we measure progress by outcomes
Homelessness in Canada is a complex community issue. Eradicating it is the goal. The team at RainCity Housing works tirelessly to provide innovative programs to provide those experiencing homelessness, trauma, mental health and substance use issues, and many other challenges opportunities to reconnect with community, establish roots, and gain stability. It’s hard and determined work. And it pays off.
Here are just some of the words we are honoured to share from people who we've worked with:
Gina is a First Nations Ojibwa woman, a longtime participant of Raincity Outreach (formerly CDO/currently ICM), an active member of the Trans community, and a community advocate (amongst many things). She happily agreed to take some time and share some of her experiences and provide some insight into working with RainCity Housing…
How did you connect with RainCity and first start working with the outreach team?
I came to Vancouver around 2007-ish and was staying at Triage. One of the workers there recommended (getting housing at) the Vivian. I didn’t know where to go or what the process was, and I was hooked up to CDO. I didn’t know what I was looking for, I just needed help. I connected well with the team. It wasn’t all business.
What are some of the things you like about RainCity?
That I could be honest about my issues and that there was no judgment. I felt at ease. The (outreach) team helped me to have insight into where I was and went to the extra mile to find services I wasn’t aware of. I was reassured I would find housing and get out of the rut I was in. I have worked with PACE and Aboriginal Wellness, I’ve done some healing courses. I was able to be myself. It felt good knowing that there were people there that I felt connected with.
As an Aboriginal person, what are some ways that organizations (such as ours) can deliver effective services to you?
By being non-judgmental. By knowing some of the issues faced by Aboriginal people. It’s really about letting someone define their own experience, and being with them.
Where do you see yourself heading?
I would like to move to The Budzey with my partner. I would like to give back, work in the field. Having been in this situation, homelessness, addiction, I can see how overwhelming it can be. Having a secure home and supports around, I can work on me.
Walter is a great example of how ordinary people can make a huge difference in the lives of others every day. At 87 years old, Walter Ricketts has been volunteering at the Triage Shelter for almost 20 years, ever since his retirement from the oil rigs in the North West Territories.
He volunteers at the Shelter seven days a week, starting before most people are even out of bed: \"Monday to Friday I show up at 6 am, do the laundry for the clients, and on Saturday and Sunday I clean the kitchen\", says Walter.
Walter chats with Shelter guests over coffee and has developed a close friendship with many of the staff. Many of the people staying at the shelter already know Walter, and are grateful he is doing their laundry instead of a stranger. When asked why he volunteers, he responds, \"I like what the organization does for people. I want to help out in any way I can. I volunteer seven days a week, and I donate what I can of my own money, when I think of it.\"
Walter is an invaluable resource at the shelter. Having him there not only ensures that clients at the Shelter have clean laundry and bedding, it also allows more time for staff to support, assist and advocate on the client's behalf. Sadly, Walter has almost no family left. \"I have a nephew in Toronto, but we haven’t spoken in years\", he shares. He does, however, feel a sense of family with the clients and staff, and always looks forward to annual events, such as the Halloween Dance and Christmas stockings.
Thank you, Walter
Wes is a participant with our ACT Team, part of the national At Home/Chez Soi program. When we asked him what the story should be called, he said "I’m lookin’ for work!" So we obliged. Wes has worked hard. Here is an account of Wes’ experiences with the ACT Team.
How did you connect with the ACT Team?
I was in St Paul’s Hospital in the psych ward and met Dr. McGarvey there. I liked [the program] right away, I got my own one bedroom apartment, a beautiful view, nice furniture, close to thrift stores and to the Recovery Club, which helps me with my addictions.
How did you pick your new apartment?
I looked at a few apartments, and picked one up here [in Mount Pleasant]. It’s away from the DTES [Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside]. I can go down there when I want to and always get away from it when I don’t wanna go down there.
What do you like about the ACT Team?
I was attending a mental health team in the DTES and there was no future for me. The doctors I used to see were too busy. The ACT Team psychiatrist spent time with me and bought me lunch the first time we got together. It made me feel human. The ACT Team has bent over backwards, to get me to appointments, helped me get bank accounts, ID, and look for work.
So are you lookin’ for work?
I’ve already got a job at the Olla Flower Shop in Gastown, working one day a week. I’m going to fill out an application to be a cook at a restaurant [here in Mount Pleasant]. I heard Christy Clark say if you’re on Disability you can earn an additional $800 and if you are on Welfare you can make $200, so I hope that happens.
If the Premier asked you why the ACT Team should continue, what would you say?
It should continue because it’s brought me out of despair. There’s hope now at the end of the tunnel, it’s not just all dark or you don’t know where to get help – this place has given me hope, even with my addictions. I have people I can talk to about what’s happened to me in the past and this helps me. It’s helped me realize through my job, that if I can work, I can clean up my addictions, too.
Any last words about ACT and about life these days?
I’ve got into public speaking, told my story at conventions, which makes me feel more human than just rotting in the DTES. I feel more hopeful, I have a lot of hope now. I’m just enjoying life really better these days. I’m working on family, and it’s hard to heal broken relationships but I’m in contact with them now and things are running a bit smoother.
(by Aaron Munro)
I met Andrew who had been living on the streets for a number of years. We’d run into each other at a park where our puppies played together. Andrew was a smart, sensitive guy I found myself looking forward to seeing. We started going out for coffee and he would talk about life, his latest travels, and thoughts about living in Vancouver. I’d talk about what I was learning in university and eventually asked for advice on how to be a better support worker. Andrew spoke a lot about how projects don’t need a lot of rules to make folks respect the space; they just need to build an environment that folks would want to respect. As I said, he was smart.
One day Andrew thanked me. He said that, for the first time since being on the street, our relationship provided opportunities for him to engage in conversations that weren’t just about street life. He spoke to how meaningful this was to him, and I remember feeling pretty choked up. I told him how he changed the way I worked with people that had life experiences like his. I shared how he had taught me my work should be much more about dignifying people; that we had so much to learn from each other and most importantly, that I had learned from him that no one is just their diagnosis, addiction or income level.
We all have something to contribute in order to make a healthy diverse community. Promoting social inclusion doesn’t only provide opportunities for people to have homes; it makes sure they feel at home in our communities. Community Integration staff positions focus on creating opportunities for folks to invest or reinvest in non-street involved activities that interest them, on making connections, and on providing opportunities for them to use their wisdom to help their communities. As Andrew taught me, these connections don’t just benefit the folks we serve but benefit everyone, including staff.