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National Housing Day on November 22 has raised public consciousness about homelessness, but the issue for organizations like Green Wood Coalition remains – how do we sustain and leverage this awareness into a movement for greater change? On November 15th, almost a year to the day after the 20,000 Homes Campaign surveyed Northumberland County’s homeless and risk of homeless population, County Council reviewed a “one year later” report. It showed the steps being taken to coordinate faster and more integrated planning, housing placement and critical response among support agencies. Through a real-time “by name” registry that tracks those in need of housing, it shone a clearer light on the problem. What we know is that 58 individuals and 17 families (including 26 children) were identified a year ago as homeless; another 179 individuals and 49 families (including 65 more children) were at risk of homelessness. Between January and June 2017, 36 individuals and 13 families had been found housing, although 17 per cent were placed in temporary settings at best. But by July of this year, most of the gains had been lost: 31 more individuals and 11 families were placed on the homeless registry David Sheffield, Green Wood’s Community Director, says the survey helped to clarify and quantify the problem, “but with clarity comes recognition that we don’t have the services or the physical housing spaces to adequately serve the people who are most risk. “The unfortunate reality is that for every one of the success stories, their spot on the list of people who are homeless has been filled by one or two other names.” On November 22, the federal government released Canada’s first National Housing Strategy, which promises more affordable housing over the next decade. In Northumberland, a second homelessness survey will be conducted in April 2018, greater engagement with Indigenous organizations will try to address disproportionate homelessness among the county’s First Nations, and new housing support programs are in the works. Enhanced agency and county partnerships could help to remind local political leaders there’s still a lot of work to do. For now, Northumberland’s homeless are still sleeping rough on the street, in cars or hunting for a last-minute couch to crash. The area’s shelters remain full most nights, and the Cobourg Police Service’s warming room offers a last, albeit safe, resort.

Nov. 27: Community 101

Green Wood staff, David, Jenn and Nicole will share current thinking on a compassionate approach toward addiction after recent training with renowned Canadian addiction expert Dr. Gabor Maté. Dr. Mate’s latest book is In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. The evening will include conversation, and film clips of Dr. Mate.

Time: 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Location: Green Wood Coalition, 18 Ontario Street, Port Hope

Nov. 28: Giving Tuesday

Northumberland County is joining this global celebration of the hard work charities and non-profits do to make life better in our communities. Here at Green Wood, we have launched our seasonal appeal. Please support our programs in addiction recovery, healing through art, street-level outreach and community awareness and advocacy because, together, we can change lives.

Dec. 2: Little Goose Handmade Market

Drop by our table for handmade greeting cards and more, made by Green Wood artists. Our yearly fundraising appeal is underway in support of the most vulnerable members of our community. Please remember to bring a non-perishable food item as an admission fee.

Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Location: Beatrice Strong Public School, 90 Rose Glen Road, Port Hope

SAVE THE DATE: Feb. 24, 2018: Coldest Night of the Year

Watch for the website launch on Dec.1 for more details about walking with Green Wood.

Who is Julie Bothwell? What is her story?

The Alderville First Nation band councillor, social worker, daughter, granddaughter, mother guided a room full of people at October’s Community 101 along some of the paths her life’s journey has taken, the First Nation teachings that inspire her and the lessons she continues to learn.

“I share my life so you can take a piece of this and understand our ways... What I’ve been taught is that what I am sharing is because these are the things that helped me on my healing journey. I have to be able to say, ‘I try hard to walk this way, to remind myself of who I am.’ I try to remember where I come from.”

As a young girl, her life was thrown into chaos by her mother’s loss of status on marriage to a non-Aboriginal man and her family’s forced removal from the First Nation, their extended family and home.

As a teenager who was keenly aware that her half Ojibwa, half Scottish skin tone allowed her to pass in and out of a native/non native identity, she heard “all the comments” and questioned where she was accepted, where she fit in.

As a mother and wife, she has confronted the trauma of residential schools that her partner’s parents attended, and how that legacy infiltrated their family’s and children’s lives.

And as a social worker and band councillor, she feels compelled to wrap herself tightly in her community, “eating, drinking and sleeping” its all-too-frequent pain.

In spite of all of this, or possibly because of it, Julie Bothwell, in Anishinaabe, is “Strong Buffalo Woman.”

As she spoke of the healing properties of the Four Sacred Medicines – tobacco, cedar, sweet grass and sage – to unite mind, body and spirit and their teachings to direct people toward goodness, away from destructive forces like substance abuse; as she described the actions of Alderville First Nation to address past injustices including defining who will be considered a member of their community in cases of intermarriage and how their children will be taught in the public school system; and as each person in the room rolled a handful of dry tobacco leaves in their palm, trying to connect with the meaning of this first Sacred Medicine as an offering or prayer for help and guidance, the glimmer of a new understanding of reconciliation seemed to emerge.

“When we share, we find connections, common ground,” she said. “It is these connections we need to make with one another.”

YIMBY 11/22/2017 Today is National Housing Day, across Canada. A day to remind those in power that housing is a human right and that Canadians don't want to see their neighbours left out in the cold. Homelessness in Northumberland County is at a crisis level, currently, and some people in our neighbourhood are rising up in opposition against the creation of new rental and affordably-sized homes. I we want to continue to live in a community where everyone has a roof over their head, regardless of circumstances, we will need to be innovative and flexible. Northumberland County is launching a homelessness awareness campaign called "Yes In My Back Yard" to draw attention to the reality of homelessness in our community, and to say "yes" to new and varied forms of housing "in my back yard". This would be a great week to contact your elected representatives to call for clear leadership on the housing crisis. It needs to move up their agenda. ​"Since 1998 when Canadians and municipalities declared homelessness a national disaster, we have yet to see a national housing strategy. So on November 22 we must show our movement muscle by rallying, speaking out and passionately insisting on a national housing program." - Cathy Crowe Founder of TDRC

"WHAT A GREAT VIBE!" 11/16/2017 That was the consensus on Catherine MacLellan's Pie-Off, last Friday at Port Hope United Church. Beautiful music by the PEI singer/sogwriter and guitarist, Chris Gauthier, filled the hall with a warmth that was only interrupted by the arrival of prize-winning, delicious, homemade pies.

A panel of skilled, expert pie judges chose the Best Sweet Pie (Lyndsay Chapman), the Best Savoury Pie (Arlene Howells), the Best Hundred Mile Pie (Alex Kirkham McGriskin) and the Best Overall Pie, won by Ian Everdell with his Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest and provided pie for the rest of the audience to sample and enjoy.

Thanks also to our partners, Cultivate: A Festival of Food & Drink, to many volunteers who made the evening such a success, and to Port Hope United Church.

Pat Capponi is a straight shooter, a survivor, an author, an advocate, a visionary, a member of the Order of Canada, and is well known for amplifying the voices of those most marginalized in her community. Of late, she's been called on to advise on policy and bring reform to institutions as entrenched as police services. This week Pat has been invited to speak to an event for emerging leaders. This is what she has to say: We worry about people dying on the streets, and take comfort when we hear about shelter expansion, someone is doing something.

​But there are many ways of dying, even as the body trudges on, the struggling heart still beats, there is the daily death of hopes, expectations, any residual sense of value, as the forced march from service to service, soup kitchen to drop-in, always having to line-up in the cold and the heat, always having to ask, always having to hold out your hand in supplication, having to take what you’re given, having to look grateful, never letting your despair, your anger show. ​Anger gets people barred, anger makes workers back away, so you lower your eyes, and mutter thanks.

​​But we comfort ourselves by not looking at individuals, allowing our eyes to skitter way from the different, from the obviously homeless, collective labelling allows us to de-humanize those we find public annoyances, affecting our quality of life, having to step around people huddled on heating grates or sleeping in parks. We don’t see them as people, we don’t want to know them, it might prick our consciences, impel us to get involved. And besides, so much money is spent on services, they must just refuse to get help, or refuse to help themselves. So its a life-style choice, free-loading off those who go to work every day, struggle to raise and educate their families, pay their mortgages, and contribute to the city. Are there no poor-houses? as Dickens wrote long ago.

As night comes, as a cheerful worker hands you a mat and points you to a narrow space on the floor between other huddled forms, it's clear we’ve normalized this nightmare, and by doing so, we’ve erased the individual's identity, lost any compelling sense of urgency, or need to do more.

We house agencies, we house workers in offices and institutions, we spend millions on care for mental health issues, for addictions, then we discharge people to the same streets they came from, or to places no one would willingly enter: rooming houses or shelters where dealers pound on the door, where bed bugs torment, where theft of the little you have is a given, where assault and rape and bullying are everyday occurrences.

For me, after three months and eleven days on a psychiatric ward, and God knows how much that cost, I was discharged to a huge for-profit structure packed with seventy other patients and no staff, a move that almost killed me, the despair was so strong as I looked around me.

Hard to re-build when there is no place start. No place to plant your feet, no door to lock, no moment to take an unencumbered breath. Most of all, no way to re-work your self-image from powerless, from responsible for your own plight, from unable, from shunned in your own city, your own neighbourhood.

We like to pride ourselves on zero waste in our public institutions and businesses, and yet we discard people without a second thought.

We waste their potential, we waste their future contributions, we waste their lives. It takes so little to bring people up to the level of safety where they can plant their feet, and start to grow again. So little and yet so much. We have to admit to our systems failures, we have to admit our complicity, we have to recognize that the poor, and homeless, and ill, and aging, don’t clone themselves, they are replenished daily through barring, through ‘not meeting criteria’, through a preference to spend time with those easier to work with, through prejudice and stigma, through an appalling lack of accountability We’ve allowed governments to keep OW rates punitively low, ensuring no one can find a “clean, well-lighted place”. My work today involves people who’ve spent years on welfare, people who fled abuse, people who came as refugees with dreams that shattered, people who self-medicate to help them endure the streets. It confounds me how little it takes to revive them, once they have a roof and walls, a lock, a key. A recognition of their individuality, a salute to the strengths involved in surviving all the bad, a statement that even if their own mistakes or choices led them to the streets, it doesn’t deserve a life sentence. Create conditions where they can empower themselves, help their peers, find work in the systems that failed them, engage with policy makers and politicians to find real solutions. And push for housing allowances that reflect reality. Push for opportunities to work in peer run social enterprises or as peer workers in mental health and addictions, community work, shelter staff where they can be role models to staff and clients.

And most importantly, take back our Voice from those who've become too comfortable speaking for us.

Reprinted with permission of Pat Capponi.

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