Starting August 2015, The Dream Team will feature guest blogger Mika Hjorngaard. We'll let her introduce herself in her own words:
I am a high school student with a passion for writing and social justice. I have particular interest about underrepresented minorities, including the LGBTQ community and those identifying as having a disability or difference. I have previously chaired LGBTQ youth events and I have written and performed about my experiences as a youth with a physical disability. I have also taken part in a project that aimed to capture the lives of seven teenage girls in the Toronto area through film and writing. The high school I am currently attending has an alternative take on education and how kids and teenagers learn. In this environment students are encouraged to follow their own path and explore what education means to them. Because of the freedom this allows, I have had the opportunity to discover my desire to tell my stories and the stories of others, through writing and performace. I am really excited to get the chance to be a part of telling people's stories.
Last time we introduced you to one of our newest Dream Team members. This week we introduce you to one of the members who has been with us from almost the beginning, Phillip Dufresne.
Phillip used to live on the street. He has lived in supportive housing for the past 23 years. After graduating with a B.A. in Anthropology from Concordia University, he moved to Toronto to look for work. The only jobs that he could find were minimum wage, unskilled labour.
Phillip was evicted from his apartment in 1989, lived on the streets for 1 year and then got a room in a substandard rooming house for 2 years. After this experience, his COTA worker got him supportive housing with Houselink Community Homes. That’s when his life began to turn around. Houselink gave him an opportunity to develop skills he never had a chance to use before. This led to his work on the Houselink Board, the Dream Team, HomeComing Community Choice Coalition and the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) Board. Phillip discovered that although he didn’t fit into mainstream jobs very well, he had a passion for volunteer work.
This is our final bill of rights blog. We saved the most disturbing narrative for last and it was written by a person who wishes to remain anonymous. The subject of the blog is good quality housing. In our research, this issue came up for about 65 percent of our respondents. Three themes emerged from the data: maintenance (63 percent felt that maintenance was very important); cleanliness and infestation (over half of the respondents found cleanliness to be important. Infestation was grouped with cleanliness—see the narrative below for more on this); neighbourhood (23 percent of respondents argued that it is important to live in a good area. This often had a large affect on their understanding of “good quality housing.”
Another week, another Stigma Fighter! This week one of our newest Stigma Fighters is featured, Stacey Bowen. Here she is in her own words:
I was raised by a single Canadian-born mother and am the youngest of six children. I have never seen or met my Canadian-born father who died of a drug overdose. My mother raised my family using Ontario Works; a program also known as welfare. We moved to Regent Park when I was twelve. When I was twenty-eight years old, my mother passed away. After that, I got involved with drugs for eighteen years. During this time, had two girls, one when I was thirty-two and another when I was thirty-four, which I raised as a single mom. At the age of forty-six, I went into treatment and got clean and sober.
I went back to school; when I was forty-seven I graduated from the George Brown College “Assaulted Women's and Children's Counsellor/Advocate” diploma program. I also got an "Advanced Counseling" certificate. In the past, I have volunteered at Toronto Western Hospital, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (C.A.M.H.), Covenant House Toronto, Red Door Shelter and St. Felix Centre. Some of my paid jobs have included: Addictions Counselor at Renascent 21 day Treatment Facility, drop-in worker at "The Meeting Place," and, temp-reception work at "Working for Change," a non-profit organization that helps people with lived experience find employment. I am presently an inclusive employment peer worker at the Dream Team. In my free time, I enjoy nature. My Long Term Goal is to become an Author and continue with "Motivational Speaking."
The Stigma Fighters are back! This week it is the Stigma Fighter with the biggest heart and the one who delivers the most laughs–Aldo Cianfarani! Aldo was born in Italy and came to Canada when he was two years old. Presently, he’s the caretaker of three houses in Parkdale and two properties in Brampton. Aldo has volunteered with St. Christopher House’s community kitchen for over ten years. He has also been on the Brighter Days committee affiliated with Habitat Services for ten years. Aldo has been a Dream Team member for nine years. He likes camping, bike-riding, and going to movies. For over 35 years, he has also been a freelance disk jockey and is a pro at being the MC for weddings, banquets, baptisms, engagements, disco dances and house parties. His biggest memory is when he did a book launch for Houselink at the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre. To this day, Aldo MCs for Habitat Services and COTA at every dance they have. Aldo is very proud of being a member of Houselink Community Homes and the Dream Team.