There is no place like home on day 3 of 12 Days

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Home is not a long word.  Only four letters. But for being such a short word, it has a lot of weight.  It is a big deal.  What can you do if you don’t have a home?  Today, Allison, the program coordinator of Eby Village shared Andrea’s story with me:

“After moving from shelter to shelter, I was so happy when I received the news that I was accepted at Eby village. For the first time in my life, I had my own private space and I finally had my own kitchen where I could cook my own meals.

 I shared my new home with other people who were in similar circumstance as me, such as being on social assistance, and coming from homelessness.  I have met people with different personalities and each person has brought something unique to my life.  I have learned things I never would have thought from people in the building such as gardening, cooking, and arts and crafts. I’ve stayed close with the people I’ve befriended throughout my 15 years of living at Eby Village and I have grown as an individual.

Having my own private space has brought me security, and my confidence has grown by participating in community activities. I hope everyone can have a home like Eby Village because it gives people autonomy, a feeling of self worth, and increases self esteem. Your own home gives you a place to invite your friends and family to that you feel proud of, and you don’t have the influence of alcohol and drugs so you can live the way you want to and work on becoming the best person you can be. “

Looking the story over, Andrea said “People aren’t going to believe that someone from Eby Village wrote this!  Most people think we can’t even read and write.”           

The message is this story is simple – if you give someone a home, they have the opportunity to thrive. But the reality in our region and across Canada is not everyone has access to a safe, affordable, and acceptable home, and as Andrea points out, barriers and stereotypes still remain.  In a survey  done by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA), there are  over 156, 358 Ontario households waiting for affordable housing like that offered in Eby Village, and more than 3,000 people waiting for housing in the region of Waterloo alone – year after year, this list continues to grow. The wait time for families, singles and seniors is on average 2-3 years which indicates the need for more affordable housing options, particularly for those in deep need.

More than just a number

These numbers are one of the reasons why we are seeing an increase in homelessness. The people behind them struggle with many things each day, many of them interconnected.  Mental health problems, poverty, and domestic violence top the list of contributing factors but are not the only ones.

So what happens if we ignore this crisis? What if we do not accommodate the increased need for affordable housing? Would it affect you and me?

House of Friendship owns and operates 5 residential programs which helps provide shelter and supportive housing to members of the Kitchener- Waterloo community.  We work with tenants and community organizations to provide daily support to program participants and we speak up for increased affordable housing and effective supports to help low-income households move out of poverty.

Andrea’s story shows that places like Eby Village provide more than a roof over people’s head – it is has become a community where people feel a sense of belonging and are able to create a sense of identity through the programs and activities that are offered. But even afterwards, stigma remains. The holiday season is particularly difficult for tenants in our building who can feel isolated from their families, but throughout the years Eby has created traditions we look forward to all year. Setting up the Christmas tree, decorating the activity room, sharing meals together, painting Christmas scenes on the windows around the building and sharing Christmas tea are just a few examples of the spirit created by people in our home.  There is genuine support and mutual respect shared in the Eby Community, and this can be attributed to the gift of a home.

Three big steps to success

So what can you do to combat homelessness in our region? Here are a three ways you can help:

  1. Volunteer – What gifts and talents do you have to share? Bring your gifts to shelters, community homes, and other organizations in the area. You can do anything from being there as a listening ear, sharing musical talents, to consulting on a new initiative – sharing and collaborating talents will build relationships and strengthen communities which all translate to people maintaining their housing and building the connections that keep us together as a community through difficult times. (Find a listing of emergency shelters here to contact and see how you can get involved).
  2. Donate – A monetary donation enables organizations to increase the quality of affordable housing and provide the supports necessary for people experiencing homelessness. The return on your investment is a more resilient and healthy community – that is something that benefits us all.
  3. Advocate – Talk to your friends and family and educate people in your life on the issues surrounding homelessness and affordable housing. You can find a wealth of resources here. Challenge yourself to ask tough questions, and to keep an open mind and think about your own situation.  Do you want to be judged by others?  What would you think about someone in Andrea’s situation?  What easy assumptions would you make if you met her? I’ll paraphrase what our executive director John Neufeld said at Regional Council last week-each one of us is one job loss, relationship breakdown, mental health crises, death in a family, or health crises away from needing affordable housing.

This holiday season, share Andrea’s story and pass on the importance of having a home. There is no place like home, and my hope is that each one of us can experience a safe and affordable home to enable everyone to belong and thrive in our community.

What does home mean to you?  Let us know on Facebook and by using the #12daysforgood tag on twitter!

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3 Responses to “There is no place like home on day 3 of 12 Days”

  1. Pam M Says:

    Thank you for telling Andrea’s story and for providing specific ways I can help. Great entry Matt. Pam M

  2. Deborah Wismer Says:

    I have lived here at Eby for the past 22 years. It is a wonderful place to live. The staff are friendly and I have made many friends. The place I have moved from was no one to talk to and I was very lonely.I will continue to live here as long as I live.A big thank you to the House of Friendship for accepting me here. Deborah W.

  3. The Gift of Hope on Day 11 « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] (or have put it behind you) you may still find little hope for the new year this December. We have already spoken about the stigma that can still remain with people after they put a difficult chapter of their life […]

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