Who We Are

Steering Committee

The Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network Steering Committee members are responsible for:

  • overall coordination of network efforts
  • communications
  • engagement of network members
  • strategic planning and sustainability
  • lead on lobbying efforts
  • relationship members with government stakeholders

Steering Committee Members

The steering committee is led by Co-Chairs Debbie McGraw and Alex Nelson 

Debbie McGraw

CLELN Co-Chair

Debbie has worked tirelessly since 1995 on eliminating poverty in Saskatchewan, as well as in Canada. She spent many years as an advocate, activist and researcher on social issues, such as housing, homelessness, women’s issues and poverty. Including eight years on the Canada without Poverty board and recently co-founded the Lived Experience Advisory Council Canada, (Now the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network) who developed the “Seven Principals of Inclusion”. When the National Housing Strategy was announced Debbie started working with Emily Paradis and others to ensure that this strategy was human rights based, Debbie continues to remain a part of this work as a committee member of the Rights to Housing Network.

After 20 years of raising her children Debbie enrolled in University graduating in 1998 with both her certificate and bachelor’s degree in Indian Social Work.

Over the last 7 years Debbie worked at Mumford House, a homeless shelter for women and children, she left this full-time position to work for the Lighthouse Supported Living Inc, as a Housing Locator and shortly after moving to a Rapid Rehousing Case Manager with the Housing First program. Since the Housing First Program was shut down, Debbie has worked for Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership as a Housing Case Manager.

Debbie’s strength for this work came from her own lived experiences. There is no better motivator then frustration and anger. Debbie learned how to take her experience, frustrations, anger, and knowledge and turn them into powerful tools for social change. Debbie is also the proud mom of 5 grown children and grandma to 16 ranging in age from 18 months to 22 years old.

Alex Nelson 

CLELN Co-Chair

Alex Nelson (they/them) is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Western University, whose research looks at gender, lived experience of homelessness, and housing policy; Alex focuses on the ways in which lived expertise and narratives of homelessness can be mobilized to enact meaningful policy change. Alex serves on the steering committee of the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network, as well as the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network, and leads the Lived Experience Committee on the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network. They has facilitated sessions focusing on lived expertise and narrative for the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

Other Members

Carrie Bartsch

Carrie Bartsch is a person of lived experience as a youth, where alcohol ran rampant in her family.  At the age of 16 she lost her mother to a tragic accident.  Her father’s alcohol addiction and inability to care for Carrie and her two sisters divided the family, which ended in no place to call home for 16-year-old Carrie.   Fear, anger, self-harm, broken systems that made promises became all too familiar.  She knows what it is like to have people take over control and tell you what must be done.  She believes whole heartedly that by being Person Centered in any work and supports that are done with people who have experienced trauma and homelessness helps people get better lives of their choosing.



Carrie’s own trauma, homelessness and journey of recovery has had huge impacts on the work she does to continually advocate and work to end homelessness.

Carrie runs Pivotal Training and Facilitation and has 13 years’ experience in Housing First and Homeless systems.  She is a contracted technical trainer and consultant with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and Pathways to Housing.  Along with her personal history, Carrie has experience as a Case Manager, Team Lead, and as a Housing First Program Specialist.  She coordinated 7 teams across her community to implement new programs, training, data base systems, and shared resources.    As a Team lead, her team brought a Permanent Supportive Housing program that was running at 23% success rate to a 98 % success rate by: embedding the team in Person Centered Practices:  following the core principles of Housing First and ensuring professional thorough documentation was being completed and used to drive outcomes.   She believes strongly in accepting all people with their unique diversity. 

Cheyanne Fath

Cheyanne grew up in a family afflicted by diverse generational traumas and poverty. Cheyanne has experienced displacement many times and has been unhoused many times. Today, Cheyanne spends time filling casual hours with OneSky Community Resources in harm reduction and outreach. Cheyanne also facilitates the hand out of free nasal naloxone kits to organizations and the public and a member of a peer engagement group called the South Okanagan Lived Experience circle, or SOLE.


In addition, she has also been active in the youth advisory committee at the Youth Centre Foundry, as well as participating in ongoing virtual dialogue sessions with Interior Health to reduce stigma. Many adverse experiences lead Cheyanne to want to work in public service and support the work of CLELN.

Mirza Baig

Phoenix Winter

Phoenix Winter is grateful to live on the territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. She was homeless across parts of Canada and the US and ended up in many psych wards. Using her experiences, she has served on Vancouver City committees on housing, poverty, accessibility, mental health and addictions, and community economic development. She is involved in the Downtown Eastside and was on the board of the Carnegie Community Centre there for 11 years.


As a long-term member of CCAP, the Carnegie Community Action Project, she has taken part in activism and presented at events across Canada. A proud mother, she also writes and has helped out as a peer researcher.


Scope and Activities

Activities of the network include, but are not limited to:

  • Bringing the perspectives of our lived experience to the forefront
  • Advocating for policy change in support of preventing and ending homelessness in Canada
  • Valuing, listening to, and actualizing the voices and ideas of peoples with lived experience of homelessness and housing insecurity in policy discussions and public debate
  • Advocate to include people with lived experience at all levels: programs, systems, and policy making
  • Developing training to support transformation of programs and systems to support ending homelessness
  • Hosting webinars featuring best and promising practices on lived experience advocacy, equity and diversity policies, employment and leadership development
  • Collecting and disseminating resources on homelessness and housing insecurity
  • Hosting CLELN sessions and supports for those with Lived Experience at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness and other forums

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