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Cathy's favourite projects

Project # 1: Building housing with St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society

I often say that I am a nurse, not a carpenter.  When I received the Atkinson Charitable Foundation Economic Justice Award, I vowed I would work towards ensuring that our federal government returns to a fully-funded national housing program. I haven’t given up on that.

In the interim, I wanted to learn how to build affordable, social housing.  I joined the Board of Directors of St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society, which has an excellent track record of building housing, particularly impressive given the funding void that still exists.  St. Clare’s has completed three housing projects over the last ten years.  In 2001 St. Clare’s converted 25 Leonard Avenue in Toronto into 51 units of affordable housing – the first affordable housing built in Toronto since 1995.  I am very happy to announce that St. Clare’s has recently been approved to build two new affordable family housing projects.  The address 48 Abell will have 190 units and the address at 200 Madison will have 82 units.

Visit their website here

How to Support Non-Profit Housing Projects in Toronto

Project #2:  Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC)

Many of you will know that I co-founded the TDRC in 1998.  Don’t let the name deceive you!  The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee declared homelessness a National Disaster in 1998 and helped put the issue of homelessness on the national radar:

  • a federal cabinet minister was appointed to deal with the issue;
  • a new federal homelessness program was funded (SCPI – now HPI) and over $1 billion allocated to homelessness over the last 8 years;
  • more monies federally and provincially were allocated for housing through the Affordable Housing Program;
  • increased awareness and political responses to emergencies ranging from tuberculosis outbreaks to extreme weather hardship and deaths;
  • local wins such as the housing victory for Toronto’s Tent City  which have had a ripple effect across the country;
  • growing recognition and outrage that the extent of homelessness and inadequate housing in Canada constitutes a violation of human rights.

They have now launched a daring project that looks at the #1 prerequisite for health, named in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion – peace.  This project will examine the diminished spending on social programs while Canada wages an increasingly expensive war in Afghanistan.

TDRC website

Project #3:  Home Safe – a film about homeless children with Sky Works

Several years ago former journalist (now Toronto City Councillor) Adam Vaughan declared to me that in his opinion, politicians would never deal with homelessness until a homeless child or children died.  I was angry, outraged, frustrated and sad.  Then I remembered it had already happened.  Then, I got more angry, outraged, frustrated and sad.  I was lucky that my friend and film maker Laura Sky was on the receiving end of a lot of that emotion and together we delved into the troubling concern that the issue of homeless families is so invisible that only deaths would necessitate a political response.

I sit on the Sky Works Charitable Foundation Board of Directors and Laura and I, with tremendous Board support, began a dream.  We realized that we could and should do a film together on a subject that remains hidden – in suburbs, rural communities, in motels and overcrowded apartments – homeless children and their families in this rich country. 

I am the Executive Producer for this project (fulfilling a long time dream to make a movie) and Laura is the director.  It is an ambitious project.  We have been involved in research for over a year and plan to film in Calgary, Sault Ste. Marie, Hamilton and Toronto.  The film will engage children and their parents, it will give them a voice and it will provide a community development and organizing tool for years to come.  I believe it will have the power to move mountains and ultimately convince the government to build housing.

“Nothing could have prepared us to witness Canadian children waiting in line to sleep on a church basement floor, carrying their possessions in small hockey bags, hanging on to parents who had no home to offer them. The children were quiet, tired and subdued. Exact figures are hard to arrive at, but a very conservative estimate puts the number of homeless children in Canada at 22,500.” Please click here to read more about this project

I’m happy to report that we began filming in November.  We organized a special children’s forum on homelessness to coincide with the visit of Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.  Children from Calgary, Hamilton, Toronto and the GTA, some with a history of homelessness and some not, voiced their concerns to Miloon.





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