Forging Housing Champions in SSVP Brant

Like many communities across Canada, Brantford is experiencing a housing crisis. Called to serve in “all possible ways”, local Vincentians have launched an initiative to create Housing Champions in accordance with the SSVP National Housing Plan.

Last spring SSVP Brant Particular Council created a Housing Champions Advisory Committee. For its first major event, the committee organized a Formation Day on November 4 for all SSVP Brant volunteers with the purpose of increasing the organization’s capacity to respond to housing related issues. The day was a rousing success and was attended by about 60 conference and store Vincentians.

With opening remarks, members of the Committee informed their fellow Vincentians of groundwork they have undertaken, including development of a belief statement to guide their work and key actions to continue that work with the wider Vincentian group.

Belief statement:
We, of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Particular Council of Brant (SSVP Brant), believe safe, secure, and affordable housing for all is a human right leading to a dignified life and sustainable communities. Further, we believe we can become agents of positive change with regard to our own work, so that we are an effective part of the housing solution. (Consistent with The National Housing Strategy Act, 2019 and SSVP Canada National Action Plan, 2021).

Key actions to support those experiencing housing insecurity include:
 LISTEN to those we serve who are struggling with this issue.
 EDUCATE ourselves, each other and those in our community about local realities and challenges.
 ADVOCATE with those in positions of responsibility to make a positive difference.
 CREATE solutions including strategies for assisting those we serve and partnerships with other local groups striving to address this issue.

A key component of the day was focussed on increasing awareness among the attendees. Based on their research into the local realities and challenges related to housing stability, the committee tapped representatives of local organizations who serve this need to broaden the knowledge of this issue and to explain their roles and initiatives.

The City of Brantford was well represented by Ward 5 Councillor Mandy Samwell, CAO Brian Hutchings, Manager of Housing Programs Katie Maas and Jamie Bagni, Administrative Coordinator of Housing Programs.

Acknowledging the unique needs of specialized communities within Brantford & Brant County, the presenters included Tye Anthony, Public Educator for Brantford Native Housing, and Shatha Qaisi, settlement worker for YMCA Immigrant Settlement Services.

After hearing from these presenters and posing thoughtful and incisive questions to them, the volunteers set to work. In groups (each of the five local conferences (branches) and various Store departments), they planned actions to enhance SSVP Brant’s service to those struggling with housing instability – including potential eviction, search for affordable housing, transition from homelessness to supportive housing.

As a result of Formation Day 2023, the way forward for SSVP Brant is somewhat clearer but there is much work to be done.

SSVP Brant Particular Council President Rob Campbell observed “thanks to our guest speakers and dedicated volunteers, we have improved our ability to assist our neighbours who are experiencing housing insecurity. We look forward to our Housing Champions Committee to continue leading us as we strive to serve – with love, respect, justice and joy.