What is a place to call home? For some people, it has been our spaces in 2020 as we hid from the coronavirus. Or our workplaces where we held Teams meetings and attended webinars. It may have been our place we cared for our families and our children. Or the space we shared with our roommates. Our “home” place may have been small or too large, filled with amenities or just the basics, too warm or too cold, too loud or so quiet we can hear a pin drop. Regardless, of where we lay our head tonight, we are blessed. Because we do.
235, 000 experience homelessness
According to Homeless Hub, 1 in 5 racialized people live below the poverty line. And 32 % of racialized women earn less than other women in the workplace. And 28.2% of those experiencing homeless are racialized.
28 % of people who experience homelessness are racialized, compared to 19% of Canadians
Refugees and newcomers are at greater risk for experiencing homelessness due to difficulties finding good, quality and affordable housing.
So what happened during our Gift Project?
The Gift Project was a time limited program sponsored by the Ontario Trillium Foundation to provide emergency aid to parents, caregivers, and guardians during the pandemic. Through the project, parents shared their stories and experiences with our volunteers and identified significant concerns. The challenges the community experienced was vast. From dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 diagnosis, to losing sustainable employment due to the pandemic. There were parents living with life threatening diseases to families who lost a parent in the home. Many people identified housing insecurities, and worries that they just did not have enough funds to pay their bills.
Prior to the pandemic, Black people struggled with the housing market in multiple ways. Landlords refused to rent to Black tenants or gave them a hard time with rental applications. They often were refused tenancy on the basis of being Black. When selling their home, Black people would experience a more difficult time with a sale, in comparison with non-Black persons. And, when purchasing a home, Black people were often never considered first in a housing bid. Due to this, many Black people lived in unsafe homes and communities.
Living in poverty can be cyclical for Black people, not because of their lack of trying but the systemic barriers that exist due to anti-Black racism. As a single parent raising my daughter, I knew I was always one pay cheque away from losing everything. And that loss, meant that finding employment and housing was difficult. I also learned that I had to accept my experiences of anti-Black racism and unfair treatment by my employer because my living was always precarious. The pandemic only heightened these concerns for Black people.
Over 600 people applied to the Gift Project for small financial aid due to…
Homelessness… living in their vehicles, couch surfing from home to home. During the pandemic, we learned that people lost their homes if tested positive for COVID-19, if renting with roommates. Students lost a place to stay when dorms and residences closed temporarily
Not everyone qualified for CERB or government assistance payments, once they lost their employment or could not maintain work as their children were home.
Many applicants were single parents, recent widows, and parenting a special needs child that heightened concerns for their family. For the families who had housing, they lived in buildings that child welfare workers were not even permitted to enter. Housing, does not always mean safe housing, free from violence.
Another pattern we observed was many people lived in unsafe family homes marked by conflictual relationships, intimate partner violence, and unsafe homes for children. Since supporting our community, our volunteers provided referrals to women’s shelters and legal support services.
Finally, the majority of applicants were refugees and newcomer Canadians who arrived in Canada shortly before the pandemic, and did not have readily access to community supports, employment resources, housing assistance, government payments and more.
Just because we may not see poverty, homelessness, and racism, does not mean that it does not exist. Our privilege is knowing that we have where others do not, and may not ever achieve the ability to have.
I once read that we could eliminate poverty by dispersing the world’s wealth. In one picture, we see “Instagram” worthy photos of wealthy people enjoying a beautiful island or lavishing in the newest clothing or jewelry. On the other hand, we can become inundated with photos of starving children living on the street in Malaysia or Uganda. If you are blessed to travel down the streets of Toronto, you may see some “faces” of people who appear homeless. But do we see or pay attention to the uncommon faces. The cashiers at the grocery stores we visit. The family we pass in the Mall. The car we see parked up on a busy street. The children playing in the park. I definitely learned that there is so much I did not see. I am blessed to have a place to call home, because I know too many do not.
A Place to Call Home
Is Canada’s first Housing Strategy. In 10 years, the “National Housing Strategy will remove 530,000 families from housing need, cut chronic homelessness by 50% and change the face of housing in Canada forever” Learn more and apply at:
Kujenga Wellness Project
Is a 3-year project sponsored by the Ontario Trillium Foundation which provides Navigation Services, Workshops, Outreach and Support Groups for parents, caregivers and guardians. To Learn more about our initiatives, visit: