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HowdYYC: Meet Bryn Gunning

by Calgary Downtown Association


It's ok not to feel ok. Bryn Gunning and her team at the Canadian Mental Health Association work hard to connect Calgarians to essential support services and provide opportunities for people to discuss mental wellbeing options safely. 

No stranger to the Downtown Ambassadors, Bryn is a valued partner on the frontlines for outreach with vulnerable persons who may need assistance as they move towards independence or recovery. 

What does your job entail?

I work with the Street Outreach and Stabilization Team (SOS).  We are a team of two right now and we work with the vulnerable downtown in collaboration with SORCe.  We work with the Housing Team and Mental Health Addictions and do outreach three afternoons a week to try to connect with those not wanting to come into SORCe to connect them to support they need.  It is a super rewarding job and it makes me have gratitude for what I have.  It also makes me realize how resilient so many of my clients are that have experienced so much trauma, abuse, addictions and are still essentially surviving.  I have been with SOS for ten years and find that every day is different and I really love that.  I love the unexpected. 

For those looking to learn more about CMHA's Street Outreach and Stabilization (SOS) program, connect with their team at (403) 297-1700 or email info@cmha.calgary.ab.ca

The SOS program links clients with psychiatric and medical treatment to help with their mental illness, financial resources to help them get back on their feet and housing so they can live in safety and comfort. Once a client is referred, an SOS coordinator discusses their requirements, strengths and preferences to develop an individualized service plan. The service plan identifies areas of need, as well as outlines the services and activities necessary for the client to meet identified goals and improve their journey to recovery. The program offers:

  • Awareness and access to community resources;
  • Transportation training;
  • Linkages to essential community services;
  • Leisure and recreational opportunities;
  • Teaching of daily living skills;
  • Referrals to housing resources;
  • Help finding legal assistance;
  • Aboriginal SOS Services.

If you could say one thing to everyone in Calgary right now, what would you say?

Be kind.  Really, I am such a huge proponent of kindness.  Everybody is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  It doesn’t cost anything to just be kind to people, smile at strangers, if you are in a line-up at Tim’s to buy somebody a coffee; especially during the pandemic, we can all use a little lifting up.
Who is the most influential person in your life?

I have been really lucky to be a part of so many people’s lives who have influenced me in what I do, but I would say the biggest influence was my Nana.  She passed away in 2011.  She was like a boss lady.  She was sassy, she had attitude.  She was super full of life and got everything done.  She was just an interesting lady.

What inspires you?

I’m so easily inspired by so many people, but I am a huge advocate for the teachers who are teaching during the pandemic. My son Cooper is in grade one and has an amazing teacher named Miss Betty, who is absolutely phenomenal.  Miss Betty often goes out of her way to help him and help all the students in his class.  She is so sweet and the kids love her.  She works crazy hours and sends emails at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning just to get everything done.  She inspires me.

What is the happiest you've ever been?

Probably the day my kids were born.  Cooper is six and Tilley is four.  Like every parent, when you see what has been growing in your body and they come out it is so exciting and terrifying.  Both kids were born in Calgary, Cooper at South Health Campus and my daughter was born at Foothills.  We had such a good experience at Foothills.  The nurses were amazing.  You could put your baby in overnight nursery for a little bit so you could sleep, so I probably would go there again if I were having a third, but that would never happen. 

Who is your hero?

I don’t know that I have a hero.  I love rescue animals.  We have three rescue dogs so I love the Calgary Humane Society and Heaven Can Wait and all the smaller organizations that rescue animals.  These agencies are amazing trying to rehome neglected, abused animals.

What is your favourite thing that you can see out of your window? 

I can see Nose Hill out of my kitchen window.  I mean, there are power lines and houses but in the distance is Nose Hill.  I’ll take it. 

Is your glass half full or half empty?

Half full, all the time.  Always the optimist.  You have to be.

Canadian Mental Health Association - Calgary


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