PHOTO: Garry Knight/Flickr.

By Abigail Richards

The Covid-19 pandemic has had the greatest impact on those most marginalized in our society, especially people living on the streets or in shelters. Experts predict that the pandemic and associated economic dislocations will cause the homeless population to rise over the coming years. There is incredible urgency to act now to protect the current homeless population and to force the government to finally take action to eradicate homelessness in Canada once and for all.

Throughout February and March 2021, ICL worked with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), a charity founded to build and lead a national movement to end homelessness in Canada, to make this dream a reality. CAEH works to mobilize communities to transform programs, policies and systems toward the goal of ending homelessness. In the early months of the pandemic, CAEH launched Recovery For All, a national advocacy campaign asking Canadians to pressure the federal government to make bold investments in housing, homelessness and income support as part of Canada’s pandemic recovery. ICL was thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to their important work.

ICL partnered with CAEH to create a custom workshop series to train activists on the leadership and organizing skills necessary to win sustainable change towards ending homelessness. 125 anti-homelessness activists, workers and self-advocates from across Canada took part in our sessions, representing a truly national movement of individuals, organizations and communities working together to end homelessness in Canada. Some were brand new to activism, while others had decades of experience. 

Meeting virtually every week on Zoom, ICL and CAEH worked with activists both one-on-one, in large groups and in breakout sessions to help them articulate their own stories, structure their teams, strategize, and translate that strategy into measurable, motivational, and effective action within the housing sector.  The eight-week series was a huge success, with participants gaining new skills, inspiration, and a sense of community to support their work of eradicating homelessness.

“The practical skills and strategies I learned have made organizing seem tangible,” noted one of the participants. “I have hope that we can end homelessness because I see the path forward and my place within the movement.”

It was incredible for us to see so many participants discover their own voices, and to see these new skills immediately be put into action. Advocates ran 37 unique letter-writing campaigns and sent over 758,000 letters to decision-makers. Ultimately 24,000 supporters took actions and reached 3.9 million Canadians.

These actions had an immediate impact. By May 2021 the campaign succeeded in securing a federal commitment to ending chronic homelessness, accelerating the appointment of the National Housing Council and securing nearly $6 billion in new or reallocated federal dollars for housing and homelessness, including the creation of the Rapid Housing Initiative, dramatically expanded funding for the federal Reaching Home program and a new veteran homelessness pilot program.

As Tim Richter, President of CAEH, notes, while Budget 2021 does “make some important progress toward ending homelessness” it “does not go far enough or fast enough.” That’s why this initial momentum will be critical to maintain as the country heads into a probable fall election. CAEH is planning on building on the success of the Recovery for All campaign and is gearing up to organize the largest housing campaign in Canadian history, Vote Housing (stay tuned for more details). 

ICL is proud to work with organizations like CAEH to inspire, educate, and facilitate activists’ journey towards making change in their communities and beyond. We’re thrilled to see all that’s been accomplished so far during CAEH’s campaign and know that they are making immense waves in Canada’s housing industry. We can’t wait to see what they do next and to continue supporting the movement to end homelessness in Canada for good. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the work CAEH is doing and getting involved, visit their website at https://caeh.ca.

Interested in partnering with ICL to supercharge your movement for change and equip members and volunteers with the skills they need to win? Drop us a line and we’ll schedule a time to chat about how we can work together.

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