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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by the Here At Home webdoc.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post invited Sandra Dawson to write about the Here At Home site as a whole. Dawson is a mental health and homelessness advocate from Vancouver, and was an At Home/Chez Soi peer advisor (2009-2013). Creator of the Unsuicide Online Suicide Help Wiki, she can be found at @unsuicide.

I had a friend over for dinner who complimented my dishes. I told him I acquired the soup bowls in a thrift store for $2 each, after losing my wedding china long ago in one of my bouts of homelessness. On a disability pension I can’t afford to replace an entire set at once but since last regaining housing I’ve put together a mismatched but coherent set of blue glass pieces I can be proud of. Four dinner plates that match the bowls were $5 at a yard sale, tumblers I’ve bought one by one, and two beautiful mugs with First Nations designs were just $3 each. They look great together.

So although I still have a low income, I’ve learned ways to thrive in recovering from the trauma and loss that accompanies homelessness.

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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Montreal film, A New Lease, with Julia Gonsalves who supervises Adult and Senior Community Services at The 519 Church Street Community Centre. The 519 is a multi-service agency in downtown Toronto serving the local community as well as broader LGBTQ communities. It runs a weekly drop-in program for homeless, under-housed and vulnerable LGBTQ people and their allies, the first drop-in with this focus in Toronto. Julia wrote a regular column for Xtra! Canada’s largest and most widely read gay and lesbian publication from 2001-2012. 

I just watched Simon seeing his apartment for the first time – his genuine excitement and optimism – and I think about the handful of folks who bounce into the drop-in to tell me they’ve “found a place”- it’s too far and maybe it’s got bugs and the people upstairs use crack and pound on the ceiling – but they’ve found a place. There is pride in that. At the same time, we both recognize, there is risk in that. Once you’ve got something, you’ve got something to lose. There is a component of tragic freedom in having nothing because you’ve got nothing to lose. In a tiny, enormous, painful way, you’re free. Going home – to a house – there is risk in that.

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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Montreal film, It Happened To Me“, with Karen Foster, Banting Post-Doctoral Fellow in Management and part-time faculty in Sociology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She co-authored the book, “Reimagining Intervention in Young Lives” (UBC Press, 2012), which focused on the everyday lives of young unemployed people in Ottawa, most of whom were homeless or had recently transitioned into housing. She is also the author of Generation, Discourse and Social Change (Routledge, 2013). Her main research interests are in the sociology of work and economic discourse.

In this video, we meet Paul, a once-homeless amputee who has been given a home through the At Home/Chez Soi project. The video focuses on Paul’s experience with IPS, the employment program that got the former special needs educator back to work in his field.

Paul’s story highlights, first, just how important work can be, beyond the fact that it provides income and the possibility of self-sustenance: having meaningful work makes the difference between living a life and just surviving day to day. For Paul, the meaning comes from the feeling of being “in one’s element,” but it also doubtlessly comes from being able to help other people through his work. If it were not for people like Paul, programs like IPS, and the precarious network of informal social services that fill the gaps left by inadequate federal social programs, many more people would be left to face their challenges alone.

Indeed, Paul’s challenges with housing, health, and employment hinge on the fact that he has “no family” in a social system that depends on families taking responsibility for their own. Interestingly, his story intersects with the stories of others whose families bear most of the burden for their needs – in this case, the special needs arising from Down’s Syndrome – in the absence of social programs substantial enough to take on the bulk of their care.

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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Montreal film, A New Lease,” with Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and the Homeless Hub. These projects are dedicated to mobilizing homelessness research so that it has a greater impact on policy, planning and service provision, thereby contributing to solutions to end homelessness in Canada. Dr. Gaetz is also Associate Dean, Research and Professional Development in the Faculty of Education, York University, Toronto.

A friend of mine, who teaches at York University, recently lamented the fact that “The students in my class, they don’t read newspapers any more”.   Well, I still like to read newspapers myself, but that’s not the only way I like to get information.  I follow twitter, I’m on Facebook, I use Youtube for everything from watching music videos, to seeing web-based comedy, to figuring out how to do a home repair. People consume information and, perhaps more importantly, learn new things in all kinds of ways, many of them mediated through technology.

You see, the world has changed, and as a researcher and an educator focused on the issue of homelessness, I am very interested in figuring out how to help the public – as well as decision-makers in government and the community – understand that in responding to homelessness, we can do things differently, and that we must. Through our work at the Homeless Hub, we recognize that it just isn’t enough to just push out academic papers that nobody wants to read; that if we really want people to engage research, we need to think differently about how people might want to consume information, and do things differently.
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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Toronto film, Honestly Painful” with Lorraine Bentley, Executive Director of Options Bytown Non-Profit Housing Corporation, in Ottawa, an organization that provides housing and on-site support services to men and women with a history of homelessness, addictions and mental illness.  Options Bytown serves a population that comes from shelters, institutions, and the streets. She is also the chair of Housing Plus: The Ottawa Supportive Housing Network.

Mark’s story is familiar to the tenants and staff team of Options Bytown. As the Executive Director of a supportive housing agency, I see how challenging it is for people like Mark to find and keep their housing. And I also share their joy when they move into one of our apartments and begin to see a different future for themselves – a future that includes stable, permanent and affordable housing along with the supports they need.
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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Toronto film, “Money Changes You,” with Naheed Dosani and Adam Whisler. Naheed is a Family Medicine Resident Physician with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and is training at St. Michael’s Hospital; Adam is a Research Coordinator for the At Home/Chez Soi Demonstration Project at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital.

While the At Home study focuses on mental health issues, often participants, like James in “Money Changes You,” have physical health problems as well. Picking up on this element of the film, Naheed and Adam discuss the experiences of one such participant and propose better ways of addressing the problems he faced.

Sayid is a 65 year old South Asian man from Toronto. He has schizophrenia, but with the proper medications and supports, his illness is well controlled, allowing him to work full-time in a manufacturing job. For years, like many of Toronto’s working poor, he lived paycheque to paycheque. When his company underwent downsizing, Sayid lost his job and then his home. Shunned by his cultural community due to stigma and without a network of support to rely on, he turned to Toronto’s shelter system for a safe place to stay. After suffering an assault and robbery one night at the hands of others living at the shelter, Sayid was left without any of his belongings, including his medications. Fearing for his safety, Sayid fled from Toronto’s streets to seek shelter in a tent in the Don River Valley, where he has lived on and off for the past ten years.
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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Winnipeg film, “The Wound Inside,” with Julia Christensen, Research Fellow with the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research in Yellowknife and SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Geography at the University of British Columbia. Born and raised in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, she explores colonial continuities in the Canadian North and their role in shaping northern homelessness.

The first time I watched “The Wound Inside” by Darryl Nepinak, I was struck at the outset when the film’s protagonist, Lukas, reflects on coming back to Winnipeg, only to be confronted by deep-seated racism he was perhaps naïve to in his younger years. I can relate to the discomfort and disappointment of realizing, for the first time, that a beloved place is flawed and not immune to the kinds of prejudice and exclusion that are easy to say exist somewhere else but not here. Growing up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, I always felt a strong sense of community, and a kind of together-ness that stitched tight seams between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous inhabitants of the city. But more recently, when I moved back to my hometown, I saw the city with new eyes and understood for the first time that, like Winnipeg, the deep wound of colonialism persists unhealed.

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This post is the latest in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience that offers a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Montreal film, Not Chosen” with Kate Mechan, an anti-poverty activist who co-founded the Northern City Supportive Housing Coalition. The Coalition aims to manage Housing First programs for Whitehorse’s chronically under-housed citizens. Kate has been doing frontline outreach work with street-involved youth and adults for the better part of 10 years.

Life is a complex place. Some of us, for whatever reason, are faced with having to navigate through rougher waters. What exactly enables some of us to weather tougher times more gracefully than others is equally as complex as life. What remains true is that no matter how defeated one may feel there is always that gnawing inside us. I’ve had it described to me as the human spirit.

Valère Rioux – Not Chosen. At the whim of a computer in the beginning stages of the At Home/Chez Soi project, he is just 1 of the 970 individuals who is not provided with housing. Despite this, he manages to find himself a place to lay his head. With the support of SIDA Secours and a sense of being ready to try something different, his resilience is the momentum forward.

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This post is the seventh in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience offering a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Toronto film, Evicted” with Andrew Wynn-Williams, Executive Director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. Wynn-Williams has an extensive background in British Columbia public policy, having served as Director of Operations for the Premier’s Technology Council, as Executive Assistant to three different Ministers of the crown and as Director of Policy and Communications for the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

When Here at Home asked me to blog on this video, I think they were expecting me to write about Theresa, her struggles and how in any Housing First initiative, housing is the first step on a journey that may have many twists and turns. These are all true and all evident in this video. But that wasn’t what drew me.

Instead I was drawn to Bouchra, the service provider featured in this video. Because I am new to this sector, something that has really struck me is the dedication and compassion of the front line service workers. Many may claim that it is our mission in life to help others but it is the front line service worker who is actually out there putting that mission into action.

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This post is the sixth in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

From NFB interactive, Here At Home is a cutting-edge documentary experience offering a look inside At Home, a radical experiment to end chronic homelessness. Led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. The theory it’s testing: there’s a way to end homelessness for people with mental illness and it starts with giving them homes.

For today’s post we matched the Toronto film, “All These Stigmas” with Abe Oudshoorn, Assistant Professor, the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing at Western University, and Associate Scientist with Lawson Health Research Institute where his research focuses on health, homelessness, housing policy, and poverty. He is also the vice-chair of the London Homeless Coalition, a committee member with the London Housing Advisory Committee, and founder of the London Homelessness Outreach Network.

In “All These Stigmas” we hear about the risk of untreated trauma, in this case childhood sexual abuse leading to the onset of major mental illness. In JM’s case, the birth of his child and conflict in a relationship was enough to send him into a spiral leading to his homelessness. Only now that he is re-housed is he able to deal with the root issue, his own trauma.

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This post is the fifth in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in the fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

For today’s post we matched the Vancouver film, “Heart of Hell” with Josh Evans, assistant professor of Human Geography at Athabasca University. Evans’ research focuses on housing, urban social policy, and spaces of care. He has published widely on topics such as harm reduction, supportive housing and homelessness. 

“Living here has been kinda hell, so I’m really glad I’m moving.” These simple, poignant and affecting words aptly describe the beginning of a new chapter in Leanne’s life. Leanne’s story resonates with the experiences of many homeless people who often feel trapped, stuck and hopeless. Iain De Jong, a Housing First specialist, often compares this entrenchment to that of a ‘black hole.’ After prolonged periods without housing, individuals pass a point of no return, becoming so adapted to street life that escape, from their point of view, is unimaginable.  Housing First works against these gravitational forces and offers an escape.
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This post is the fourth in a series of articles from guest bloggers. Each week experts and activists in fields of homelessness and mental health explore some of the issues raised by a Here At Home film.

For today’s post we matched the Montreal film, “Mother to 400” with Victor Willis, the Executive Director of PARC (the Parkdale Activity – Recreation Centre), a drop-in centre in the west end of Toronto that works on individual issues of poverty, mental health, addictions, homelessness and food security. Among his many responsibilities, Willis is Co-Chair of the St. Joseph’s Health Centre mental health & addiction population panel and Chair of the St. Joseph’s Health Centre  Strategic Population panel.

The short film “A Mother to 400” opens with a view of a highway and the sounds of vehicle traffic situating the apartment in a location that may not be the first choice for someone with financial mobility and yet as we hear from Valerie Couture the venerable (but remarkably youthful) “Mother” it becomes clear that her apartments are well maintained – not always a hallmark for housing for men and women who have spent significant time on the street.
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