We are ready to take our first physical steps to address homelessness in Coquitlam.
Over the next few weeks, crews will be clearing the trees at 3030 Gordon in Coquitlam so construction can start in September/October for our newest building. In order to lessen the environmental footprint, trees will be assessed for milling and potential use for benches, vegetable planters and fencing for the project, and there’s now talk of finding ways to use the remaining bits for mulch and composting! The new greenery will include trees, bushes and grasses.
In January of this year Coquitlam City Council approved the development plans for the building, and the next step is the building permit approval. Once completed, it will provide 30 units of transitional housing, 30 emergency shelter rooms, and during extreme weather conditions an additional 30 shelter beds in dormitory rooms – all in the same building!
Providing this kind of shelter and housing has been a priority for the City of Coquitlam, the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group and BC Housing for a number of years. We are incredibly excited to be the operator of this building and that the project is soon moving off the ‘drawing board’ and into construction.
RainCity Housing will be providing support services for the shelter residents, including meals, counseling, life skills development and connections to community health and wellness services. Our staff have been active member of the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group over the past 3 years, and we look forward to working with many of the service providers in the Tri-Cities.
We will have a dedicated page to this upcoming project before the end of the month, so be sure to come back and check it out. If you have any questions about this project, you can email Associate Director Sean Spear at email@example.com
Admit it – you find yourself multitasking every day, but what if it were actually fun? Like hanging out with friends, eating burgers and drinking beer, listening to live music and raising funds – all at the SAME TIME!!
On Thursday, June 12, folks in the Lower Mainland can join us at the Railway Club and starting at 6pm you can multitask till your heart’s content. Have you ever been to a Pub Night Fundraiser at the Railway? Me neither, so here’s your chance! This event is for our #Run4housing Team in the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon & 5k.
Plus, Will Blunderfield will be performing, as well as other great local artists! Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. That includes entry, burger, beer and live music and the proceeds will go to specifically to our Community Meal Program for the 147 people living at Margeurite Ford Apartments. So we want to get at least 147 people out, person for person, so to speak, or a meal for a meal. Check out the Event page on Facebook for more info and how to get tickets in advance – cheaper!
It’s up and running! And we love it! The Open Your Heart website invites you to be curious, think about how we interact in the world, and start addressing one of the last socially acceptable stigmas – mental illness. Click on ‘support’ or ‘accept’ and watch what happens to the people’s lives on screen. Mental illness affects so many of us, maybe even all of us, through friends, loved ones, and coworkers. We can start thinking differently about it.
And then there are the amazing stories, full of real experiences and little known facts. All six are on the NEWS – New Evolution of Wise Storytelling Youtube channel. Here’s just one:
Check these out, and visit our NEWS page here at our website to see who made all of this possible. And make sure to share theses links and videos with your friends and loved ones using your favourite social media platforms. We think that when more people are having different conversations about mental illness, the stigma will go away that much faster.
We cannot express how excited we are about this! Can’t wait until the 23rd!!
“You are better than no one,” the minstrel had proclaimed, “and no one’s better than you.” – Bob Dylan
If you’ve spent time reading comments below online news articles, or overheard conversations in coffee shops, or even been presented with throw away phrases at social gatherings, one would get the impression that the general public (whatever that means) generally feel that people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or similar neighbourhoods in other cities fall into two distinct categories: either they’re just not working hard enough, or they’re beyond help. But it’s easy to compartmentalize.
After working over 20 years in this field, the reality that I have seen is human beings – not just folks experiencing homeless or poverty, but all of us – live in between those stereotypical extremes. We all have better days, and worse days. Every one of us needs some kind of help at some point in our lives, and the reverse also is true. And I don’t mean a Facebook ‘like, I’m talking about real, tangible generosity. Lawrence Scanlan writes about this at the Open Democracy website, spending a month with 12 different charities for a year. Have a read.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by work, relationships, by life, and to shut down at the end of the day, or the whole weekend. This is necessary sometimes.
But sometimes, we can be generous; with our time, our money, and most importantly with the way we think of others.
If we think of others as neither less than or better than, then we’ve changed the conversation. If we’re generous to others, then we remove the burden of them having to ask.
On the eve of International Women’s day and the week before Vancouver’s annual homeless count, the federal government tabled a report entitled “Invisible Women: A Call to Action”. It wasn’t received well by aboriginal groups and the opposition parties who wanted a national inquiry in to the murdered and missing women across Canada.
In December of 2012, the Pickton Inquiry offered 63 recommendations. Over a year later, almost all of those recommendations still only exist on paper.
What can be done right now? Most of the women living in our transitional housing program for women are from an aboriginal background. They’re inside and they’re safer than they were outside. In a few months time, we’ll be opening the Budzey Building, 146 units of housing for women, including 40 family units, bringing more women out of invisibility. This is a step in the right direction.
Vancouver’s homeless count is a 24 hour snapshot that provides information but never the complete picture. Many people couch surf, stay with relatives, sleep in vehicles, or are almost always on the move.
The majority of the people using these survival tactics are women, who become “invisible”. They become invisible because in many ways, it’s safer – for them and in some circumstances, their children.
The federal government has 120 days to respond to the report. That’s a lot of nights at a shelter or sleeping draped over a steering wheel. With the right environment, living inside, in one place, can be much safer than the alternative. We just need more safe places.
Is it time for a new evolution of wise storytelling? We think it is. Stories that challenge the way we think about mental illness. Stories that give a human perspective on the facts. Facts like:
- In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health problem or illness.
- Up to 70% of young adults living with mental health problems report that symptoms started in childhood.
- Percentage of people who are depressed who respond well to treatment – 80%
- Percentage of people who are depressed who never seek treatment – 90%
Screenshot from the amazing PSA - coming soon!!
In the coming weeks NEWS and RainCity Housing will be launching a website that will share stories, start conversations and connect people that have lived in isolation. Come back to this site for the link or look for it on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.
We ALL need your voice to fight stigma. The only way we can make real change is to do it together.
Tomorrow is the last day of an exhibit that shows just some of these stories. March 1, 11am to 6pm at Vivo, 1965 Main Street.
We are very happy to announce that the first tenants will be moving into our housing program at 395 Kingsway this Monday, Feb 24. Staff will begin working around the clock on Sunday, Feb 23, and if you need to get a hold of them please call the front desk:
A page devoted to information on this housing program will be available at this website very soon, so we can start blogging about all of the RainCity programs, initiatives, and stories, and not just this one. Stay tuned!
Photo credit - Kevin Hill, Vancouver Courier
We’ve been really happy with all the media coverage this past week about our Biltmore program. The Province, Globe & Mail, Vancity Buzz, and the Courier all took time to visit us in order to share their stories with you. The Province also did a video interview of Acting Associate Director Amelia Ridgway and our Operations Manager, George Simpson, and they did a great job explaining how the building will operate, and how we plan to move forward.
We’ve had our first Biltmore Community Advisory Committee already, and the second one is next week. If you’d like to receive the minutes from those meetings, please email me and I’ll add you to the list.
Once the landline is confirmed, it will be here on our website along with all of our email contacts, so you can easily get a hold of us with questions, concerns, or ideas.
We still don’t have a confirmed move in date for tenants, but we hope it will be before the end of February. The City of Vancouver has posted a summary of the feedback and input community members provided the two open houses in January, and you can read that here.
Mount Pleasant is a great community, full of people who really care about everyone living there, and we are looking forward to being a part of that and caring right back!
Please join us at one of this week’s Open Houses for the Biltmore Hotel. At these sessions we hope to get valuable input from people on how we can make this housing program an important part of Mount Pleasant and find ways to work together on how it intersects with the community.
The two Open Houses are:
- Wednesday, Jan 8th, 6pm to 8pm – St Patrick’s High School Cafeteria, 140 E. 11th Ave
- Saturday, Jan 11th, 10am to noon – Native Education College, 285 E. 5th Ave
After a brief introduction of the program and the partners, attendees will be able to break off into groups to discuss ways of finding the best possible outcomes for everyone, both the folks living in the building, and the surrounding community.
Also, on Thursday, January 9th at 6:30pm, the Residents Association of Mount Pleasant, or RAMP, is having a Community Forum for more discussion. It will be held at St Patrick’s Church, 2881 Main Street.
You can find additional information at the City of Vancouver’s website.
Hope to see many of you there! Vancouver has long prided itself on the diversity of its communities, and a great example of this is when people from various backgrounds co-exist together.