Monday, March 31, 2008

The North -- Day One Prince George

It was a glorious and sunny day in Prince George. We could almost feel spring coming on.

A highlight of the day was our time at the Native Friendship Centre. Our hosts were thoughtful and articulate, and we thought that rather than speak for them, we would publish some of what they had to say:

"Children shouldn't grow up in emergency shelters. And the elderly shouldn't die in them."

"Would you like to spend the night on a mat on the floor of a dining room?"

"You're more apt to get dollars for emergency shelters. But we have to do that other piece -- homes."

"It's not just shelter and it's not just placement. Nobody is independent. They need support to be successful."

"We need more affordable, safe, clean housing and the supports that go along with them."

"We have a few more resources but the nnumber of homeless people keeps increasing. The situation with affordable housing is way worse."

When asked what people need to help them get out of the situation of homelessness, one representative said, "We have to teach them to dream again."

At AWAWC we were reminded of something that we have been told before in other towns on the "Finding Our Way Home" tour. There is a problem for young people as they transition between Ministry of Children and Families support to adulthood. Often they can feel left on their own to cope with the same challenges they had only a few days before when they were 18 and were considered children. When we plan our housing strategy we must take into account and accomodate this difficult transition time.

At Elizabeth Fry we heard about succesful housing developments that integrate market rents, slightly less than market rents and non-market rents -- all tied to 30% of a resident's income.

We would also like to thank the St. Vincent de Paul Society for letting us share their lunch time program and for the incredibly warm and inviting atmosphere they have built.

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