Tackling Addiction and Homelessness in Edmonton Image

Tackling Addiction and Homelessness in Edmonton

General

Landon Hildebrand graduated in 2014 from Providence Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology. And since that time, he’s become a Registered Psychologist, opened his own private practice and works for a Christian organization called Mustard Seed.

His areas of expertise include mental health and addictions within the greater Edmonton community. He chairs the Psychological Association of Alberta’s (PAA) Social Justice Committee, having worked on the front lines with Mustard Seed to help reduce poverty, end homelessness and battle the opioid problem which received backing and funding from the Alberta government in 2018.

God’s call to ministry came when Hildebrand was young. He preached his first Sunday sermon at the age of 15. “I felt a call to share what God was revealing to me and the leadership of my church equipped and supported me to do so. While I loved to preach, I didn’t feel called to a pastoral role in a church. I felt God was leading me to something else.”

Hildebrand took his first counseling class at Columbia Bible College. That’s when he realized integrating theology and psychology made sense. It fit his skills and personality well. “This was later again affirmed in my education at Providence where I felt I hit my stride.”

Hildebrand first heard about Providence from a friend who had completed the Counselling program. He attended an information session at Providence’s extension site in Calgary and became interested in the program. He liked its engagement with both neuroscience and Christianity.

In addition to his private practice called Approach Psychological, Hildebrand has a full-time role at Mustard Seed as the Director of Housing and Clinical Operations. “I love the work I get to do currently in both of the communities I serve –  at The Mustard Seed and in my practice. My roles are very diverse as are the clients I treat,” confides Hildebrand.

He oversees all housing operations including sustainable housing for those who spend (sometimes) more than 40 years on the street. For many, the Mustard Seed is their first home in decades. It operates on a housing first, harm reduction paradigm, working with individuals who are in the middle of substance use disorders.

Hildebrand also oversees all medical and health related services including counseling interns, operating a mobile health van and developing wellness advocates. Currently, he is working on an integrated, multidisciplinary health clinic project. He has also been part of an initiative to address the “Opioid Crisis” in Alberta, working with non-Christian agencies as well as churches.

“I use my MA degree from Providence in my private practice, but also in my Mustard Seed role. It informs how I lead as a director, how I integrate theology and psychology in the work I do, and how I approach the sector as a whole,” explains Hildebrand.

He often finds himself switching gears to give both psychological and theological insight on how to address the issues of homelessness and addiction. “I can speak with churches and give practical insight into how and why we can intervene and do something to help our communities. I do not think any other school could have equipped me to do that. It’s the reason I’ve encouraged several others to start their Masters at Providence.”

Hildebrand has a passion for his work and shares, “One idea that sticks with me when things get challenging is that Jesus is in the middle of our messes. He is always with us. My task is to help people experience healing and wholeness as they become who they were created to be.”

Since the onset of COVID-19, Hildebrand has been doing virtual counselling at his private practice, speaking with clients remotely. He says his clients appreciate the process. It helps them cope in the midst of isolation and the uncertainty of these times.

The COVID-19 pandemic also caused a shift in workload at the Mustard Seed. They had to prioritize what was most important and worked to provide basic services to those in need. Even though Mustard Seed operates a number of shelters and housing across Alberta, there was still a need to find more accommodations to help get the homeless and vulnerable off the streets. So, they commandeered a space to set up essentials and bedding for an additional 180 people.

Hildebrand says, “Having a psychological point of view when discussing how and what we respond to has been important.” He says they are constantly asking questions like: How do we encourage people to feel safe during this time? And how do we support staff who may be risking their lives to serve?

“I get to do that! I’ve been equipped to do that, and I was created to be part of that.”