CHRA Congress, Halifax, NS
Canadian Housing And Renewal National Congress
First, I would like to thank Lynda Clement Giffen and David Gibson, from Sandyhill Community Health Centre, for allowing me the opportunity to travel to Halifax for the National Congress. I always feel a bit overwhelmed when things like this happen! It shows me that it never hurts to ask!
To give you the readers a little context, I live in Strathcona Heights, which is an Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhood. I live in subsidized housing, because I live on a Disability Pension. From all outward appearances one would assume that I am fully capable of functioning in the world, and for the most part I do manage to function. This is only do to the tremendous amount of hard work that I have done in my life! I live with concurrent diagnosed disorders, Chronic PTSD, Bipolar and Recovery from Addiction.
Since 2008, I have been preaching the gospel of Tiny Living, as a way to house, in part, those like myself who are experiencing Homelessness, and or have experienced Homelessness. I am not suggesting that this is ‘’The Solution!’’ What I am suggesting is that it is a partial, short to midterm solution that would allow those like myself the chance to regain a sense of community.
While attending the Congress, I met many like minded people! Some who are already involved in doing just this kind of advocacy work. Please follow the link to view the Carcross/Tagish First Nations Tiny Housing Project https://youtu.be/iPJFkrnzFZ0 in the Yukon. Nelson Lepine is the contact person for this and other endeavours such as a Log Cabin Building project which is a skills development initiative for Carcross/Tagish First Nation youth.
What I also learned is that there are many people dedicated to helping those, like myself, who have yet to find their voice. The first day of the Congress, I attended a workshop designed to spark ideas, this one was called Responsive Programs Supporting Outcomes in Mental Health & Addictions. Something that I have been speaking too at every opportunity, is the concept of Peer Support and engagement with all organizations that service those like myself with Lived and Multiple Experiences and the hiring of these individuals to better support the programs. This workshop strongly shows that this type of engagement has a high success rate for outcomes. Examples given were from Mainstay Housing, in Halifax. The Manager of Tenant/Member Services and the Supportive Housing Worker spoke to the successes of community builder through engagement of each person as a member of the community, focusing on leadership building and governance with and by the tenants.
Similarly, the following workshop that I attended, Increasing Housing Stability Through Supportive Services & Tenant Engagement Strategies, spoke to small scale grassroots tenant engagement, through placement and Continuing Care Services. Noted within the context of the Housing First model, the continuing care aspect of this program is essential. In speaking to some at the Congress, the push to Housing First and the initial supports provided are important to getting someone housed. It is also more important to recognize that the funding for Housing First and the subsequent supports dwindle over time. This can be disastrous for those who have been recently housed. Mental illness and addictions do not go away, they are managed on a daily basis, it is a constant balancing act that can have the scale tipped in any direction by various triggers. I know, I struggle with this daily! Most days I manage fairly well, yet I do have days where my old coping mechanisms rear their ugly head, then it’s a fight.
Day Two; The first workshop that I attended was How Research, Business & Municipal Tools Can Create Housing Opportunities in Small/Rural Communities. This workshop was of particular interest to me because I have been collaborating with LiveTiny Canada for two year’s now, the Developer of this National Resource for all things Tiny, Matt Standen and I, have submitted a Proposal for Presentation to the Canadian Rural Revitalization Conference which has been accepted. The two community research projects that this workshop focused on were from Cape Breton Regional Municipality,shared a service based count and rental housing inventory, along with their research tools and multi-sectoral partnership; and the Alberta Rural Development Network shared how they grew from a voluntary university-led initiative into a non-profit working to redefine limitations on building affordable housing through their Sustainable Housing initiative. Cityspaces Consulting Ltd shared their work using scalable methodologies and tools for municipalities to support communities with their affordable housing development needs. All of this was extremely informative and insightful into the challenges being met in Small/Rural Communities.
The afternoon of Day Two a New Film Screening of the documentary Us & Them was available for viewing. I am personally recommending that this film be screened here in Ottawa, for the general public. It took the Filmmaker ten years to produce this Film. In her introduction, Krista Loughton said,’’I wanted to make a difference in these people’s lives, in fact they made a difference in mine!’’ It was very difficult for me to watch, as I have experienced personally much of what if revealed. This film will change what we think we see when we see a person who is homeless!
The work is not done! I left Halifax feeling full of gratitude for those who work and advocate daily in this service sector. Joyful for all the personal connections that I had the opportunity to make. Hopeful for the future, that we are moving in the right direction.