I facilitate community dialogues on homelessness and supportive housing. These are often emotionally charged meetings as a good percentage of neighbours assume that most homeless are drug addicted people they see pushing shopping carts. This is such a small percentage of the actual homeless. The individuals with lived experience I meet are emerging from difficult journeys that have led them to places of shame and pain. These individuals are insightful, direct, and have retained a great sense of humour. Over the past year one particular session stands out. The neighbours were opposed to a supportive housing development in their neighbourhood and within a couple of miles BC Housing was also looking at land to locate a shelter that had been in a church basement. The first few meetings were emotionally charged with most opposing and denying that these people could be from their community. Until at one meeting a petite woman with grey hair stood up. People in the audience called out and said hello. She said, “most of you know me. I am miss —— and have been the kindergarten teacher for 25 years in the community. What most of you don’t know is that in January (it was June) my landlord evicted me as he wanted his son to use the apartment. I have been homeless and living in my van down by the beach while I look after your children.” Well you could have heard a pin drop in this cultural centre with 300 people in it. A few people sobbed and said “oh no”. Anyway to make a long story short …some people said we can’t let this happen. Several more meetings and the community had identified a place for the shelter (a closed backpackers hotel that BC Housing could lease) and unanimously approved the other supportive housing development and started fundraising for clothing, food etc to support homeless in their community.
The second story I will share was told to me at the IAP2 Canada conference in Victoria. The IAP2 conference committee sponsored two lovely ladies from Kenya to attend the conference through an IAP2 Canada program . They presented about their work in Kenya which they do off the side of their desks at the University with a couple of thousand dollars in funding. If you look at this project, it is amazing. They have engaged the community to repair a de-forested hill and create economic return for families by planting trees. The community has been able to address issues related to climate change and man made impacts. They have made a difference in peoples lives with so little money.
This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday. They are posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them. I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.