I attended my first Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness conference in the three year history of the conferences. I applaud Tim Richter and the Canadian Alliance for pulling it off. I applaud the people that travelled from all ends of the country to attend in Montreal.
My favourite part of the conference was the plenary session that had Roseanne Haggerty from Community Solutions providing the keynote. The wisdom she imparts with the magic of being authentic and humble was incredible. Big takeaways for me: you don’t need permission to innovate and make change; you cannot blame others and innovate at the same time; and, we need to borrow from other disciplines like design to improve how we think and problem-solving.
The sessions that I attended were overall filled with quality speakers. I enjoyed Heather from CSH sharing quality dimensions about supportive housing. I was blown away from Angela in Waterloo Region walking through their journey to now diverting almost two thirds of families that are seeking shelter services, while also vastly decreasing the length of stay of families that become homeless.
There is also networking opportunities at any conference. The CAEH conference was no different. Seeing some communities I had not seen in a long time was great. Breaking bread with others allowed for open sharing of ideas – and of course a few laughs.
Odd for me was being an outsider looking in. There was more divisiveness than I was expecting at the CAEH. One of the biggest ones seemed to be between the academic community and service providers, and another was between the Mental Health Commission of Canada and what is happening on the frontline. It seemed there were a number of conference attendees that were more interested in debating ideas (which has a time and place) than taking action. Some conference attendees were very interested in personal attacks or name calling (trust me – being called a hack or fraud or poverty pimp is no fun). Structural and big P policy concerns were also named frequently.
I would love to be part of working towards a more coherent national vision. I would love to see some greater diversity of ideas and moderators. I would appreciate if a few more of the keynotes could be a call to action or to challenge some of the dominant myths or lay out provocative ideas for fundamental change in how we think about and respond to homelessness.