University of Calgary

Upstanding Alumni

Submitted by alumni on Sat, 05/31/2014 - 13:35.

Upstanding Alumni

Meet Lawrence Braul, CEO of the Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta, who's hammered his way to the helm of a local housing program.
By Roy Clancy | Photo by Riley Brandt

He’d Like to Build the World a Home

Shrinking vacancy rates, rising rents and an influx of newcomers add up to “situation critical” for affordable housing in Calgary.

Sadly, those most at risk are low-income seniors with mental illness or addictions, says Lawrence Braul, MSW’94, CEO of the Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta.

The solution, says Braul, is straightforward.

“We need to find a way to stop stigmatizing people who have these issues and recognize all that is really required is some specialized housing and supports.”

At the helm of Calgary’s largest provider of independent living options for seniors, Braul has seen “many, many successes with people with severe addictions and self-harming behaviour and we’ve been able to moderate that behaviour and provide them with a sense of community, hope and the opportunity to turn their lives around,” he says.

Taking Care

When the Alex Seniors Clinic was forced to move 10 years ago, Trinity made space in one of its buildings. Residents could walk down to the clinic in their slippers and this improved access to medical treatment and helped keep them out of emergency.

L-R: Lawrence Braul, Calgary MLA Jonathan Denis, the late Jean Dreger (seniors housing advocate) and Calgary MP Diane Ablonczy.

These and other efforts also earned Braul the prestigious 2013 McKillop Award for “visionary leadership.” He admits he isn’t your typical social worker.

Instead of charting the clinical side of his field during his master’s studies, he opted for the management stream, allowing him to take courses at the Haskayne School of Business.

“I felt fortunate to combine those two elements — the social work side and the business side — right at the outset. It was quite new at the time.”

Getting Work Done

He put himself through his undergrad studies by working as a framer. His father was a developer and realtor. “Real estate and development and construction have been a part of my life since I was 12,” he says.

“Now I’m doing it on the social side, it’s a way for me to express my own values and beliefs around the need to take care of everyone in our society. As a social worker, it’s unusual to have that kind of background, but for me it’s a perfect fit.”

Living supports are key, but first you have to build housing — “lots of it.”

He says university helped him develop the skills to make a compelling case to raise funds for new, innovative projects, an ongoing task critical to the quest of tackling homelessness.

Collaboration Works

In February, Trinity was presented the 2013 Innovation Award from the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations for a program housing low-income Bow Valley College students at one of Trinity’s buildings in exchange for volunteering with its senior residents.

After the flood hit in June, the students helped evacuate the building and eased seniors’ adjustment to emergency living quarters.

Trinity is also one of nine agencies that have joined forces in the aptly named RESOLVE campaign to raise $120-million for new housing projects to end homelessness.

“By collaborating, we’re sending a strong message to Calgary to say we’re working together on a big problem and it’s going to take some big money to develop a solution,” he says.

“We’re not talking fluff here, we’re talking about projects that really work — ones that make a difference and have a bottom line.”

It’s the kind of initiative Braul encourages a new generation of graduates to embrace.

“Social work as a group of professions functions primarily within institutional settings,” he says. “Whether it’s a hospital or the government or large non-profits… that means it tends to focus less on bold and creative enterprises.”

“Be bold,” he advises. “Take chances, take some risks. Collaborate with people you don’t realize are your allies.”