It was a full house at the key exchange for Stepping Stone Manor on Tuesday, June 28th.
Stepping Stone is set to become home to 30 individuals with long-term lived experience of homelessness. Under contract with Calgary John Howard Society, the individuals taking up residence will be provided housing, supports and the opportunity to be part of community.
Representatives from the Government of Alberta who provided 70% of the capital to build Stepping Stone Manor, dignitaries, builders from the RESOLVE Campaign who are supporting the building of an additional 7 – 10 more such buildings in our city, agency partners, neighbours, all came out to be part of the celebration.
Those who spoke had great words to say. About how we need more affordable housing. How ending homelessness begins with housing first. How people experience homelessness because of societal issues, not because they choose it. How addictions, divorce, mental health issues, all these things contribute to someone becoming homeless — but only when we do not have the necessary richness in our social welfare system to provide access to the supports they need to live their lives with dignity. When we do not have enough richness in our communities to build or safeguard someone’s resilience so they can weather life’s ups and downs.
It was inspiring. Exciting. Affirming to hear the speakers. To see so many people come out to be part of the event.
And then, Michael spoke. And what was a ‘hey let’s celebrate what we’re doing to make a difference’ became, ‘let’s remember that we don’t do this ‘for’ people so we feel good, we are doing it with them so that in the possibilities created, we have a better chance of becoming a better society where everyone knows that they belong, where everyone is treated with dignity, respect, kindness, care.
Michael spent 20 years living on the streets.
He slept in the woods. Used and abused drugs and alcohol.
He felt the shame of being imprisoned for things he’d done. The way he had become, the way he so often felt and was treated as ‘less than human’.
Fifteen months ago, Michael was released from prison and the Calgary John Howard Society (CJHS) started supporting him in his transition away from the streets, away from reacting to his life through crime, to finding the path he is so firmly committed to walking. The path of a brave, honourable and caring man.
“Housing is everything,” he told the crowd of 60 or so guests. “It gave me a place to begin again.”
He talked about the support CJHS has given him through housing. How it helped him make the decision to enter rehab. To get clean and sober. To walk a different path than through substance abuse and crime.
And it helped him see clearly the difference he can make when walking this path.
“I could look at the last 20 years as wasted or I can look forward to the next 20 years as an opportunity to do better,” he said.
His decision to look ahead towards a better future represents the possibility to be at home and live with, hope, courage, pride, strength.
For all of us, it represents the possibility of matching the right client with the right housing and the right supports so that every Calgarian can see a future where homelessness ends.
Thank you to all our partners in the RESOLVE Campaign, the Government of Alberta, CMHC, agency partners, Calgary John Howard Society and everyone who attended. You made a difference.