When I celebrate Canada day, I will not be celebrating the Canada of our past – I will be celebrating the Canada of our future.
I will not be celebrating the genocide, theft, and destruction that took place, not only in the founding of this country, but for decades to follow in the form of residential schools, 60’s scoop, and straight forward discrimination that still exists today.
I will be celebrating the Canada that I want to see. I will be celebrating truth and reconciliation. I will be celebrating how far we have come, and how very far we still need to go. I will be acknowledging the values that this country was founded on, tossing those values aside, and celebrating family, respect, and community for ALL Canadians.
I urge everyone to remember what you are truly celebrating today. Don’t get me wrong, go out and have fun, play games, enjoy the fireworks, but DON’T forget what our country was built on, what our country looks like now, and what we want it to look like in the future.
I am grateful to be Canadian, but I still know that this country that I love has its flaws. We can work together as a community, and as a country, to fight for what is right, and to build a version of Canada that we can not only love, but be proud of.
Night #1 is over!
This morning, I had a chance to pop by and say hi to this year’s Five Days for the Homeless participants. I asked them how their first night went.
They talked about feeling the cold snow hit their tarp, and just being thankful that they had a way to cover their faces.
They talked about how much it snowed last week, and how they could only imagine the impact that would have had on our city’s homeless.
They talked about someone bringing them muffins, and the guilt that they felt in accepting food when they know that not everyone on the street is that lucky.
I am so glad that we have these passionate and understanding people heading up this year’s campaign. They are stepping out of their comfort zone to stay outside for these 5 days, but they know that their experience this week won’t even begin to compare to the experiences faced by so many in our community.
Five Days for the Homeless is important, not just because of the money it raises, but because of the awareness it raises surrounding this very real and very pressing issue in our community. For many of us, it is difficult to imagine a life without a home. Our homes are where we go to lay our heads at night. We invite our friends into our homes to socialize. Our homes shelter us from the cold, rain, and snow. They store our belongings and our memories. They give us an address, that we can list on our identification and health cards. Our homes help to give us humanity.
It is often said that a person’s home is the extension of who they are. Depriving a person of a home is depriving them from a piece of their own identity.
In 2015, a point in time count was conducted in Regina to determine how many of our own were living without a place to call home. There were 232 total people found on the night of the count. 232 people, just like you and I, living their lives without the safety, comfort, or security of four walls. While this number is alarming on it’s own, this does not even begin to capture the whole picture. It doesn’t consider the countless individuals forced to couch surf, stay with friends and family, or hide out in abandoned shelters. The problem of hidden homelessness is an extremely prevalent one in our community, especially due to the frigid cold temperatures we see here in Saskatchewan. According to Statistics Canada, 8% of Canadians surveyed in 2014 reported experiencing hidden homelessness at some point in their lives. This number is a reminder that being off the streets and “hidden” from the public eye is not the same as being in a home.
We are excited and proud of the University of Regina students for dedicating so much time and energy to this campaign, and to this important cause. We can only hope that, one day, homelessness will be a thing of the past, and campaign’s like these can disappear.
Together, we can end poverty and homelessness in our community.
It’s time to ring in 2018! 2017 was a big year for Carmichael. We outgrew our cozy little home on Osler Street and purchased a new-to-us building on 12th and St. Johns.
While we work to raise the necessary funds to renovate our new forever-home, we moved out of our space on Osler into a temporary location at 2300 11th Avenue, downtown. Nicor was a huge help to us, providing the space to us at a rate that is remarkably lower than market value. I don’t know what we would have done without them!
We have had a lot of changes in staffing over the past year. We said goodbye to a lot of valued members of our team, but have welcomed new staff with open arms! We have also elected a few new members to our board this year. This new team is eager and willing to help make 2018 one of Carmichael’s best years yet!
With all of the excitement that came this past year, there came misfortune as well. I would be remiss to leave 2017 without mentioning the many members of the Carmichael family who have passed away this year. Be it from the weather, addiction, or sickness, these were strong unique individuals, and it is important to recognize the lives they lived. Listed in no particular order, we would like to honour the following 20 lives that were lost in 2017:
Kelvin Pasap Jr.
Doreen Royal (Lou)
Ruder Bugler Peyachew
Melvin E. Ulmer
If I have missed anyone, please let me know, and I will update our list to ensure that the lives of all members of the Carmichael family can be recognized.
It is never easy to lose someone, but it is important to always honour the lives they lived, rather than look back with sorrow. Moving forward, we must all do our best to make Regina a safer place to live. Working to reduce poverty and homelessness in our community can help to save the lives of many, and it is important that we do what we can to ensure that everyone has access to the basic goods and services they need. As a community, we can work together to prevent more deaths like these, and to help our community members live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Let us all do our parts to make 2018 our best year yet. With time, strength, and teamwork, we can end poverty and homelessness in our community.
Happy new year.
Thank you to everyone who has supported Carmichael, our operations, and our Imagine Initiative thus far. We believe in respect, dignity, and the importance of empowerment. Everything we do is done with and for our community, with many of the people who use our services going on to volunteer or work with our Organization. The Carmichael family is unique and special, and without them, we would never exist.
We launched our Imagine Initiative so that we could share our goals and our vision with the rest of the community. Before expanding, I would like to begin by having you imagine your family.
Imagine your little brother or sister, running away from home, with nowhere to go, cold and alone.
Imagine walking down Scarth Street in the middle of winter and seeing your grandfather curled up on the sidewalk.
Imagine hearing that your cousin has overdosed and died, because they didn’t have anyone there to support them through recovery.
I could go on forever with more examples, and while these examples may not apply to you, they are an absolute reality for countless individuals in Regina, many of whom are members of the Carmichael Family.
Our Imagine Initiative is built on what we see for the future, not just for Carmichael, but for everyone. While it may be easy to feel bad for someone in a moment and quickly move on, we must all remember that the people described in the above examples do not just exist to be pitied. They are strong, resilient, and powerful individuals. They are people who have suffered and grown. They are people who have faced adversity and work hard every day to create a better life for themselves. Just like you would want to support your own family through hardship, for some of these people, all they need is a bit of support, encouragement, and empowerment to find their footing in life. As a community, we must be there to build each other up, and never to put each other down. We must remember that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We all have our privileges and our misfortunes. Let’s remember to use those strengths and privileges in the best way possible, supporting and growing with one another every step of the way.
I have only been with Carmichael for a few months now, but I am so grateful to have been welcomed into this strong and resilient family.
We want you to invite you to support Carmichael, and to become a part of this family, too.
With Tyler’s final day having come to a close, we are sad to see him go. He has offered so much to Carmichael Outreach over his four years here, and we wish him all the best on his future endeavors. Now that Tyler has started his new journey, we are excited to welcome Rochelle Berenyi into the role of Communications, Advocacy, and Projects Officer. Here is what she has to say…
While I am undoubtedly nervous, I am also very excited to be a part of the amazing organization that is Carmichael Outreach. I have watched from afar as Carmichael has worked hard to make a difference in our community, and I am excited to have the opportunity to learn from everyone involved in Carmichael – from the employees, to the volunteers, to the Carmichael family, and all of the many community supporters. I look forward to getting to know everyone who has had, and continues to have, an impact on Carmichael, and our community as a whole. If I’ve learned anything from my first few days of Carmichael, it’s that nothing would be possible without all of the collaboration and support from everyone involved.
I hope that I can help to play a part in supporting Carmichael in the coming years, especially in the current period of transition. It’s going to take some getting used to, and I have some big shoes to fill, but I really look forward to learning and growing along with Carmichael!
It’s Tyler’s last day at Carmichael Outreach, and after four years, he decided that he wanted to share some parting words. They are below…
My life and community were altered 4 years ago when I walked through the doors of Carmichael Outreach for my first day and started as a Housing Support Coordinator. I have met some of the most amazing people in our community
I want to thank my friend Rodney who passed away during my time working here. Rodney taught me more about generosity and caring than anyone I have ever met. My understanding of what it meant to truly care for and love others was fundamentally shaped by observing the way he treated each person that walked through the doors at Carmichael. Rodney took every opportunity to care for others, and it is a legacy I intend to carry forward for the rest of my life. Miss you brother.
Thanks to Rocky – who has functioned as the gift-giving, protective mother bear at Carmichael throughout my time here. We have shared a lot of laughter, and she is an amazing writer and contributor to the free press. I will miss her.
Thanks to Noel, aka Ken Dryden, who always made hockey day incredibly fun. I will miss hearing his laugh and getting to experience his humour and sarcasm.
Sidenote: I have learned more about what it means to live with strength and resiliency from the people I see at Carmichael each day than I ever thought possible. I have learned to take advantage of each day of my life, regardless of what my circumstances look like. The Carmichael family is what I will miss most about this place. It is an amazing group of people who care for each other, look after one another, and protect one another.
Thanks to our friends at Strategy Lab – These guys have helped us learn how to more effectively communicate who we are, be bold in our vision, and what it means to hustle. Much of what I’ve been able to communicate to our community, I owe to their encouragement, skill, and challenging. Brandon, Jeph, Eddy, Conrad and crew – we are so grateful for you.
Thank you to Synergy Electric Corporation – Dale, Aaron, and team provided us with a brand new set of computers and a network hardware install that moved us from old technology to functional technology. I am amazed at how this community supports our work, and this was one example where good people helped us become more effective at what we do.
Thanks to our friends at KSP Technology – Kevin and Melanie were a god-send to our organization. We lived in the dark ages before they became our IT provider. They have generously provided their services as a donation, and we would be lost without their on-going support.
Thanks to the George Lee Grade 8’s from 2016. This group of kids was my favourite community project of all time. An entire school came together to donate $280 of art supplies and almost 3,000 clothing and house hold items to Carmichael Outreach. If that is our future, we are in good hands.
Thanks to the Hill Business Students’ Society. What a group of inspiring young people that have helped to raise over $130,000 in the past 4 years for Carmichael. They have taught me to be creative, visionary, and inspiring. They taught me that a combination of passion and vision are irresistibly engaging.
Thanks to Bill Neher – a man who started as a potential project partner that became a friend, that morphed into a mentor. Bill has been the brains behind our new building project and his contributions to Carmichael will impact the organization for the next 30 years. I am so grateful to have been able to work alongside of him.
Thanks to my good friend Nic Olson – Nic taught me what it meant to authentically put 100% into working at Carmichael, and through the 3+ years that we worked together, he inspired and carried forward a lot of vision and innovation. My time with Nic taught me that right is right, no matter how difficult, and that there is always a way forward if we look for it.
Finally, thanks to each staff member, volunteer, donor, community member, and media member who has told our story, or joined our work. Carmichael cannot be what it is without the strong support of the community. Each of you has amazed me, and I have been inspired when I see and dream of what we can accomplish together.
Thank you for letting me be a part of this journey for 4 years,
“He was one of the smartest people I knew. He knew four languages.”
“His life was filled with love.”
“I called every day for my baby to come home.”
“I miss him a lot. We were brothers.”
“I loved my dad. I was such a daddy’s girl. He could always make me laugh.”
As I stood at last week’s memorial for those who have lost their lives due to experiences of homelessness, these memories of the many funerals I have attended in the past four years flooded my mind…
It was -30 with the windchill, I was wearing long underwear, a warm parka, a toque, mitts, winter socks – and I was trying to imagine how someone would survive in these temperatures. It is a reality for many people that I see each day. One of the speakers mentioned that we were experiencing a little taste of homelessness, and while well intentioned, it’s simply not true. We were cold, but we all knew the end of our cold coincided with the end of our event. For many people we see at Carmichael Outreach each day (*232 of our community members to be exact) there is no end in sight.
Another speaker, one of our friends who has received housing and supports that have helped him leave homelessness behind, described homelessness as “a hard life… I’ve seen many of my friends die.”
The loss of our many friends and members of our Carmichael family has been to our community’s detriment. We have lost carriers of language, carriers of culture, carriers of community, and carriers of love.
We now know that homelessness is a treatable and preventable issue. Other communities, to our shame, have shown the initiative and leadership to maintain **functional zero homelessness. We know that Housing First works, we know it improves quality of life, we know it saves money, and we know it’s what is best for our community.
So, what are we missing? Collaborative commitment and leadership from our governments. Regina currently receives funding exclusively from the Government of Canada. While Alberta provided and provides $30 million to fully support the implementation of Housing First, the Government of Saskatchewan has provided $0. There are reasons to hope. We see a looming municipal strategy to end homelessness on the horizon, but it will not get off the ground without engagement from all government stakeholders.
Our closing thoughts at the memorial remain true – we cannot gather once each year to soothe our guilty conscience for another year of inaction. We must act now – people’s lives dependent on it.
*From the Regina PIT Count final report – Final Report
**Functional zero homelessness refers to a community where there are no on-going experiences of homelessness while recognizing that unpreventable crises can lead to temporary experiences of homelessness.
Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual General Meeting last night, and a huge thank you to all of our donors, volunteers, board, and staff who make each year possible. We wanted to say thank you, and a fond farewell, to one of our longest tenured board members, Michael Brown.
Thank you Michael for all of the work put in to helping us become the organization we are today. We have expanded our capacity to meet community needs and are well positioned to take advantage of some great opportunities. These are outcomes that are in no small way connected to Michael’s efforts as Chair, Vice-Chair, Treasurer and member of our Board.
We would also like to welcome our newly elected board members, Mitch Gallant and Lisa Watson. We also are grateful to have Kevin Miller returning for another term. Each of these newly elected members will serve three year terms and be up for election at our 2019 AGM.
Stay tuned for our Annual Report!