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MNP Tournament of Hope Postponement and Pledge Drive

Yesterday was to mark the 15th Annual installment of the MNP Tournament of Hope at the Tor Hill Golf Club, but inclement weather forced us to postpone this year’s edition until August 31st. Location and time will remain the same, with registration beginning at 11:00AM and a shotgun start at 12:30PM.

We have a new online tool this year to help us maximize this fundraiser and we invite you to check it out. It’s our pledge drive for the golf tournament. While we have nearly sold out of sponsorship options and participant space, each of this items has a fixed cost that takes away from the funds we can raise. However, the pledge drive is a key piece to this fundraiser. If you have sponsored in previous years, or are attending this year, or are even a friend of Carmichael Outreach, you can participate in the tournament pledge drive.

All you have to do is share/visit the form found here and make your contribution.

We have some great prizes for those who help us raise funds for Carmichael Outreach.

Anyone raising over $250 receives a custom piece of bone art from local artist Darren Pratt

Anyone raising over $500 receives a Darren Pratt piece and the choice between a E & J Gallo Wine basket and a sparkle ball necklace from Hillberg & Burk

Anyone raising over $1000 receives the $500 prize, and a choice of sparkle ball earrings, or a FitBit.

Help us raise funds, and make sure that if people pledge to you that they enter your name in the “pledging to” field so that we know how much money you’ve raised.

Thanks all,

The Carmichael Outreach Team

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Five Days, Five Solutions (Part 5)

Given the amount of information we have put out in this blog series, we felt it would be best to provide a type of executive summary for Part 5. If you’re interested in the full context of the on-going conversation we’ve been having, please read Parts 1-4 of this series as they provide far greater detail and support for our thoughts on how to address homelessness in our community.

We identify a few core values that are of absolute necessity when entering into conversation about homelessness, and the experiences of homelessness in our communities. First – the values our organization is founded on, respect and dignity, are non-starters. We cannot expect to realistically address social problems in our community when we do not value the members of our community facing these challenges. There’s a great campaign on-going with Raise the Roof Canada that portrays this with some great videos. Check it out by connecting with #humansforhumans on facebook or social media. We must move as a community to solutions that are collective and inclusive of those with lived experience. Hearing and respecting the powerful stories and voices of individuals and families experiencing homelessness is the first step to learning how to address homelessness. Community ills require community cures. Our work is rooted in these principles and we extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to join us in this important work.

Ending homelessness in our community is an achievable goal. Many communities across our country have implemented plans to end homelessness, and it is time for one here. Community investment in solving the problem of homelessness has several positive effects. First, each member of our community has a place to call home and the social supports to help them journey through life’s experiences. Each of us leverages resources in times of crisis and often those experiencing homelessness in our community simply do not have social supports to help them avoid homelessness. Second, there is simply no economic argument that validates doing nothing. We spend 2-3x as much money in our current systems that don’t respect and uphold human dignity vs. models such as Housing First and harm reduction services that are twice as successful at helping people maintain housing. Our current methods of dealing with homelessness only perpetuate chronic cycles. Partnership at all levels of our community (citizens, levels of government, CBOs, government services) means that we can provide a more focused, organized response to homelessness and follow the lead of places such as Medicine Hat, where they are on their way to ending homelessness.

Harm reduction services are an additional key piece to Housing First and efficable responses to homelessness. Programs like Needle Exchange Programs and other services along the continuum of harm reduction services are proven to reduce the spread of infectious diseases and have greater success in supporting individuals with addictions and mental illness. When offered congruently, these services provide space for those experiencing homelessness to have far better outcomes.

– Average shelter visits have been shown to decrease 88%

– Days in prison are reduced by 45%

– Visits for acute hospital care are reduced 70%

– Substance abuse reduced 30% (after three months of support)

– 82% of people report a more positive outlook for the future (90% report life has improved)

Service provision needs to meet people where they are at in order to be effective. Individuals are personally empowered and desire better outcomes. The statistical proof above is consistent across Housing First type programs in North America.

Ending homelessness is achievable, but only as we change the conversation. As we have stated in this series, community is more than geographical boundaries. It is the individuals, experiences, and personalities that make up those in our community. We can continue to spend money maintaining existing systems that do not help individuals long-term, or we can stand for and invest in programs and services that are shown to end homelessness. Each person in our community deserves to be respected in their humanity and access services that uphold their dignity instead of stigmatizing their experiences. Negative outcomes in housing often lead to negative outcomes socially. Positive outcomes in housing enable for individuals to live their lives with vision that is more than temporal and based on survival. Many people we have met could echo these statistics and stories, but their stories are for them to tell.

These blogs are our thoughts and we will close with an invitation into the work of ending homelessness in our community. Volunteer with us or another CBO, stand for policies that are proven economically and positive socially, and let’s overcome long-standing barriers between us in our community.

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Five Days, Five Solutions (Part 4)

Walking into Carmichael Outreach for my job interview in May of 2013. I was a recent graduate from the University of Regina, and I thought I understood all of the challenges surrounding poverty and homelessness. I strutted in with confidence, looked around, and immediately realized I had never encountered or engaged an experience of poverty/homelessness like the experiences of the folks that have become my friends at Carmichael.

I didn’t understand. I still don’t.

I have travelled and volunteered extensively internationally, having spent time in Asia working with impoverished children trying to prevent human trafficking. It was a time where I originally thought that the experiences of poverty for the marginalized in those countries were barbaric and archaic. I remember being flabbergasted seeing starving children on the street, or babies lying face down in the dirt of Kolkata’s streets with no clothes on. There was a certain look of hopelessness that I didn’t know how to deal with or comprehend.

The first time I went in 2008, I soothed myself by thinking how much better those experiencing poverty had it in Canada. The second time I went in 2014, I realized there were, and are, far too many similarities between those afflicted with the experiences of poverty around the world. Women and children disproportionately affected. Minorities disproportionately represented, and the most vulnerable populations exploited, de-humanized, and blamed for their position. In India, mental illness and addiction in their most visible forms were often challenges for those living on the street, and it is the same here.

One of our local advocates in Regina often speaks of the geography of opportunity for folks experiencing homelessness/extreme poverty. It’s the idea that most live their lives finding the things they need to survive within a 10 block radius. Think about the experience of homelessness for a moment – there’s nowhere to store food, clothes, medicine, or toiletries. There’s no mode of transportation unless you have access to public transportation. It shrinks the area that a person functions in their community when they must maximize their time accessing various things for survival.

As an organization, we had an awakening to our part in that narrative. Most of our friends that regularly attend Carmichael Outreach have life experiences that are largely restricted to the downtown/heritage area. They sleep in shelter, detox, or emergency, access needed services during the day, and Soul’s Harbour for supper. Then, they find their way to where they will sleep again and repeat the cycle. Constantly thinking about survival robs someone of his or her inability to plan long-term. Temporal decisions are the only ones available. Where will I find food when I have none? Where will I find a shower? Where will I sleep tonight? Until those basic needs are addressed, there can be no consideration of weeks, months, or years down the road. It is the simple psychology of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to take care of survival first, and it is one that has kept homelessness hidden due to the location of community resources. We are proud of the services we provide, but we cannot simply be another holding space for our city’s homeless populations that separates them from the rest of our community.

We have realized community is more than a set of geographical boundaries. It is not a sign that welcomes you to “the friendly city”, “the bridge city”, or “the queen city”. It is the individuals, experiences, and personalities that occupy those spaces. The more that we refuse to allow division to separate us through misunderstanding and fear, the less power these perceptions have to create social classes. The break down of individual and community social support is the number one factor that leads to homelessness. Our inability to understand homelessness as more than a label limits our ability to empathize with the experiences of those facing homelessness.

Our goal is to have community that shares experiences with each other. These are the reasons we offer art classes, hockey days, guitar lessons, and many other similar services. It is not simply for the novelty of opportunity for the less fortunate, it is so we all have an opportunity to eliminate the invisible barriers that separate us as community.

On day four, we offer the following solution – Community Engagement. We do our best to engage the community, and we are hopeful that as we share our experiences and thoughts that the community wants to engage us. Imagine a community engaged in supporting one another when and where it was needed. It does not breed dependency, but rather results in successful achievement of independence far more frequently than through current policies that ostracize and marginalize already oppressed populations. Come to Carmichael when we have events. Paint with each other, volunteer with us or another CBO.

We are so grateful for the community partnerships we have. We are able to provide services to those in need and we cannot say thank you enough to those who faithfully support us, bring food, donate items, and volunteer. We want to grow that part of our movement. It is our perspective that as we grow the number of people with knowledge of community issues and relationship with those affected, we will see a decrease in the number of people needing to access our food services. We dream of serving 17,000 less meals in a year instead of 17,000 more, or providing housing support and harm reduction services to less people because of improving outcomes. These types of outcomes are possible. Join us in changing the conversation. Let’s become communities rooted in respect and dignity for each other.

** Part 4 in our series of blogs shares the experiences of one of our employees, Tyler who works in the capacity of Communications, Advocacy, and Projects at Carmichael Outreach. 

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Five Days, Five Solutions (Part 3)

As part of last week’s Five Days for the Homeless fundraiser, held by the Business Students Society at the University of Regina, we thought it might be a good idea to supplement fundraising efforts with some conversations about how we as a community can contribute to ending homelessness in our community.

Despite our best efforts to finish on time, our blog-writer Tyler came down with the flu and was not able to finish the series during last week’s timeframe. As a result, we will finish the series this week. We’ve previously talked about the the principles that govern Carmichael Outreach and the lack of long-term financial strategy in addressing homelessness through government programs. Today, we wanted to talk about another key piece of the conversation around homelessness – addictions and mental illness.

Addiction is often associated with the experience of homelessness, but more often as a cause of, rather than a potential symptom. The implied conotation is often that it is the addiction that causes homelessness rather than the addiction as a result of homelessness. There are certainly circumstances where the former is true, but according to research, the latter is far more prevalant. An example of this can be found in a research report produced by homelesshub.ca where studies found that in 67% of shelter users in studied locales reported a “diagnosed lifetime mental illness.” In the same report, shelter users in major urban centres in Canada reported a lifetime diagnosed substance abuse problem (68%), and in another locale nearly 50% reported having used an illicit substance in the past month. While there is no guarantee that these conditions are always present simultaneously, “almost all shelter users” reported a concurrent or dual diagnosis (addictions and mental illness). In short, for the members of our communities that experience homelessness, mental illness and addictions often go hand in hand.

The above mentioned study also found that homeless individuals experiencing these conditions were likely to remain homeless for longer periods of time. There are several explanations offered, but aside from obvious reasons of difficulty personally maintaining housing (tenancy skills, fiscal management, etc.) a lack of support was noted as a substantial difference in the coping resources individuals had when they experienced mental difficulties. In short, many homeless folks are self-medicating through available means in an effort to experience relief from the concurrent problems of mental illness and addictions. A lack of available social supports contributes to an on-going cycle that causes continued separation and stigmatization from broader community and significantly reduces the likelihood of acquiring and maintaining housing.

Housing First, as discussed in (Part 2) of this blog offers an answer to this by supporting individuals facing these chalelnges. The report can be found on our webpage, but research into Canadian programs indicates that within 3 months of having housing, 17% of individuals in the same studied locales had quit drinking and 31% had quit using drugs – all within three months of receiving housing and necessary social supports. Additionally, usage of high cost services had drastically decreased and individuals reported less stress, and a better outlook on life. These results continue to build upon our case for respect, dignity, and effective long-term supports in Parts 1 & 2 of our blog.

In our day-to-day operations, our support for those fighting addictions and experiencing mental illness has several layers. First, we offer a Needle Exchange Program that is designed to prevent dirty needles from remaining on the street in order to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, and to provide a friendly, trusted face to those experiencing addiction. The program is rooted in the principles of harm reduction and is closely connected to Detox programs and services and is staffed by Public Health Nurses. Additionally, we offer a Healing Circle on Monday Mornings, a Narcotics Anonymous group on Friday mornings, and referrals to mental health and addictions services.

For Part 3 of Five Days, Five Solutions, we advocate for greater investment in addictions programs and services that do not exacerbate the cycle of addictions and mental illness, but for programs rooted in the principles of harm reduction such as our needle exchange programs in Regina, or InSite in Vancouver through the Pacific Coastal Health Region, and services that respect the humanity of the individuals they serve. The results speak for themselves – nearly 90% of folks are able to maintain housing with necessary social supports. Once housing stability is achieved, communities see significant reductions in high-cost services. Additionally, services rooted in harm reduction and offered through avenues such as housing first report nearly twice the success rate of treatment first models in helping individuals maintain housing.

As we have stated in both previous posts, we must destigmatize the experiences of individuals facing homelessness and its various challenges in our communities. It is quite likely that further stigmatization will lead to continued and chronic cycles of substance abuse, mental illness and housing instability. We can do better, we must do better.

Research mentioned in this post can be found at: 

http://homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/2.3%20CPHI%20Mental%20Health%20Mental%20Illness%20and%20Homelessness.pdf

http://carmichaeloutreach.org/index.php?pageid=Homelessness_in_Regina_Current_Situation_and_Solutions_From_Other_Communities

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Five Days, Five Solutions (Part 2)

Students have spent two days and two nights on the concrete at the University of Regina in an effort to draw attention to the experiences of members of our community who face the challenges of homelessness and extreme poverty on a daily basis. As noted yesterday, we recognize two things about this fundraiser. First, it cannot possibly recreate/represent all of the complexities associated with homelessness. Participants do not experience racism, systemic oppression, wondering if they will eat period, or even have experiences with homelessness for an amount of time that causes them to forget how to use a phone, forget what their own private bedroom feels like, and many more. Equally important to note is that there is tremendous value in this event because of the unique opportunity and profile it provides us to engage students, future and current community leaders, and the community at large in conversations about how we can implement social policy and investments (programs, grants) that will allow for us to end extreme poverty and homelessness, both achievable goals.

At Carmichael Outreach, we see the effects of Regina’s ongoing housing crunch on a daily basis. In 2011, we commenced the Carmichael Outreach Housing Support Program, and in the last six months of that calendar year, we provided support (advocacy, house hunting, budgeting, relationship building, tenancy skills) to 32 members of our community. In 2012, that number grew to 112. In 2013, we saw 267 unique individuals and families request and receive our programs supports. This past year, the program exploded, and between two coordinators, we saw 692 intakes. That means for nearly each day of the year, 2 individuals/families in our community walked in the door unable to maintain their housing because of budgetary restrictions, poor quality housing, landlord/tenant issues, racism, unethical evictions, and many other circumstances. In short, there is a growing number of folks in our city that simply cannot make housing work any longer for a variety of reasons.

We work with a wide range of people. Some people need limited support and are able to acquire the right housing quite easily. Some require some advocacy and support in their corner to get a second chance, and some are chronically homeless members of our community who have faced housing instability for as long as 18 years. Many of these folks face the additional barrier of concurrent diagnosis (a diagnosed mental illness and on-going addiction). It is in this area of housing support that we spend most of our time.

As a province, we spend exorbitant amounts of money perpetuating the instability that is a major contributing factor to the most inhumane of outcomes. The vast majority of those in our province on social assistance are termed unemployable. This designation can be an inability to work for several different reasons, but each of these individuals receives a base level of $459/month for housing. If they are able to acquire housing that meets certain quality requirements they are able to access the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement, which is from $180-220, depending on classification. Outside of the challenge of strict requirements that many rentals in our city do not meet, economically disadvantaged members of our community are forced to chase money to be able to obtain stable housing. It is our perspective that housing is a human right, and a necessary piece in the managing of mental illness and journey to sobriety. Research indicates that individuals in housing and with community supports are successful in maintaining housing over 2 years between 88-92% of the time, depending on the locale. Once an individual has maintained stable housing for 2 years, they are unlikely to ever experience homelessness again.

Rather than investing in programs that build capacity for these individuals and families, we spend around $2300/month for emergency services such as shelter, even more for beds in hospital emergency rooms, ambulatory services for individuals in crisis during cold weather, corrections costs, and beds at health region detox facilities. A simple top-up program available to individuals connected to community supports would not only reduce cost expenditures, but also improve the physical, social, emotional, and mental outcomes. Individuals having access to the dollars they need for rent ($850 average for a one bedroom apartment) is substantially cheaper than spending three times that amount on reactive services that do nothing to break the cycles associated with chronic homelessness.

On day 2 of our Five Days, Five Solutions series, we present the following solutions:

Strategic Investment in capacity building programs rooted in the principles of harm reduction such as Housing First. Individual dignity is upheld through provision of housing without requirement of sobriety or the bizarre concept of “earning” humane treatment. Individuals are afforded the geographical stability they need to journey towards their own health and stability in other key areas.

We also advocate for rental licensing, or a similar-type system that requires individuals who profit from property to maintain a standard of quality in their properties and that protects renters from certain rental increases that exploit the economically disadvantaged and further marginalizes their opportunities and physical experiences.

Housing is a human right and we must approach it as such. We are able to make strategic investments that will not only enable us to end homelessness and extreme poverty in our community, but also to build communities that are inclusive and look out for each other. Personal ownership is empowered through shared social responsibility and a community that is more than a set of geographical boundaries. Let’s leverage an event like Five Days for the Homeless into determination to end homelessness and extreme poverty in our community. Together, it is possible.

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Five Days, Five Solutions (Part 1)

Yesterday, the 2015 version of 5 Days for the Homeless kicked off at the University of Regina. For five days, five students will sleep and live outside in an attempt to stimulate conversations about homelessness in our community and to raise valuable funds. At Carmichael, we have been the recipients of these funds since 5 Days for the Homeless began. We wanted to supplement the fundraising efforts at the University by offering a series of blogs titled, “Five Days, Five Solutions” in an effort to have a broader conversation about what the event is truly focused on.

It is important for us to note that we do not believe that this event represents a picture of homelessness. One cannot replicate the experiences faced by those who weather a night at -40 in a parkade, or face the vitriol and scorn that comes with stigmatization of “street life”. We are reminded daily, through the experiences of our many friends at Carmichael, that homelessness is more than a five day issue, and that the complexities rooted in social policy, social inclusion, our province’s history, addictions, mental illness, and the effects of extreme poverty cannot all be addressed in one neat, five day window. We are also aware that most of us working at Carmichael come from a place of privilege where we can’t possibly understand the emotional, psychological, and physical experiences of wondering where our next meal will come from, or where we will sleep at night. For us, and the group of students who organize this event, it is not about the five students sleeping outside. It is about using their visual presence to invite our city to come together and end homelessness in our community.

At Carmichael Outreach, our work is two-fold. We work within our community to facilitate services that the community expresses they need, and we work with policy makers of various levels to generate effective social policy. We are guided by two key principles – respect and dignity. They are the map and the framework for everything that we do on a day-to-day basis. We are adamant that those asking for our service do not need to prove their poverty, and personal information (identification, financial information) remains in the control of those accessing our service. We believe that we overcome community and individual challenges together as a community, and having relationships of trust with the many members of our community that we serve is perhaps our most important value.

Two areas of our center that exemplify this value are our Food Security and Nutrition Program, and our free clothing boutique. Last year, we served 53,689 meals to members of our community in need, and an additional 30 individuals participated in our nutrition program. These programs are dedicated to providing food to those who cannot otherwise afford it at a time where they cannot get a hot meal elsewhere. Additionally, we seek to provide healthy, fresh ways to prepare food within the constraints of a tight budget. In both elements of programming, we work to make sure that each person in our community is able to have food in their belly and options for preparing food within their budget. It’s not perfect and we certainly cannot meet everyone’s needs, but we work to the best of our ability and the limits of our budget.

Our free clothing boutique offers much more than clothing. Imagine moving into a new home after living in shelter, couch surfing, or living on the street. You have no clothes to call your own, no shower curtain, no dishes for eating or preparing food, or really anything else we easily take for granted – this is where our clothing boutique comes in. We receive donations from the community, organize those donations and make sure they are in good condition. Donations are then placed in the boutique where people acquiring housing, needing new clothes or shoes, or looking for kids toys or books are able to access those and many other items free of charge. These programs are accessed by newcomers to Canada, single parent families, young mothers and their babies, seniors on fixed income, and members of our community experiencing addictions and mental illness.

For day one, we offer solution number one to overcoming systemic poverty and homelessness in our community. We must treat members afflicted by these socio-economic circumstances with the same respect and dignity we want to be treated with. By providing necessary base-level services with no barriers and limited requirements, we recognize the empowerment and resiliency that many in our community have while hoping to provide small opportunities to reduce expenditures while still accessing basic necessities. We believe that this is necessary in order to de-stigmatize the experiences of homelessness and poverty within our community by acknowledging that different circumstances can lead to different outcomes. This de-stigmatization will enable us to implement collective solutions to ending poverty and homelessness and to remove barriers for the individuals in poverty who are looking to end poverty and homelessness for themselves.

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2014 Christmas Appeal Numerical Reveal

$67,088.00!!!

That’s how much you have helped us raise with our Christmas Appeal for 2014. Thank you to all the individuals, businesses, and community groups that gave so generously. We saw significant increases in usage for all of our services this year, so this is great news for us.

Thanks again Regina,

The Carmichael Outreach Team

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George Palmer – Notice of Passing

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of George Palmer, the original Executive Director and founder of Carmichael Outreach Inc.

George was one of Regina’s best, and a man who embodied the values of the organization that he spent 20 years of time and effort on. George was a champion for individuals and families facing the challenges of extreme poverty and worked tirelessly and to his limit to meet the needs of the community to the best of his ability. George was generous and faithful, persevering through the difficult early years of a fledgling organization, often working without pay to ensure that the members of his own community would be able to access vital services each day.

In June 2013, when we celebrated our 25th anniversary, we were able to see George at Carmichael Outreach one more time. He remained the same man we remember fondly today – generous and faithful, never ignoring the challenges and inequalities faced by the members of his own community living in extreme poverty. It was a bright, sunny day as George spoke with fondness of his many memories of Carmichael Outreach, and is fitting that today we remember him as a man who spent his life bringing some light to dark and hidden injustices in our own community. It is fitting that as he spoke that day of a lifetime of memories about Carmichael Outreach that Carmichael Outreach owes George a lifetime of gratitude for his efforts, and for sharing who he was with us.

George is a man we will not soon forget. His fingerprints are all over what Carmichael Outreach has become today, so we say thank you to George and celebrate his life.

Our deepest sympathies are extended to Dorothy, to his daughters and his son, and to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Thank you for sharing your husband, father, grandpa, and great grandpa with us. It was our privilege to know him, and we will remember him by carrying on the work he started.

Together in Community, Together as Community,

The Carmichael Outreach Team

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Our New Year’s Resolution

It’s New Years Day, 2015, and as we reflect on the past year and look forward, there are many thoughts going through our brains at Carmichael Outreach.

This year, it felt like we had a long conversation about poverty, it’s effects, and the experiences of the individuals and families who find themselves at Carmichael Outreach. Each day, our community members come to access food, or clothing, or help maintaining housing because they are unable to overcome the challenges and barriers they face for a variety of different reasons. On one hand, it was exciting that there seemed to be discussion about these outcomes when things had been ignored for far too long. On the other hand, we found ourselves answering questions about what homeless people needed during cold months, whether we found it easy to get donations, and quickly realized the discussion was focused on ways to make sure people were comfortable in their poverty, rather than to give them the resources they needed to overcome the challenges they face.

For 26 years, we have functioned to provide basic necessities to folks who may not have access to them otherwise. It’s not a role that we celebrate, but rather, is one we wish didn’t exist. What we realized this year is that for too long we’ve become another holding space for the folks who are the manifestation of conversations we try to avoid. Too often, we’ve had individuals show up, seemingly discarded from other areas of our community to Carmichael Outreach with the expectation that we will make the inconvenience of their situations disappear for a portion of each day. Many of our city’s extreme poor live in a 3 block radius, bouncing between emergency services, addictions and mental health supports, shelter, and us.

From 9:00-4:30 our community members step into our building, where we try to create a safe, welcoming environment that upholds the highest virtues of community – trust, acceptance, value, empathy, and love. It is in these spaces that we find our greatest fulfillment. It was earlier this year in one of these moments that one of our new friends said, “For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m part of a community.” It was a powerful statement, and it was clear that the sense of belonging and relationship had the ability to bring about major change.

As we look forward, it seems that making New Year’s Resolutions is the traditional thing to do, and make no mistake – as we head into this year at Carmichael Outreach, we are more resolved than we have ever been before.

– We have resolved that we will no longer allow ourselves to only be a space where people sit, still separated from their community.

– We are resolved to ensure that the conversation about extreme poverty shifts from how individuals and families survive brutal prairie winters to how we as a community can end poverty and homelessness.

– We are resolved to see barriers that stop individuals and families from being able to access the resources they need eliminated.

– We resolve to advocate tirelessly for strategic investment of our currently available resources in programs and services that recognize the dignity of the individuals and families using them, and for systems that stop oppressing individuals and families who already face many other challenges.

– Finally, we are resolved to welcome every member of our community into Carmichael Outreach so that we are no longer simply together in a geographical space known as a community, but that each individual and family in our city can truly say that we are together with one another as a community.

We have so many partners and friends who have already joined us on this journey, whether as volunteers, contributors, or regular day-to-day members, and we are truly grateful for the privilege to share life with each one.

It’s our resolution and our invitation. Come join us.

As a community, we can and must do better. As a community, we can end poverty.

This year let’s be,

Together in Community, Together as Community,

The Carmichael Outreach Team

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Dear Mouse

** This blog post contains the thoughts of our outgoing Food Recovery Coordinator Nic Olson’s personal blog and is used with his permission **

Dear Mouse,

Dear Mouse, You probably don’t remember me, and I don’t blame you. We likely never had a full conversation, except that time on Christmas Day that I picked you and Leon up at the bus stop and drove you to turkey dinner at the Marian Centre. But even then I didn’t know what you said when I asked you your name. I thought you said Leonard. Although I didn’t know you as well as I would’ve liked, I can say that I think of you often. I hung your name on my bedroom wall.

I can also say, however, that there was a time that I forgot you. I forgot your name and your face and how you talked. I forgot how you died and I forgot what reserve you were from. I forgot who your family was. I forgot your real name. Linden. All I remembered was this faint vision of a man I knew that had died last winter, and that was about it. When your name, ‘Mouse’ finally surfaced in my brain I wrote it on a sticky note and have kept it since. A pathetic monument, to be sure, but better than the alternative of me permanently forgetting.

That is what was supposed to happen. You were to die and your case file was to close and the $459 that the ministry gave you would be swallowed back into general funds and used to finance interest free/tax free rental developments and that was that. Your home at Detox would fill your bed in a matter of hours and after a week they’d neglect to mention your name ever again. All levels of government would continue to stage press conferences with scummy developers to show their commitment to you, although they deny your existence outright, even aloud to the media. Community organizations would trod along in their busy, busted down buildings and wait for the next death to sombre things up. You’d be forgotten by the world except by the family who would feed you while you’re on the other side.

There are campaigns for your sisters and aunts and grandmothers and daughters who have gone missing or were murdered, and the spirit of these rallies and vigils also reaches to you. Because although you’re a male, and although we know where and how you died, you’ve been brushed aside and purposely forgotten by a brutal system of murder and assimilation.

We’re all eventually forgotten, Mouse, that much is certain. In 100 years no one will know my name or remember that I can’t make a decision to save my goddamn life. But I’ll be forgotten simply because time has passed. They won’t remember you and how you said, ‘Softly,’ with a grin when you put out your closed hand for a fist pump. But you’d be forgotten because multi-million dollar government policy was designed for your culture to be destroyed and your life to be ripped apart. What I can try to do, in some way, even as simple and degrading as a sticky note on my bedroom wall, is to ensure that in 100 years, you’ll still have family on this earth that will at least have the chance to remember you and their other ancestors.

The government’s denial of your existence isn’t a slip of the tongue, it is long-standing, ingrained belief. Because to acknowledge your existence is to acknowledge that you deserve to be remembered. I won’t forget you and I’ll do my best make sure no one else does either. Because once we forget you, the system is winning and the people are losing. Eventually, the people always win. And we’ll win remembering your life. It was a pleasure, my friend.

Softly,

Nic from Carmichael