Tag Archives: RESOLVE Campaign

When one man stands tall, we all rise up: ending homelessness.

It will be home to 30 individuals with long-term lived experience of homelessness.

Housing. Supports. Community. Possibility.

These things will be there too.

Yesterday, we celebrated the official opening of Stepping Stone Manor, a 30 unit permanent housing apartment building with supports for individuals exiting chronic homelessness in our city. Dignitaries, builders from the RESOLVE Campaign who are supporting the building of an additional 7 – 10 more such buildings in our city, agency partners, neighbours, all came out to be part of the celebration.

Those who spoke had great words to say. About how we need more affordable housing. How ending homelessness begins with housing first. How people experience homelessness because of societal issues, not because they choose it. How addictions, divorce, mental health issues, all these things contribute to someone becoming homeless — but only when we do not have the necessary richness in our social welfare system to provide access to the supports they need to live their lives with dignity. When we do not have enough richness in our communities to build or safeguard someone’s resilience so they can weather life’s ups and downs.

It was inspiring. Exciting. Affirming to hear the speakers. To see so many people come out to be part of the event.

And then, Michael spoke. And what was a ‘hey let’s celebrate what we’re doing to make a difference’ became, ‘let’s remember that we don’t do this ‘for’ people so we feel good, we are doing it with them so that in the possibilities created, we have a better chance of becoming a better society where everyone knows that they belong, where everyone is treated with dignity, respect, kindness, care.

Michael spent 20 years living on the streets.

He slept in the woods. Used and abused drugs and alcohol.

He felt the shame of being imprisoned for things he’d done. The way he had become, the way he so often felt and was treated as ‘less than human’.

Fifteen months ago, Michael was released from prison and the Calgary John Howard Society (CJHS) started supporting him in his transition away from the streets, away from reacting to his life through crime, to finding the path he is so firmly committed to walking. The path of a brave, honourable and caring man.

“Housing is everything,” he told the crowd of 60 or so guests. “It gave me a place to begin again.”

He talked about the support CJHS has given him through housing. How it helped him make the decision to enter rehab. To get clean and sober. To walk a different path than through substance abuse and crime.

And it helped him see clearly the difference he can make when walking this path.

“I could look at the last 20 years as wasted or I can look forward to the next 20 years as an opportunity to do better,” he said.

His decision is to see the future through eyes of possibility, hope, growth, strength.

Last week, in a conversation with Michael about speaking at the event, he told me he still struggles to release his shame.

“You don’t deserve to carry shame,” I told him. “You deserve to carry pride, courage, strength.”

Yesterday, I watched a man step out from behind his past to claim his right to stand tall, to stand proud, to stand for what he believes in.

The chance to ‘do right’ for himself, his community, his people. The right to let go of the past. The right to build a new life on the path of his choosing. The right to see himself through eyes of compassion, love and hope. The right to be the true human being he is, not the one he was labelled before he awoke to his capacity to make a difference by being the difference he wants to create for all his relations.

Yesterday, I witnessed a man stand tall. He shone bright and in his light he illuminated the path for all to see; Ending homelessness doesn’t happen because one man decides to get off the streets. It happens because we as a society collectively take action to create paths away from homelessness for everyone. Where we all recognize that one man is every man, woman and child who has not had the opportunity to find their way home, not because they didn’t want to, but because there was no path.

Yesterday, a brilliant human being courageously stood tall and spoke up. The path is clear. We must all work together to end homelessness. It is the right thing to do.

Namaste.

 

Hope: the ultimate un-guide.  Beyond hope lives possibility!

Hope banner copy

We spoke of hope yesterday. Of hope and possibility and new paths and new directions.

We celebrated what was and opened doors to bright new futures.

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

The kick-off for Aurora on the Park and Providence House, two new affordable housing projects for formerly homeless Calgarians went without a hitch.

The dignitaries arrived, the guests crowded around the stage and the media stood by and listened and learned and felt drawn into the possibilities and hope of the future for all 49 people who will call one of the two buildings home sometime in the future.

And through it all, the sun shone, the birds sang and people felt optimistic and engaged in what we can do and are doing as a collective to end homelessness.

Alan Norris, President and CEO of Brookfield Residential and Chairman of the board of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and the RESOLVE Campaign summed it up well when he said that the 11 homebuilders who were there representing RESOLVE are competitive in their day jobs but very committed and collective in their desire to work together to make a difference in our city.

And as I stood and watched the crowd and listened to the speeches and took care of any details that needed addressing, I too felt the hope and optimism, the sense of possibility that filled the air around us.

Getting to this moment, where all the pieces came together to create such an exciting and successful event takes a lot of hard work and a lot of people.

I am blessed. I have an amazing team around me. Darcy and Aaron who so generously give of their time and talents. Wendy and Paul who also are gracious and giving. It is because of them and their efforts the day went off without a hitch.

Sure, as with every major event where you are working with many parties to create the desired outcome, there are those moments when all you want to do is throw up your hands and look at someone and say, “Really? You think that’s important or necessary right now?”

Those moments make me smile. They remind me of my human condition. That thing that connects all of us, that thing that keeps us all humble and striving to find new pathways to working together, to getting the job done, to doing it collectively.

Yesterday, as I watched and listened, I felt proud.

Proud that we as a city have a shared vision of ending homelessness.

Proud of our Mayor as he spoke of excellence and vision and commitment and what it means to work collectively to create a great city for everyone.

Proud of the other dignitaries who spoke and shared their support and kudos for all we are doing to make a difference in the world.

Proud of the media for turning up and documenting the events.

Proud of the communities of Hillhurst Sunnyside and Crescent Heights who were open to the possibilities these two projects respresent and welcomed them into their communities with such grace.

Proud of the artists of This is My City who created such a masterpiece as the yarnbombed house which we all stood in front of yesterday to celebrate the beginning of the new developments.

Proud of all my co-workers for turning up and being part of the event, for bringing their best to support what we are working to achieve together.

Proud of the RESOLVE team for caring so much about how the day went, how their donors were treated.

Proud of my team and the fund development team at CHF for giving their hearts to creating a day that truly did touch hearts, open minds and set possibilities for a better future, for all of us, free.

Proud of a stranger named Pedro who lives down the street who came back with his camera because he’s a documentary film maker and he wanted to record the events for us as a gift.

And proud of everyone who came and stood in the hot blazing sun and took a stand for building homes for those who have lost their way.

I felt hopeful yesterday as I listened and watched.

I felt honoured, inspired and humbled.

What a great day!

 

 

 

 

Ending homelessness. If this can happen, what else is possible?

Next Tuesday, June 9th, from 3 – 7pm, the Calgary Homeless Foundation will be inviting the public to join in the kick-off of construction of two new housing projects , Aurora on the Park and Providence House. These 24 and 25 unit apartment buildings will become home for formerly homeless Calgarians. Part of the RESOLVE Campaign, they mark another step, many steps, forward in our collective vision of ending homelessness in Calgary.

There is a lot of hope around these two buildings. A lot of belief in the future, the possibility of lives changing, homelessness ending.

For the kick-off event, we have contracted This is My City Art Society to yarnbomb the entire house. For two weeks, artists and volunteers wrapped afghan blankets and skeins of wool around the building and its fixtures creating an art piece that not only draws attention from every passerby, and is also encouraging people to come from other parts of the city to take a look at, it also signifies what can happen when a hope becomes a dream, becomes a possibility, becomes reality.

The finished art piece is incredible. The house is all wrapped up in beauty, whimsy and a sense of warmth and hominess, ‘just like grandma’s’, as one reporter said in his TV piece on the house.

More than grandma’s, this house, and the building that will eventually be home to 24 people who will live there and be supported through each step away from homelessness, represents hope. Hope for a better quality of life. Hope for a better future. Hope for change that makes a real difference.

This project is all about hope.

Ask someone with longterm lived experience of homelessness what kept them mired in that place of no fixed address and they will often reply, “I had no hope anything could be different.”

It is a common refrain.

“I gave up on hope while I was homeless.”

Homelessness, by its very nature, is filled with loss.  Your belongings. Home. Family connections. Friends. Job. Life as you knew it is lost.

And then there’s the other losses which are harder to measure, more difficult to see, even though they are felt deeply by those experiencing them.

The loss of hope. The loss of believing you can create different in your life. The loss of knowing where you belong. The loss of feeling accepted, worthy, part of the greater world out there just for who you are. In homelessness, you lose your ‘things’. You also lose your sense of self.

While at the house on its final day of yarnbombing, I was speaking with one of the artists with lived experience of homelessness. He told me about finally getting a place of his own, a year ago this week. “I hadn’t realized until I sat back in my own living room and started counting the time I was homeless how long it had been,” he said. “Seven years.”

What kept you there (at a shelter) so long? I asked.

“I lost all hope,” he replied.

Each day became like the last. Every day predictable, even in all its uncertainty. If it was Sunday, the dinner was this because volunteer group A came in on Sundays and prepared the meal. Monday, it was group B. He could go to work at some temp job, get paid a fee and know, hoping for anything different was futile. He had no hope. How could things be different?

There was no sense to hope for anything different, he told me. It was always the same old, same old.

And that included the feelings of losing your sense of self, of your own worth, competency, ability to create change. Like hope, it evaporated with every passing day until without even counting down the days, the light was gone and all hope of ever finding your way out of the darkness vanished.

How did you eventually get out? I asked.

It was through art. Through connecting with This is My City Art Society and getting involved in their initiatives, he began to see another path, another way.

With every streak of paint from a paint brush, with every bit of creation and connection made with the world beyond the shelter, hope came alive.

On Tuesday, June 9th, we will kick-off the construction of 49 units of housing for formerly homeless Calgarians. There are two buildings in different communities, both of which have embraced the idea that ending homelessness begins in their backyards.

In 2008 when Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness was launched, there was only a hope that this could happen.

Today, it’s a reality.

We cannot give up on hope.

If this can happen, what else is possible?

Hope banner copy

This is still part of my Ultimate Un-guide series. Ending homelessness is all about holding onto the hope that it is possible, and then, taking action to create the possibility.