Metis Calgary Family Services

We are currently seeking support from interested community stakeholders as we come together to launch this much needed service in our community.  For more information on the success of this initiative in other centers please contact us at or call our office 403 240-4642 and ask to speak to our CEO of Programs.

We currently have 47 service providers as partner agencies with our community voice mail project.

Check out this link to the CVM in Vancouver

What would YOU—a potential employer or landlord--do if you dialed a number on an application and were greeted with either; “the number you have reached is not in service” or “Hello, Lookout Emergency Shelter…”

CVM Program results in improved social services for BC taxpayers

What would YOU—a potential employer or landlord--do if you dialed a number on an application and were greeted with either; “the number you have reached is not in service” or “Hello, Lookout Emergency Shelter…”

Community Voice Mail (CVM) continues to be a powerful tool in connecting BC’s most impoverished and vulnerable citizens to their goals.  It is a simple and inexpensive tool that “connects the dots” between the social services we believe in and the successful outcomes we expect from them.  Having a stable phone number with your voice as greeting boosts confidence and dignity when it is needed most; when an “at risk” person seeking social services sets goals and works to achieve them.

The program is run by First Funds Society, the charitable wing of Lu’ma Native Housing Society, and uses over $600,000 in donated Cisco Systems technology.  This technology is securely housed at Bell Canada.  Lu’ma is proud to provide banks of live, local Bell phone numbers with personal greeting and voice mail capability to over 100 providers of government, health care, justice, employment, housing and other social services.  Case workers at these Partner Agencies then pass these numbers on to clients who do not have a stable way of being reached, but need this to achieve vital goals such as employment, health care, housing, safely fleeing abuse or simply remaining connected to family and other supports.

There are free phones available at all 100 CVM Partner Agencies where CVM members can check their messages in a timely manner.  These free phones are also available at libraries, community centres, SROs and the lobbies of social service agencies where people in crisis and transition seek resources.  For those who are homeless and impoverished, finding a free phone to call out on and check messages is not a problem—the problem is how does your employer, doctor, court worker, parole officer, sponsor, landlord contact YOU?  It is easy to forget that there are people who do not have even the most basic tool of communication—their own phone number.  Without it “poverty stigma” results in red flags and lost goals and opportunities.

People who work in social services work with their vulnerable clients to create “game plans” for success.  Whether that success comes in the form of employment, housing, health care, safely fleeing abuse or achieving a better quality of life the services provided are only part of the equation:  how can this person ever improve his or her life when they can’t make the connections that count?  What will ever change for a person if he or she doesn’t have the most basic tools to navigate that change?

Due to overwhelming demand from the spectrum of social service providers, Lu’ma again had to increase the bank of local numbers the program uses from 1400 to 1700 in 2013.  This demand  indicates that Community Voice Mail continues to fulfill it’s mandate of increasing successful outcomes from social services while improving their efficiency and effectiveness.

Could you find a job without a phone number?

While there is a wide variety of service providers who use CVM in their toolkits, BC Employment Services use the most with 37% of the 1700 numbers going to these agencies.  The Federal-Provincial WorkBC Centres use 25% of the overall bank, helping unemployed and impoverished BCers  to both find and keep work.  17% of the numbers are used in frontline Health Care and Mental Health services to maintain contact with impoverished clients as they navigate the continuum of care.  Better contact = Better Outcomes!  Please see  for a complete list of CVM Partner Agencies using CVM in their work.

Community Voice Mail has also proven itself as a useful tool in gathering demographic and situational information which helps us better understand who needs CVM and why.  As of November 26, 2013 3,104 people seeking social services to improve their lives have signed-up, set their goals and received a CVM number as a tool in achieving them:  50% are Caucasian, 35% are Aboriginal (representing 230 bands from all across Canada), 60% are homeless (this number drops a little every year as more employment-related agencies use CVM in their work), 20% report a disabling condition, $659 is the average monthly income while 17% have “no financial resources.”  Goal-setting is the first step in receiving a CVM number and clients select all that apply from Employment, Housing, Health Care, Social Services, Contact with Friends/family and, for those fleeing abuse, Safe Communication.  Year after year the most popular goal is Employment at 80% and as a society we ALL benefit whenever this goal is achieved!

Resource Broadcasting – each and every Wednesday the CVM project manager researches and sends out a verbal address to all CVM Members; “The Community Voice Mail Community Update.”  This reliable weekly bulletin informs CVM Members about helpful resources, community/cultural gatherings, volunteer/educational opportunities, health/weather alerts and other useful information for those seeking social services and living in poverty.  The CVM project manager is regularly reminded from case workers how important this weekly bulletin is to their clients.  Those who work with mental health clients especially note that having these bulletins increases societal inclusion for their clients while reducing harmful isolation and encouraging self-planning.

Activity Reports -  Each month all CVM Partner Agencies receive an activity report which allow case workers to see if clients are using their numbers are not.  If yes—great!  Goals have been identified and are on their way to being achieved.  If not, case workers may choose to re-open that original dialogue about goals set—perhaps the client needs encouragement.  If they do not see the client again they may also elect to simply reset the number and give to someone new.  This reduces waste in the system and allows case workers to better assess their clients’ progress towards achieving goals.

Success with CVM – Whenever a CVM Partner Agency case worker resets a number, they then submit a “Client Outcomes Form” to the CVM project manager so that the good news can be reported!  While we know that 1000s of goals have been achieved using CVM, many other successes do not get reported: people seek social services when they are in crisis and receive the tool of CVM to achieve goals, but very often, once the crisis has passed, the clients simply stop using their number or do not report back to their case worker about their successes.  Although Lu’ma is proud of the amazing outcomes the program generates, we also know that the reported outcomes are merely the tip of the iceberg.  Also, many people with disabilities, seniors or working poor use CVM to achieve goals, but continue to use their number for years to stay connected to the world and a healthier way of being.  This simple and low-cost program has yielded an excellent return-on-investment. Since launch in February 2010:

369 homeless have found HOUSING

328 unemployed/on social assistance found EMPLOYMENT

309 in need connected to SOCIAL SERVICES

285 in need connected to HEALTH CARE

230 achieved the goal of CONTACT WITH FAMILY

185 fleeing abuse had SAFE COMMUNICATION

149 with zero resources achieved INCOME RELATED goals, such as social assistance

Lu’ma is proud of the 1,855 goals achieved by CVM Members!


There is a common equation in the BC social services community; “It costs BC taxpayers $55,000/annum for each homeless person and $37,500 for the same person in supported Government Housing.”  Using this equation:

369 CVM exits to Housing X $17,500 = $6.45 million in savings to BC taxpayers!


CVM means success for BC social services.  It means case workers can offer a useful tool for achieving goals where otherwise their clients would be stuck, frustrated, embarrassed and feeling hopeless.  CVM means; “I can do this for myself!”  Best of all, CVM means case workers can reach ALL of their clients and ALL of their clients can reach their goals!


Community Voice Mail is a member organization of the Regional Homelessness Steering Committee and as such has a Federal funding commitment until March 31, 2014.  After this date the Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy is moving to a “Housing First” model with provisions for “supports” programs such as CVM.  Because of the broad success of CVM in reducing homelessness and crisis while also measuring these successful outcomes it is anticipated that CVM will continue to be supported Federally.  With over 100 Partner Agencies’ clients using CVM to achieve goals it would be difficult at this point to justify not supporting this supportive program.

The City of Vancouver is committed to supporting CVM as part of its game plan to “End street homelessness by 2015.”  The City also recognizes the improved efficiency and effectiveness of its social services who use CVM in their work.

Cisco Systems has already provided over $600,000 in in-kind equipment in 2013 alone to update and improve the system housed at Bell Canada.  The improvement has created a more stable system, and allows CVM to expand to other communities in BC and across Canada who would also benefit.  Localized fundraising is underway with plans to expand CVM to Prince George, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa in 2014.   Interim funding to support this expanded program is expected Federally from the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, Cisco Systems and Bell Canada.

There have been many different organizations who supported CVM in the early years to help get it going.  Vancouver Foundation, a private foundation, Coast Capital Savings, F.K. Morrow Foundation and Surrey Housing and Homelessness Foundation all indicated that they were happy to help get things started, but that once CVM was firmly established and creating outcomes they would “let the Government take it from there.”  Because CVM ultimately saves BC taxpayers money by streamlining social services and increasing successful outcomes it is hoped that BC Gaming Grants will see this value for BC taxpayers too.

There are over 100 CVM Partner Agencies who use CVM in their work and most of them are government-related: BC Ministry of Social Development, BC Ministry of Child and Family Services, BC Ministry of Health, BC Ministry of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government and Justice organizations such as Downtown Community Courts, Drug Court, Vancouver Parole Team, Surrey North Community Corrections and Legal Services Society.  These organizations have all expressed extreme gratitude for having CVM to use in their work, but maintain that there are no provisions in their budgets to pay for this program which returns so much back to them.  As a last resort for funding, some larger budget and Government agencies could be individually approached to pay for their share of numbers, although it would be difficult and unfair to decide who pays and who doesn’t/can’t.

I appreciate your time!  Please see the attached “3rdAnnual Report” for more information on how Community Voice Mail is helping our BC social services community to better deliver their mandates and help more and more impoverished and “at risk” BCers to live healthier, happier, more sustainable lives.

The very best to you and your clients,

James Foster, project manager

Community Voice Mail project

Lu’ma Native Housing Society

604-876-0811 ext 232

A great big thanks to Vortex for their support of this excellent community support.

Great thanks to the Calgary Foundation for their support of our Community Voice Mail initiative.  Stay tuned as we report out more of the great success stories CVM makes in our community !!