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.
It’s the first Sunday of the New Year. Usually I would go to Church on Sunday. I didn’t today! That’s okay! I spent part of the day with my nineteen year old daughter and her father at a movie, we saw Arrival. No spoiler’s, suffice it to say that we enjoyed the movie. Did something different today and that was nice!
Expanding on some of the reading that I have been doing over the year’s that I have been in Recovery, I wanted to talk about the chicken or the egg. I accept that I am an Addict, I accept that I am in Recovery. I wanted to know what, if anything, contributed to my making the decisions that I made over those many year’s. I have heard other’s share that they had optimal childhoods, ( normal is a setting on my dryer), and still became addicts.
The field of Neuroscience has researched what is called Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE. Based on ten questions I answered on a website of ACE information, I saw my earliest experiences condensed into understandable, likely outcomes that are predictors of the trajectory of my life.
For perspective, I am including the questionnaire, of which I scored nine of ten, the only one that did not apply to me was that neither of my parents were incarcerated. If you are interested in knowing more about ACE, I am including the link to several sites. Including some charts of ACE and behavioural outcomes.
Evidence of these outcomes is compelling , it spoke to me on many levels. Specifically what it helped me to understand and accept further is that, considering the circumstances of my childhood, it is a testament of the human spirit that I am still here. I used to ask what is wrong with me, now I understand that it is what is right with me. My brain did exactly what it was supposed to do, to keep me alive despite the abundance of hardship.
Recovery is my life and life is my Recovery.
“The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.”
Prior to your 18th birthday:
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
- Did a household member go to prison?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score
The day is done! I have another day clean. This is a successful day, more because I didn’t act out either. In Recovery I understand that any day clean is a successful day. There are day’s that this is everything, There are day’s that this is enough. Then there are day’s that I want more. Want, not need.
Learning the difference between want’s and need’s has been an important step in my Recovery. My need’s are basic. I need food, shelter, clothing and a bed to sleep on. If my basic need’s are being met then anything beyond this is a want. Having gratitude for these basic things has taught me a great deal, particularly having been in the position of not having these.
Beyond my basic need’s, I have a set of values, which I didn’t understand or know about when I first started my journey. My values are based on what I consider important! It is the foundation of how I make my choices and decisions.
Recovery tells me that I need to connect with a Higher Power. Some recovery literature uses the word God. That word used to make me angry, I would cringe with memories of my childhood imposed religiosity. Where was God when I needed him the most? The process of finding a God of my understanding has been a convoluted discovery. What I knew without a doubt was that the spiritual person that I am required nurturing. I felt that all the drugs, year’s of using and abusing myself had been a futile attempt to satisfy my spirit from a material world with never any satisfaction.
Early Recovery my Higher Power was the meetings, and the people in the meetings who certainly had more clean time than I did. On the day’s that I felt restless or bored with the meeting’s, I would here someone speaking from their own personal experience what I was feeling. There is some kind of synchronicity that happens.
Today, at the meeting, I heard many share about their relapses, feeling like they wanted to relapse, or how close they were to relapsing. Relapsing scares me, to death! I am at an age that, I might have another relapse, I don’t think that I would ever make it back to Recovery. In the continuum of my Recovery, over thirteen year’s, I have had my share of relapse’s. Had three year’s relapsed, had two year’s relapsed, had one year, relapsed. The last relapse kept me out for three year’s.
Today, I am clean! I will go to bed clean, and wake up clean! Today, no matter what, I have had a successful day! Today, I have a faith and a purpose. As a recovering addict I can carry the message of Recovery. And that’s enough!
(The photographs that I use are my own, taken around my home town. All with my Samsung S6.)
Just for today: I can look anyone in the eye without shame. I am grateful for the loving support that has made this possible.
Living one day at a time as an addict in Recovery, I never imagined a life without using. Today, because I live my Recovery one day at a time I remember every day what it was like and I know that I don’t want to live that life anymore.
Identifying as an addict can be scary sometimes. I identify readily in the world outside of the rooms, not for kudos or congratulations, because just maybe someone is living with the pain and shame that I was, not realizing that there is a way out. Many connection’s and conversation’s have been started in this way. I can carry a message of hope. Change is scary, yet it is possible and I am living proof of this.
Life has changed for me over the time that I have been in Recovery. Not all at once, gradually as I made different choices. The first and most important choice that I made was that I didn’t want to live like that anymore! Something deep inside of me knew that there was another way to live. I just didn’t know how! Yes, I was hurting. I had all the reason’s in the world to be hurting. Those reason’s ultimately became excuses. To use another’s description, I had a blame thrower. It was because of this, this, that and them, you and yours, that I used. You did this to me!
Going into Recovery was the first time that I finally took responsibility for my life, or so it felt. I had a choice! The choice to live or die! The way I was trying to kill myself wasn’t working very well, there was some spark in me that wanted to live. So, how did I want to live? I wanted to live well! This was where my Recovery began, knowing in the deepest part of my being that there was another way to do this thing called life. Seeing others who seemed to be enjoying their lives without the use of drugs, and wanting that badly enough to try!
It’s a New Year, more importantly, it’s a New Day! I am making a commitment to myself to blog more regularly. Using this as a form of journal-ling. Almost six year’s ago now, to be precise, February 7, 2010 I made the decision to change my life. Some habits are hard to break, and some habits were breaking me.
Physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually I was dying. It was my addiction that brought me to the point of loosing everything. My home, my health, my marriage, my family! The pain that I felt was real, yet I had inflicted so much more pain on myself. Six year’s ago, I knew that I had a choice. I could choose to live, or I could choose to die! Some spark of life in me felt that there was another way to do this thing called life, I just didn’t know how.
The first step, they say is always the hardest. I went into a Withdrawal Management Program and that is where my journey of Recovery and discovery began. I am learning so much about myself. Learning to take care of myself, learning what I like and don’t like, learning about boundaries, relationships, what I value, how to be in the world. Most importantly, I like who I am now! I can enjoy my own company! I don’t get bored or restless anymore, because I can sit with myself. I have discovered that the hole that I was trying to fill with all the external things was my spirit crying for nurturing.
Walking with my two little dogs daily along the river, I have been taking photographs with my phone of the seasonal changes. Continually enthralled by the beauty that I am blessed to see with my eye’s! My senses are filled with the feel of the cool, crisp air, in winter it truly does feel like a renewing of the earth, and I too am being renewed.
The Tiny Housing Project Proposal has been around for six years now. The first time that it saw the light of day was in 2009. Jim Watson, who is the Mayor of Ottawa, was, at the time, the Provincial Minister of Housing. That Ministry at the time, gave a call out to all interested parties and the public to submit proposals, ideas and comments for consideration for their Ten Year Provincial Housing Strategy Plan. I was politely thanked by letter for submitting the project proposal, there was no commitment to nor momentum established for this type of project!
The Municipal Government of Ottawa has established a mandate to address homelessness under the umbrella of the Housing First Model. Unfortunately, the Municipal Budget does not allow for the considerable investment that would be required to address this cities significant lack of Affordable Housing. Last year, One Hundred and Forty Affordable Housing Units were built in Ottawa, the Social Housing Registry has a 7-10 year wait list with 7,800 people on that list. This does not include those who are in Shelters, at risk of losing their housing because they can’t really afford to pay their rent and the hidden homeless, those couch surfing, or staying with family.
Myself, I have been living in subsidized housing for almost seven years now. Two and half years in Inuit Housing with my former partner, now on my own with my daughter in Community Housing for four and a half years. I could never afford market rent, because my Disability Pension puts me well below what was once considered the Low Income Cutoff, (LICO), of $30,000.
The conundrum that we, we being the collective society, as far as supporting Affordable Housing is concerned, when we talk about Affordable Housing who is it affordable for? Most, like myself who are living on Pensions, disability or otherwise, will always require subsidies in order to keep us housed. Building the buildings is only part of the cost! It is the maintenance and the subsidies needed to keep us housed over the duration of a lifetime at times where the greater costs are incurred. This, I suspect is part of the reason that all levels of government are reticent to put forth the monies. The fact that funding models do not allow for any long term planning contributes to the lack of Affordable Housing. We need a National Housing and Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The seed of the idea for the Tiny Housing Community Project was planted a long time ago! In 1996 I read a book that has kept me inspired and motivated for many year’s. The book is called,”Instructions to The Cook, A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life That Matters, by Bernie Glassman.” I am including the link in case you are interested, or curious enough to discover for yourself what wisdom is contained there! Described as both a manual for spiritual transformation and a call to action.
This review of the book and the work that Bernie Glassman and his colleagues have done in Yonkers, New York has been taken from the link that I provided. This best describes what was done and continues to be done on a monumental scale by what is now known as Greyston Foundation. Please follow the link to see what being inspired can do, the Social Good bottom line! http://greyston.com/
“Zen is not just about what we do in the meditation hall, but what we do in the home, the workplace, and the community. That’s the premise of this book: how to cook what Zen Buddhists call “the supreme meal”—life. It has to be nourishing, and it has to be shared. And we can use only the ingredients at hand. Inspired by the thirteenth-century manual of the same name by Dogen, the founder of the Japanese Soto Zen tradition, this book teaches us how we can “enlarge the family we’re feeding” if we just use some imagination.
Bernie Glassman founded Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, in 1982 to employ those whom other companies deem unemployable—the homeless, ex-cons, recovering addicts, low-skill individuals—with the belief that investing in people, and not just products, does pay. He was right. Greyston has evolved into an $8 million-a-year business with clients all over New York City. It is the sole supplier of brownies to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and has even sold cakes to the White House.
But financial profit is only one of two bottom lines that Greyston is committed to. The other one is social impact, and this goal is certainly being met. The bakery enterprise has led to the creation of the Greyston Foundation, an integrated network of organizations that provide affordable housing, child care, counseling services, and health care to families in the community. Using entrepreneurship to solve the problems of the inner city, Greyston has become a national model for comprehensive community development. Its giving back is more than just sloughing off a percentage of its profits and donating it to charity; it’s about working with the community’s needs right from the beginning—bringing them from the margins to the core. As its company motto goes, “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.”
This book is as much a self-manual as a business manual, addressing such concepts as
- Beginner’s mind
- The Middle Way of Sustainability
- The “hungry ghosts” of Buddhism as a picture of all humanity
- Working with our faults
- Indra’s Net and the interconnectedness of life
- Leaving no trace”
Sharing the story of Greyston and Bernie Glassman it is my hope that you are inspired as I was, and still am, to do what I can, with what I have, where I am!
Further to the Tiny Housing Community Project and why I firmly believe that it’s time has come! When money is only put into the buildings there often is not much put into the building of community. I am going to show you some examples of how community is being rebuilt by some of the most vulnerable in our society, members of homeless communities across North America.
In my proposal there is a quick reference to Dignity Village located in Portland, Oregon. Dignity Village was initially a Tent City that came about through the Occupy Movement. When the Occupy camps were dismantled, the drive to establish something permanent was born. Dignity Village established a baseline for this type of community, as you can see for yourself in the links to key website information that is being provided.
Dignity Village is a membership-based community in NE Portland, providing shelter off the streets for 60 people a night since 2001. It’s democratically self-governed with a mission to provide transitional housing that fosters community and self-empowerment– a radical experiment to end homelessness. http://dignityvillage.org/
We seek to create a green, sustainable urban Village for those who are seeking shelter but are unable to find it. We feel it’s necessary to establish a community-based living facility where people living on the streets can have their basic needs met in a stable, sanitary environment free from violence, theft, disruption of peace, and drugs and alcohol.http://dignityvillage.org/about-2/mission-values/
Dignity Village started as both a camping protest by a group of committed homeless activists, and a viable alternative to sleeping on the streets and in doorways. It emerged as a transient tent city in December of 2000 on a parcel of vacant city land underneath a downtown bridge. Over the course of a year, the tent city was swept around Portland, occupying various public spaces, and repeatedly finding themselves in high-profile standoffs with officials. Whenever notice was given to leave a campsite, early residents of “Camp Dignity” packed their belongings into shopping carts and pushed them in parades to their next location.
For a time, a space under the Fremont Bridge was known as Camp Dignity. In December 2001, Dignity Village registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit status with the IRS. When the ruling came down that they needed to vacate from that location, the considerable force of the organizers split into three groups. One moved out to a forty-acre farm outside Portland, and called it Rancho Dignity. A second group occupied a field off Naito Parkway, known as the Field Of Dreams. That camp was swept, and several members were arrested for camping on public lands. The third group moved to an industrial area in NE Portland, Sunderland Yard, where the Village still sits.
Moving to the Sunderland Yard site was indeed controversial. Some early members of Dignity Village felt it was too far outside the city, doomed to failure because residents wouldn’t be able to access necessary services.
This move was meant to be temporary until a permanent site could be identified. Instead, it has been the home of Dignity Village since its controversial beginnings. After three years surviving in its temporary status, it was sanctioned as an official tiny house Village in 2004 by the Portland City Council. To do this, the City Council designated a portion of Sunderland Yard as a Designated Campground under the terms of ORS 446.265. This State statute allows 6 municipalities to designate up to two sites as campgrounds to be used for “transitional housing accommodations” for “persons who lack permanent shelter and cannot be placed in other low income housing.” The statute notes that these transitional campgrounds may be operated by private persons or nonprofit organizations.
Dignity Village supplements its operating budget with a variety of entrepreneurial projects. Over the years, the Village has raised money through plant sales, tie-dyed t-shirt sales, and flea markets. For a number of years, members of Dignity Village ran a hot dog stand in downtown Portland, called “Dignity Dogs,” through a partnership with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon.
These fire starting buddies are available for sale, as well as seasoned hardwood.
Currently, our most successful microenterprise programs are scrap metal recycling and firewood sales. Seasoned firewood can be purchased at Dignity Village seven days a week. Call Ed K. at the Guardshack for more information. http://dignityvillage.org/about-2/microbusiness/
In Eugene, Oregon a similar village has taken shape. Originally called Opportunity Village, it has recently changed it’s name to Square One Village. There are now two such villages in Eugene, Oregon. One of the key factors that has helped to bring cohesiveness to the villages is that they are models of self governance. The community members decided from the outset to have a vetting process in place, including an agreement that all member’s sign and must abide by. The agreement includes a prohibition of violence, no stealing, no drugs or alcohol use on the site. Tolerance and participation are encouraged! Please follow the link to see what has been, and is continuing to be accomplished by these formerly unhoused people. http://www.squareonevillages.org/
Quixote Village, another Tiny Housing Community located in Olympia, Washington describes itself as the vision that grew from a self-governing tent camp of homeless adults. The village itself was built as a formal development, it received government funding and was built by a contractor. In contrast Dignity Village and the original Opportunity Villages were built by the people living in the communities. http://quixotevillage.com/
Moving forward with this Tiny Housing Community Project proposal, there has been interest from individuals, none from the bureaucrats or politicians in my area. Participating in a local community initiative called Civics Boot Camp in 2014, sponsored by Citizens Academy I was able to get the Tiny Housing Community Project highlighted as one of several projects that we worked on in a group presentation format to a panel of experts, familiar with the inner workings of municipal government. The project received good reviews and there were suggestions made as to how to move the project to the next level. For information about the Citizens Academy and Civic Boot Camp please follow the link. http://www.citizensacademy.ca/about-us/people/
I continue to plant the seed of The Tiny Housing Community Project where I can. Presently I am working with the Community Development Office at Sandy Hill Community Health Centre to reach a wider audience. Stay tuned!