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MARCH 2022


We're excited to mark the turn of a new season by gathering with friends, new and old, for a shared dinner and conversation. A free meal will be provided by Lisa's Catering (the folks who cooked our amazing December meal). Sunday, March 27 5:00-6:30 PM 62 McCaul St., Port Hope Doors open at 5:00 PM and masks are required indoors except while eating.

There was a time when we didn't look past a stranger huddled on a street corner, tattered blanket and backpack at their side. But somewhere along the time continuum, we stopped registering surprise. This was the moment we normalized the shame of homelessness in our communities.

Not so for Kristy Buccieri, James Davy, Cyndi Gilmer and Nicole Whitmore who, for the past year, have devoted every week to diving deeply into the causes, perceptions and prevention of homelessness. Collaborating through Trent University and the Homeless Hub, they released the fruit of their labours last month in an ebook, Understanding Homelessness in Canada: From the Street to the Classroom.

Through videoed conversations with 26 leading researchers, podcasts, stories of lived experience, academic literature, interactive online exercises and artwork by individuals Green Wood Coalition supports through its street-level outreach, this book sets out to broaden our understanding of a complex topic. As an instructional tool it spans multiple academic disciplines including public and mental health, gender and population studies and Indigenous learning, offering the next generation of scholars, practitioners and influencers a new resource to inspire change.

Days after the book's release, we sat down with Green Wood Outreach Coordinator, Nicole Whitmore, to talk about the project and how her lived experience with eight years of homelessness and drug dependency informed this project.

Nicole Whitmore, Outreach Coordinator, Green Wood Coalition

‘Homelessness is a traumatizing experience that has long-lasting negative impacts. The longer a person remains unhoused, ​the harder it is to move back out of homelessness.’

-Understanding Homelessness in Canada: From the Street to the Classroom

Green Wood: How does it feel to be a published author? Nicole Whitmore: It feels amazing. I had no idea it was going to grow into something this spectacular when I was invited into this project. And, yes, it was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but I also understood what I had to give to this was quite valuable, so I leaned into my uncomfortable. Green Wood: What was your role? Nicole: A lot of the lived experience stuff came from James (another team member) and me. They were bouncing ideas off us and asking, ‘You guys have lived this, so does this make sense?’ Being able to interview the academics as a person who has lived expertise and share those thoughts was really quite amazing. We had some fantastic conversations. Green Wood: You mention “leaning into the uncomfortable.” Did that include interviewing the country’s top academics and doctors on this subject? Nicole: I went in with a bit of an expectation that these could be people who think they know everything but don’t really have an idea. I was so pleasantly surprised. My heart felt good in every single interview I did. If we had been face to face, I would have hugged them and said, ‘Thank you, thank you for just understanding life’s challenges of being homeless and what homelessness looks like in all its aspects.’ Green Wood: You realized you had a lot to give to this project. Why is creating this course important? Nicole: There’s such stigma attached to mental illness, substance use and homelessness that people can’t get around. We need to learn more in order to do better. We had conversations about what does it look like to be a youth in homelessness? What about seniors in homelessness? What about mental health? What about the LGBTQ+ community? What’s equitable health care? These are things a lot of people don’t consider. They just see a homeless person, but they don’t understand that the queer kid can’t feel safe in a shelter system and had to leave their home. It’s so important for us just to get it. Green Wood: What are the key misconceptions about homelessness this book debunks? Nicole: That people are lazy, unemployable, uneducated, mentally ill, addicted to drugs. Not every person who is homeless is addicted or struggling with substance dependence. I mean the longer you’re out on the street, of course you’re going to end up with isolation, disconnection, depression. All those are real things, but it doesn’t mean you’re drinking mouthwash in a McDonald’s bathroom. People just have this full-on misconception that they’re worthless. Green Wood: How do we prevent homelessness? Nicole: We need affordable housing. That’s how you prevent homelessness. Do better with your shelter systems, with transitional housing. All of these pieces are important. It’s about taking time to understand why a person is homeless and really hearing people. Prevention requires being more available, understanding and compassionate to someone’s situation and trying to support them with their way of living, respecting someone’s culture, their day-to-day. I don’t know if you will ever end homelessness, but we can understand it, and we can certainly put things in place in the hope that somebody doesn’t end up homeless. Green Wood: Final question - How cool is it that Green Wood’s art kits inspired the illustrations in the book? Nicole: Almost everyone who contributed art is living homeless right now. They are doing a lot of couch surfing, squatting and whatever they can to survive. A lot of them shared their names to the artwork so they are also published! We were able to pay them an honorarium for their pieces -- nice pay, not just a Tim Hortons gift card. So it was really nice for me to be able to not just tell them how much I value them but to show them.

“When we asked the researchers the final question about whether we can end homelessness and, if so, how, the answers were surprisingly clear... Their responses collectively identified four key priorities that need to be addressed before we can end homelessness in Canada: ​We must:

  1. recognize housing as a human right and create deeply affordable housing to ensure that right is met

  2. implement individualized choice-based supports following the Housing First principles to ensure people’s unique needs are met

  3. hold the government accountable for their social policy choices in the past, present, and future

  4. prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place by implementing systemic change.”

[Excerpted from 'Understanding Homelessness in Canada: From the Street to the Classroom']

Coldest Night of the Year 2022 soared over our goal thanks to Northumberland’s generosity and enthusiasm! ​Co-workers, families, service clubs, police, fire and hospital staff. They showed up 400-strong, walking to raise money to support those in our community who have the least. When the day was done, this year’s Coldest Night of the Year walk-a-thon soared past its $75,000 goal, raising a record-breaking $124,000. With the majority of participants gathering in downtown Port Hope to walk in person on Feb. 26, event chair Philip Redford looked out into the crowd with megaphone in hand, booming, “Thank you Northumberland from the bottom of our hearts!” Last year, COVID-19 forced the event to go “virtual,” with people walking in their own groups from locations of their choosing. Overwhelmed by this year’s results, Redford thanked “our amazingly generous community, our incredible sponsors, team captains, walkers and a dedicated team of volunteers. You saw that the need is great and you stepped up to answer the call to help our neighbours. Green Wood Coalition salutes you!”

Executive Director David Sheffield believes the community understands Green Wood’s approach to helping differs from most charity models and service delivery. When its outreach staff meets people they are most often in crisis and need someone to help them navigate the barriers to finding help.

“Rather than defining a person by the issues they face -- homeless, disabled or addicted -- we see a person with a story that needs to be heard and understood. Listening reveals the strengths and gifts that have carried that person this far.

“Human connection is always the beginning and ending point for us, because belonging to a healthy and caring community is the best way to move from crisis to stability.”

Coldest Night of the Year is a national event that raises money in charities’ home communities to help those who are hungry, homeless and hurting. Here in Northumberland County, the money raised funds Green Wood Coalition’s street outreach and programs for people who struggle with poverty, homelessness, mental health and addiction.

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