynn Olenek
Lynn is currently the Executive Director of Heartland Housing Foundation. Prior to coming to work with Heartland Housing Foundation, Lynn worked with the Government of Alberta’s Department of Health, responsible for the roll out of the Continuing Health Services Standards in conjunction with the Continuing Care Desktop, Case Management education, and several other related projects. She then moved to the position of Director of Intergovernmental Relations for Health and Seniors, which provided the opportunity to engage with other provincial representatives on key health and senior issues. Lynn started her career as a Registered Nurse, and earned a Post Basic Bachelor Degree in Nursing and a Masters Degree in Administration. She has served on several boards in various roles throughout her career. She currently is a Board member of the Alberta Association of Public Housing Administrators, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Alberta Network of Public Housing Agencies. She has worked in senior management positions in Continuing Care, Geriatric Rehabilitation Care and Acute Care. She and her husband live in Sherwood Park where they enjoy the community and all it has to offer. She is a beginning golfer, an avid quilter and cool grandmother.

Dee Ann Bénard
Dee Ann joined the ARDN as executive director in April 2009. After earning her B.Sc. (Biology) and M.Sc. (Plant Pathology) from Simon Fraser University, Dee Ann moved to Edmonton in 1994 to work with Alberta Agriculture. In 1998, she joined private industry to manage the Alberta operation of Integrated Crop Management Services (ICMS), Inc. In 2000, she moved to the Alberta Research Council in Vegreville where she worked first as a plant pathologist, and later in business development. In 2004, she joined the newly formed Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) as executive director, a position she held for over five years. Dee Ann served as a member of the Agriculture and Food Council for several years, where she held roles such as Chair of Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food and Treasurer. She is an active volunteer in her community and in her professional life. Dee Ann is an avid skier and hiker, and much to the chagrin of others, she loves winter and snow.

PANELISTS: How to Start Addressing Homelessness in Your Rural Community
Emily Hickman
Born and raised a small-town Alberta girl, Emily Hickman has been with the Drayton Valley’s Homelessness and Poverty Reduction Team since the project began in 2013. With the exception of a stint in Edmonton to earn her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Alberta, she has lived in rural communities all her life. With a passion for issues of social inequity, probably a little too much tenacity for her own good and the support of Homelessness and Poverty Reduction Team she helped draw awareness to the facts of rural homelessness to the community and its leaders. The Team is currently in its third year of funding and progressing towards its goal of developing a “Community Hostel” transitional housing program with the much appreciated support of the Alberta Rural Development Network.

Angie O’Connor
Angie O’Connor is the Fort Macleod and District Family and Community Support Services Coordinator and Fort Macleod Affordable Housing Committee chairperson. Angie has been on the housing committee since its start in 2008. The Fort Macleod Affordable Housing committee hosted a rural housing conference in 2008 and has been working towards raising local awareness of housing issues in Fort Macleod since through a variety of means.

Diahann Polege-Aulotte
Diahann has been working with Bonnyville & District FCSS since 2009 as a Community Programmer. This position’s duties include coordinating community programming and serving as an advocate for seniors, disabled and others in need. Previous to this, Diahann was the Family & Children Support Program Manager for FOCUS Vermilion, a not for profit agency. Diahann has served as an elected school trustee for Northland School Division No. 61. She also served as co-chair for Fishing Lake/Frog Lake Youth Justice Committee for many years. Diahann holds a Diploma in Rehabilitation Services from Lakeland College and graduated in June 2015 with a Bachelor of Applied Human Services Administration from Grant MacEwan University. In 2013, Diahann was the lead on the ARDN grant of Addressing Rural and Hidden Homelessness in Bonnyville.

PANELISTS: Challenges and Successes for Vulnerable Homeless Populations
Cindy Easton
Cindy Easton has a degree in Human Services Administration. She has worked in the non-profit sector for over 25 years with the last five years as the Executive Director of Mountain Rose Women’s Shelter Association in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. In her current position she works with women and children fleeing domestic violence. She is passionate about working for causes that change systemic barriers and increases human rights for all.

Jason Garagan
Jason Garagan holds a bachelor degree in psychology, a diploma in Child and Youth Care and has been working with children, youth and families for approximately 10 years. His experience includes roles in residential treatment in secure services and crisis residential care for youth and families. Jason has also worked exclusively with parents providing in-home family support. He is accredited in evidence based parenting programs such as the Triple P and Nurturing Parenting Programs and has also studied other parenting models to guide his work. Jason has been in the Youth and Family Support Worker role with the Safe Coach (Youth Homelessness Prevention) Program, in Cochrane, since the program was taken on by the Western Rocky View Family and Community Resource Centre, in April 2016. His role has been to build on prior work to address the needs of ‘couch surfing’ youth in the community, research youth homelessness prevention programs suitable for a rural context, build partnerships with local service providers, create the Safe Coach Program and support youth and families who access it.

Kristie Gomuwka
Kristie Gomuwka is the Program Director at the Edson Friendship Centre. She has worked for 22 years in the non profit sector in Edson and has been a catalyst for many community development initiatives. Coming from a large non profit rural organization she currently oversees early intervention services, preschool services, pre/post natal support program, early literacy, home visitation, youth at risk programming and a housing plus program. Trained as a Social Worker, Kristie has an interest in identifying the needs in a community and then developing supports around the need that includes utilizing existing services and enhancing others. Kristie believes that we all have an opportunity to influence change in our communities as long as you do it together. Kristie is also the Chair of the Rural Coalition for Housing and Homelessness.

Carla Liepert
Carla graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor’s degree in social work. She lived in Calgary for many years while completing school and assisted in conducting a large research study focusing on homelessness in older adults. She currently works with Leduc County Family and Community Support Services, providing services in the communities of Calmar, Thorsby, New Sarepta, and the Graminia/Woodbend area of Parkland County, as well as to all of the rural areas in between. Carla has always had a strong focus on work with seniors, older adults, and adults with disabilities, but more recently in the past couple years also on mental health and homelessness.

PANELISTS: Innovative Options for Creating Affordable Housing in Rural Alberta
Rob Appleyard
As the Executive Director at Brentwood Community Development Group Rob oversees 420 units of affordable seniors housing and 236 units of subsidized family housing. Brentwood funds its own rent geared to income subsidy programs through a mixed market model. As well BCDG works with Terra Center to run the Successful Families Program which provides stable housing and wrap around supports to young families. Rob started his career in IT writing software, he quickly moved into project management leading large software projects for AT&T, Enmax, the U of C, and the Brick among others. In 2011 he moved from technology to construction and housing running a local construction company prior to joining Brentwood.

Louise Gagné
Louise is committed to community and has dedicated her career to organizations that have a positive impact. She joined Habitat for Humanity in July 2016 as the Interim Director of Regional Development to work with the communities and Chapters across southern Alberta. Louise is a non-profit leadership executive with more than 25 years leading individuals, groups, regions and provincial organizations toward strategic outcomes and always toward improved quality of life and living. Louise has an undergrad and graduate degree in Social Work and most recently has become a certified Leadership and Executive Coach. Louise sees the potential of an individual and to promote change in our communities through our ability to work collectively. Her commitment and passion is in seeing possibility! She has worked provincially and regionally with the Canadian Hearing Society, Deaf Access Simcoe Muskoka and in Alberta with Kids Help Phone and the University of Calgary. Louise was born and raised in small towns in Northern Ontario, loves staying active and finds any reason to hike, do yoga, kayak, ski or snowshoe. She enjoys family time with two adult children also living in Alberta.

Rhys Kane
Rhys Kane is Director of Business Development at Ladacor Advanced Modular Systems, an Alberta based organization that offers a smarter and better way to build. Rhys works with Clients in the affordable housing sector to offer high-quality, cost-effective design-build projects.

Dany Skelling
Dany Skelling is the Innovation Fund Consultant in the prairies, helping identify and support projects with innovative ways to reduce construction costs, operational costs, or identifying innovative financing models. Dany has been in the finance industry for 17 years and has been at CMHC for 10 years.

Todd Voshell
Todd is a Senior Architect with over eighteen years of experience whose career began in the United States as a Junior Architect overseeing large public sector projects for the State of Washington, during which time he was awarded a Design Award of Excellence for a project located at Eastern Washington University. After ten years, he returned to Canada (Edmonton – where he grew-up) to work on Currents of Windermere in southwest Edmonton. In 2009, he started his own Architectural practice and for the past eight years, Todd has been involved in numerous cold climate projects from innovative housing to highly technical research and laboratory facilities. He has also been involved in the design of sustainable projects and is passionate about exploring bold and innovative design typologies. In 2013 Todd was approached (Challenged) by a local not-for-profit group asking if he could research new ways for seniors and low-cost housing to be affordable and efficient to construct. During this effort he investigated many different types of building forms, from wood to steel construction, before arriving at modular building and the use of sea-cans. His research and resultant design in this area was awarded the ReEnvision Housing Symposium’s 2016 Design Competition.



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