Human Rights and Homelessness

The CHF’s Client Action Committee (CAC) actively conducts research, alongside the CHF Research Team. Historically, their research activities have included everything from conducting interviews, hosting focus groups, holding community forums, data entry, coding data, and subsequent analysis.

 One of our ongoing projects as a Committee this year has been to develop an understanding of homelessness and human rights – answering questions like, “What are the human rights of people experiencing homelessness? Do those rights come into conflict with other rules and regulations? How do those rights get exercised or violated in real life?” – to eventually develop some materials and resources to ensure people are informed and empowered to exercise their rights, whether they be in the workplace, in searching for an apartment, or in spending time in our city’s streets. Ultimately, this project is a reminder that all Albertans have human rights, that each Albertan is valuable and has freedoms that must be respected.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, CAC coordinated and hosted a community forum about homelessness and human rights, as a key stage in the research project and a way of ensuring that we – as the researchers – were on track with what we had heard and understood so far.

Twenty-six diverse individuals from the homeless sector and nine CAC members spent an hour at the resource space in the Memorial Park Public Library discussing and debating the issue. Each CAC member played a key role – to facilitate discussion, to distribute paperwork or take care of guests, to take notes.

It was one of the most powerful aspects of the forum –  as people talked, and relaxed, helped themselves to coffee – every person in attendance felt respected and listened to because they understood that they were meeting around the table as peers.

Everyone’s voice was equal. Everyone’s experience was real. Everyone’s story mattered.

And everyone listened with intensity, intentionality, and a passion for taking those stories forward – and then doing something about it.

At the CAC debrief after the event, the nine of us on the committee sat on the grass in the park, passing around notes from the session and soaking in the sunshine as everyone reflected back to the group their individual experiences. As always, opinions were diverse, but there was an underlying sense of victory, of success, of having accomplished something truly meaningful.

One committee member faced the group and said: “I feel great about it. I feel like we’re really doing something about these issues, y’know? …I feel empowered.”

What a brilliant moment it is when so much can be accomplished, in so many different ways, when a group rallies around the unifying goal of ending homelessness and restoring dignity and honouring our basic right to being treated fairly and respectfully as human beings.

 Article submitted by CHF Research Department — Nicole Jackson and Meaghan Bell. Special thanks to Maria, Britany and Jedd for lending a hand during the event!