Reflections From the 2016 Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness Conference

I recently had the privilege of attending this conference two weeks ago. First I would like to thank The Canadian Alliance to End Homeless for the full scholarship so I could attend.

Where do I start? I met some incredible people with lived experience on homelessness who share the same core values as I do.

Firstly, Poverty and Homelessness are directly related. No one person I have met in the course of my career in Social Justice has ever said to me, “I have money but I chose to live homeless”. This was acknowledged by one of our keynote speakers on Day 3, Lieutenant-General, Romeo Dallaire (Ret’d) who said, “Where there is poverty there is greed”. He was an extremely powerful speaker who received a standing ovation to boot.

My favorite speaker of all at the conference had to be Clara Hughes whose story of her childhood growing up with depression and mental illness inspired me. Her story is too long to share but let’s just say that kleenex was necessary. I was fortunate enough to meet Clara after her presentation and she said she felt inspired by me when I shared some of my story with her. A direct quote from her speech, “Push this new federal government to the limits. Make them walk the talk”.

Another inspiring speech came from Adam Vaughan, the MP from York-Spadina. On December 2, 2015; Adam was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs. Adam challenged all of us to talk to our local MP’s to support funding for the National Housing Strategy, by holding town halls and meetings. Now me being the person of immediate change really want to get on this, however I have been asked to hold back by some of my mentors and colleagues with CHF and others. I will. But as an advocate of Social Justice and vulnerable people, this conversation is necessary. Maybe not by me but by others and I want to be part of that conversation. Yes, I am working on it.

And was there food. Yes, a lot of it everywhere. I was so full constantly. I asked one of the volunteers at the conference if the leftovers will be shared with the homeless community in London. She was not sure. This upset me a little.

Some of us were invited to supper on Day 1 of the conference at the YOU Made it Café downtown. What an opportunity to share and network! Great conversations were had by all; lots of laughs and new friends.

The second evening, some of the ladies with lived experience were invited to supper with My Sister’s Place. Awesome food and more networking. I told you there was food.

My favorite workshop that I attended discussed four populations that experience homelessness. A ten minute brief was shared talking of research done on our LGBTQ population. It was hosted by John Ecker from the University of Ottawa. I had a conversation with Dr. Ecker after the workshop to discuss this issue in further depth. He agreed with me that more research is needed on this subject. Since coming home, I have since found out there have been several research papers published on LGBTQ youth but not the adult population. Dr. Ecker assured me that he would continue his research in this important area of homelessness.

There was 60 sessions to choose from, however we could only go to six. Some were very informative, others not so much. I heard about the Lived Experience Advisory Council, a national voice for people living in poverty and homelessness. It’s a group I am hoping to join soon as an Alberta Representative.

I am also planning on facilitating a workshop in Winnipeg next year on this topic. I have great support for this from several groups and agencies including Dr. Ecker. Stay tuned. Exciting times.

The best part of the whole conference for me was meeting everyone and sharing stories. For me, I came home overwhelmed with knowledge and a complete drainage of emotion. But, with a renewed sense of purpose in my belief that homelessness in our great nation will end and that poverty will be cut in half for all. Let’s do this. – Hilary Chapple

Hilary is an active community volunteer, poverty reduction and homelessness advocate.

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