Fifty-first National Congress on Housing and Homelessness

I had the privilege of attending the 51st National Congress on Housing and Homelessness in April 2019, and presenting the findings of Positive Living Positive Homes (PLPH) study (click here for the PLPH presentation and click here for all Congress materials). As housing and homeless was the focus of Congress, rather than HIV, I shared the PLPH findings with a chronic illness perspective – how HIV can add another layer of complexity to housing challenges physically, socially and financially. The presentation was well received and the audience enjoyed our new whiteboard video “What supports housing and health for people living with HIV in BC?

The Congress was attended by diverse audience, including decision makers from municipal, provincial and federal levels (e.g. city councillors, BC Housing staff, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation representatives); non-profit and community-based (frontline and backbone support) organizations; social enterprises; researchers; housing advocates; etc.

There were three main takeaways from this Congress:

1. Engage your political leaders. Request one-on-one meetings with your municipal politicians (e.g. city councillors) because they care more than you think and are open to hearing about your thoughts and concerns about housing.

2. Timing is critical and that timing is now. We finally have a national housing strategy in place, and we have a federal election coming up in October this year to make sure this strategy is reflected in action on the ground. As we gear up to the election, we need to make sure housing is at the top of the agenda for the political candidates. The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA) has developed a campaign A Home For Everyone ( to do just this. They have a one page information sheet on what we can do and what the federal government needs to do to protect and expand community housing. One thing you can do is to send a message to the candidates in your riding – CHRA has made this easy by allowing you to enter your address/postal code and auto-generating a pre-written letter to the political leader in your riding. You can do this here.

3. The ongoing legacies of colonialism on housing and homelessness must be addressed. “This is not an Aboriginal problem. It’s a Canadian one. It involves all of us” – as spoken beautifully at the Reconciliation panel, one of my favourite sessions of the Congress. This is a complex topic, but an important one. Marion Buller, the Chief Commissioner of National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls said, “reconciliation is about relationships but it starts with truth.” We need to acknowledge the impacts of the Indian Act, racism and poverty – the legacies of colonialism – on housing and homelessness for Indigenous peoples. The current system fails our people, particularly women and youth. Housing is about relationships, families and culture that must protect the dignity and self-worth of people living in it. We need to redefine what home means for Indigenous peoples and we need to thread these conversations into everything we do; education needs to go beyond institutions. A cool grassroots project to build relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities while learning from one another called Circles for Reconciliation may be a good place to start. Each circle gathers about 10 people (half Indigenous and half non-Indigenous participants) and 2 trained facilitators to meet once a week to talk about themes that the group is interested in learning about. There are over 20 themes and the circle gathers for 10 weeks. These circles are gathering all across Canada and you can get trained as a facilitator.

Lastly, one resource I would like to share is BC Housing’s Community Acceptance Series and Toolkits. They conducted a case study research to build tools to increase community acceptance for non-market housing, including supportive housing. This may be particularly useful for non-profit housing providers and other stakeholders who face community resistance in building and supporting non-market housing.


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Please contact Mona Lee, PAN’s Evaluation Manager at [email protected].