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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Homeless Awareness Week

Homeless awareness week was from October 11th thru the 18th but in typical Nanaimo fashion the Working Group on Homelessness actually extended the period to a Homeless Month, September 18th – October 18th. As part of the working group and on the HAW committee (Brett Hayward, John Horn, Sharon Welch, France Tellier and Moi) it was definitely an experience getting everything together.

First off we had the homeless census on September 18th. Sharon Welch (running for school trustee) did a great job of coordinating this and there was an overabundance of volunteers willing to trek through the downtown area looking for people. The numbers were down compared to other censuses but these things are iffy at best and, when one looks at homelessness overall, seldom accurate unless done over a period of days. The final report should be out soon and I will post it or a link to it when it is.

Next was the Homeless Fair on the 20th of September. Talk about fun. It was my idea that we do something like this and it almost fell through due to a lack of commitment from service and non-service providers. On the day of the event I showed up at 7:00am, to make sure we had access to Maffeo Sutton Park, and was warmly greeted by 8 of our resident homeless who had told me the previous Tuesday that they would be there to help out. Most had spent the night under the gazebo in the park so I shot them a few bucks for coffee and headed off to gather some stuff for the fair. Brett showed up at around 8 and was somewhat shocked to see them and have all the tables and chairs he had arrived with unloaded in a matter of minutes. For the next 10 hours the homeless took part in availing themselves of some of the services that had set up as well as free hotdogs, clothing and hair cuts. Two volunteers, Leon & Effey, actually kicked me out of my role as head hotdog cook and took over for most of the day. While the fair shut down at 3 the haircutting continued till around 6pm because Barbara Ann Rivers, one of the two stylists during the day, did not want to leave anyone unshorn. As I say, WHAT FUN! We hope to be doing this on an annual basis.

This great event was followed up with a Thanksgiving Dinner on October 11th.

Charities Hand Out Free Meals

This was another great event that would likely not have been possible without the commitment of Sharon Welch to coordinate it. Typical of myself I showed up unannounced to help Sharon and her husband set up for the event and, when it came time to allow people in, took over the kitchen to make sure things ran smoothly with all of the food being brought by volunteers. As I mentioned to the papers the commitment of the many volunteers in bringing this off was phenomenal. Since the event I have heard quite frequently about how much the people enjoyed the food, music and non-judgmental atmosphere.

October 18th was the final event, the Streets to Homes Forum. Well attended the forum was about the “Housing First model”, a strategy used effectively to get people off the street and into housing. Iain de Jong, form the City of Toronto, was invited to speak about Toronto’s Streets to Homes program which has helped in the housing of the homeless in that city. The forum was very informative and well attended.

Daily News Story October 21st.
Woes Can Be Fixed: Experts

While I subscribe to the Housing First model, the only solution to homelessness is a home, I also want people to keep a balanced perspective. I ran across this website while doing some research on the Streets to Homes program and place the link here for your perusal.
Criticism of the Housing first model

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