OPEN LETTER: Lived experience voices matter

November 19, 2020

The newly formed Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network has endorsed the Recovery for All campaign and is now calling on the federal government to support the 6-Point Plan and ensure lived and living experience voices are involved in ending chronic homelessness in Canada.

November 2020
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau & Minister Ahmed Hussen


We formed the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network with the express aim of bringing lived experience perspectives to efforts to end homelessness in Canada – we must have our voices included in the strategies, policies, research and funding that affects us. “Nothing about us without us.”

We’re endorsing Recovery for All because it’s an opportunity to make sure lived voices are heard in the halls of power. It’s high time we were involved in the decisions that impact us. Homelessness in Canada is the unintended byproduct of policy choices made over 30 years ago. To solve homelessness, we must reverse the policies that created it in the first place. This means engaging in the political process.

36% of Canadians have been homeless themselves or know someone who has. It’s estimated that 235,000 people experience it every year, with 1.6 million households in core housing need and at risk.

The Recovery for All campaign’s six-point plan lays out an affordable and achievable plan to end homelessness in Canada. Here are some of the key attributes that relate directly to our work:

1. A federal commitment (with timelines and targets) to the prevention and elimination of homelessness with expanded federal investment in community-based homelessness responses, including a national definition of homelessness that accounts for the unique ways women, youth, Indigenous and racialized peoples experience homelessness.
The campaign highlights the need to better identify the experience of homelessness as it varies from person to person. A definition that properly captures this will do a better job of informing policy. You can’t address the needs if you don’t accurately know what the issues are for people on the ground.

2. A national guaranteed minimum income.
Alleviating poverty is crucial to preventing homelessness in the first place. A minimum income will ensure that people in greatest need have minimum financial resources to meet basic needs, including housing. The campaign calls for this minimum income to not stigmatize or exclude people, that it shouldn’t penalize anyone who wish to work, and it must meet the cost of living. As people with lived experience, we must have the autonomy and independence to spend our money to meet our needs and a guaranteed minimum income will do that.

3. Construction of over 300,000 new housing units and Homeless Housing Benefit.
Across Canada, we hear over and over that one of the biggest barriers is enough affordable and supportive housing. This campaign is calling on the federal government to construct at least 300,000 new permanently affordable and supporting housing units—ensuring the prioritization of housing to people experiencing or at greatest risk of homelessness. The campaign is also calling for the creation of a new targeted homeless housing benefit to move people rapidly out of homelessness and prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

4. Meaningful implementation of the right to housing, which includes the involvement of people with lived experience.
The National Housing Strategy Act calls for the formation of a National Housing Council (including people with lived experience), a National Housing Advocate and review panel — These mechanisms provide critical oversight and accountability measures, which are key to changing policy. They are also powerful spaces for people with lived experience to have a say in the evolution of the National Housing Strategy—access to justice and a means to identify and resolve structural issues that create homelessness It’s been over a year since the National Housing Strategy Act was passed and neither the Advocate nor the Council have been appointed. Recovery for All is pushing for the immediate appointment of these important offices.

5. Implementing measures to lessen the impact of the financialization of rental housing markets.
Canada’s housing crisis is being deepened by wealthy investors buying up rental housing and increasing rent to make it more profitable for them and unaffordable for people living in poverty. This leaves many of us facing eviction, unable to afford rent or live in our own communities—and this has become much more difficult during the pandemic. The extension of the NHS to include a national or universal eviction policy is vital. Provinces have varying policies and would ensure fair policies. Following COVID-19, there is a risk of more predatory purchases, much like after the 2008 economic crisis. The campaign is calling for regulatory measures to restrict this practice and funding to allow social and non-profit housing providers to purchase properties for conversion to permanent affordable or supportive housing.

People with lived experience of homelessness are the experts in ending homelessness. Elevating the voices of people with lived and living experience, and reflecting that valuable expertise in policy and decision-making, is the only way we will end homelessness in Canada. The CLELN is pleased to endorse the Recovery for All campaign and is committed to working with government and communities to end homelessness in Canada once and for all.

Debbie McGraw and Al Wiebe
Co-Chairs of the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network

Alex Nelson
London, Ontario

Andrew Ross
Kenora, Ontario

Angela Richards
St Albert, Alberta

Anna Maranta
Ottawa, Ontario

Anna Di Giandomenico
North York, Ontario

Barbara Rycroft
Vancouver, British Columbia

Bethany Elliot
Kitchener, Ontario

Bob Murphy
Toronto, Ontario

Carissa Geddes
Vancouver, British Columbia

Carol-Anne Caswell
Cobourg, Ontario

Chaz Smith
Calgary, Alberta

Christine Lewis
St. Catherine’, Ontario

Cory Weagant
Victoria, British Columbia

Criz Xtacey
Toronto , Ontario

David Nelder
St. Catharines, Ontario

Debbie Tinsley
Ancaster, Ontario



Donald Billdeau
Edmonton, Alberta

Doris Cooper
Mississauga, Ontario

Elizabeth Gilarowski
Toronto, Ontario

Eric Weissman
Rothesay, New Brunswick

Faith James
Saint John, New Brunswick

Farhad Bahreinian
Toronto, Ontario

Heather Sherman  
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Hilary Chapple
Calgary, Alberta

Hilary Marks
Esquimalt, British Columbia

Holly Petersen
Ottawa, Ontario

Janet Dankwa
Brampton, Ontario

Jason Charlie Whitehorse, North West Territories

Jayne Malenfant
Verdun, Quebec

Jennifer  Smith
Ottawa, Ontario

Jo-Anne Manser
Kanata, Ontario

John Cameron
London, Ontario

Johnny Lee
Edmonton, Alberta


Jordan Hamilton
Toronto, Ontario

Joyce Halladay
Ottawa, Ontario

Karen Harrison
Toronto , Ontario

Karen  Mills
Victoria BC

Kathy Pinheiro
Toronto, Ontario

Laura Brown
Barrie, Ontario

Lesley Sprague
Oakville, Ontario

Leslie Boucher
Victoria, British Columbia

Lindsay Clark
Nanaimo, British Columbia

Lisa Smith
London, Ontario

Lucy Drumonde
Toronto, Ontario

Lydia Ackley
Kingston, Ontario

Madelyn  Gold
Toronto, Ontario

Manisha Rampersad
Toronto, Ontario

Margaret Richings 
London, Ontario

Mark Braverock

Michael Lewis
Beaverton, Ontario

Michael Gee
Maple Ridge, Ontario

Michael Carr
Mississauga, Ontario

Michelle Bilek
Mississauga, Ontario

Molly-beth Wilson 
Kamloops, British Columbia

Nadine Lipton
Moncton, New Brunswick

Nathaniel Le Chalifoux Edmonton, Alberta

Nicole Sharpe
Beaumont, Alberta

Nicole Tollenaar
Toronto, Ontario

Pamela George
Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Patricia Diaz
Vancouver, British Columbia

Paul  Jensen
Calgary, Alberta

Paulette Andria
Hamilton, Ontario

Peter Noivo
Edmonton, Alberta

Rev. Karen Harrison
Toronto, Ontario

Richard Antonio
Mississauga, Ontario

Roberta Johansen
London, Ontario


Russ Halpin
Ottawa, Ontario

Steacy Martin
London, Ontario

Susan Brandt
Calgary, Alberta

Tanya Hiltz
Nanaimo, British Columbia

Tara Lewis
Tillsonburg, Ontario

Teal Wise
Orillia, Ontario

Ted Glover
Oshawa, Ontario

Terrie Meehan
Ottawa, Ontario

Terry Bordeleau
Mackenzie, British Columbia

Theresa Pfleger
Hamilton, Ontario

Tina Brophey
Guelph, Ontario

Tracey MacKinnon
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Veroy Clarke
Mississauga, Ontario

Victoria Martin
Windsor, Ontario

Wanda Wilson
Saint John, New Brunswick

Wenessa  Stewart
Acton, Ontario


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