Swepath Sustainable Housing Society is asking for Hope residents who have experienced homelessness to share their stories.
A project titled ‘Give me Shelter’ is studying the circumstances that lead to homelessness in the area, with a particular focus on Indigenous people.
Hope’s Crystal Sedore is Swepath’s Executive Director. She said the project is being done in phases. Phase 1 is a simple six-question survey for people who rent locally.
One of the questions is, ‘If you lost your home tomorrow, what would the next three months look like for you?’
“We want to explore further why so many get stuck here and what factors negatively influence their capacity to secure a home after finding themselves homeless,” Sedore explained.
Sedore said Swepath has been collecting stories since March, describing them as “heartbreaking but informative.”
“We want to collect real life stories before we begin to explore what supports are already in place,” she said. “We feel that community supports are crucial and can change lives, but if they aren’t being accessed or they aren’t working we want to know why that is so, directly from the people they are designed to serve.”
Phase 2 will be study analysis, followed by the creation of “strategic interventions” to address gaps in rental capacity and resources.
“This may take the form of advocacy services, a dedicated help line, print resources and a distribution strategy or other types of preventative interventions,” Sedore said. “We won’t really know how that will roll out until we finish evaluation of Phase 1.
“Hope has many incredible programs to ease the pain of homelessness such as the food bank and the emergency shelter but those are bandaids. We need real solutions to not only address homelessness but to prevent it in the first place.”
While cost is certainly a component, with rental prices skyrocketing in Hope, Sedore believes that’s just one of the problems that will be revealed in the study.
“There is systemic racism against Indigenous renters, against people on social assistance and discrimination against single mothers, and against people who suffer from mental health challenges and addictions,” she said. “Add in that many of the landlords are absentee with incompetent landlords with little understanding of residential laws, that people are facing illegal evictions.
“A lot of affordable housing in Hope is in motels and apartments in deplorable condition, but nobody wants to speak up for fear of being evicted.”
Swepath Sustainable Housing Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the current housing crisis, especially as it relates to First Nation communities. The organization is virtual, with directors spread across the province.
Swepath is a Halque’melem word meaning ‘place where the sun rises.’
If you have a story you’d like to share, reach out to Crystal Sedore with a private message on Facebook.
For more info, visit swepathhousing.com.