Meaghan Bell and Nicole Jackson, work every week with the CHF Client Advisory Committee to ensure the critical client voice that measures the ‘on the street’ impact of the work we do has a place to be heard and acknowledged. Recently, Meaghan and Nicole invited the members of the Committee to give a noon-hour presentation on their recent findings from a Community Consultation they held to gather community feedback on the updating of the 10 Year Plan.
Of the five members of the committee who came to present, one is still living in shelter, with another individual in transitional housing waiting for a placement in permanent housing. Two of the individuals found housing through their own efforts with one being housed through CHF programming. However, one individual’s program was ending which means he is again working with an agency to secure new housing. The other is a senior who is currently on a waitlist for affordable housing as spending 60% of her income on housing is taxing her limited resoures. It is, she said, an aspect of life that is not uncommon for seniors living in poverty.
Throughout their presentation, the group was articulate, organized and passionate. Most of them have worked with the Committee for a year or more and care deeply about their peers whom they represent. This was poignantly apparent when one of the presenters talked about some of the responses attendees at the Community Consultation had written on the sheets that asked the question, “Who are you?”
“They answered, mother, father, artist, carpenter, kind, hard-working, and then one person wrote, ‘I am a human being’,” one presenter commented, obviously distressed by the answer. “Why does anyone have to write that they are a human being? Aren’t we all?”
“Several people wrote that,” another presenter chimed in.
We all share a desire to be heard, to be seen, to be known. Within homelessness however, there is often a feeling of being dehumanized, less thank, invisible.
It is a sad reality of homelessness. The very condition that we all share, our being human, is what people often feel they lose in this place called homeless.
No matter the condition of their lives, each individual is working with the Advisory Committee to give back, to make a difference, to make life better for others. They didn’t rant and rave about the injustice of the homeless condition, they didn’t strike out against government and agencies and their fellow man. They spoke up for dignity, human caring, the right of every individual to be treated with respect, consideration and fairness.
Matt Vermunt, CHF Manager of Acquisitions and & Developments spoke for everyone present when he said, “You have helped make me become better at my job, and you’ve helped me be a better human being,” he said.
We all have a story. We all have wounds we carry close to our hearts, hurts and pains we harbour beneath our skin. Homeless or housed, we are all the same kind of different in our being human.