Reaching Home Blog: Strength in our membership


My name is Julie Miller Rushton. I’m the Manager of Community Impact here at United Way British Columbia – working with communities in BC’s Interior, Lower Mainland and Central & Northern Vancouver Island (United Way British Columbia). The following post is part of my series addressing the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy (Reaching Home), and how it’s working to first address, and then finally bring an end to homelessness in communities like Nanaimo, Duncan and the Cowichan area. 

Thumbnail for Series 2WEB SIZE.jpgReaching Home in both Nanaimo and Cowichan has been really busy. One of the things we are spending time looking at is our membership. 

Reaching Home has certain requirements for who is on your CAB (Community Advisory Board). These requirements make sure that there are no gaps in the voices being heard at the table. 

We want someone with lived experience at the table, we want someone from BC Housing at the table. We want local government at the table. We want First Nations representatives at the table. We want local service providers at the table. And we want all of these people to come together to share their perspectives on what is happening and what some of the solutions are in their community. 

But this can be difficult for a variety of reasons. But one reason is that participating in the CAB takes time. The non-profit sector is traditionally run off of its feet in terms of providing services where they are needed. Add to it a pandemic and their work has tripled.  

But what’s amazing is that these folks want to take what little time they have and participate in our work. They believe in collaboration being one tool that will work to end homelessness. They are extending themselves further because they believe in what Reaching Home can do. And they are sharing their knowledge. 

In particular, I’m really excited about what I’m seeing in terms of the on-Nation participation at the CABs. An example would be Cowichan Tribes, the biggest First Nation in the province, is active and participatory at our CAB meetings and sharing their knowledge. 

I think that, as we travel down this road, we will see more information from a population we didn’t know very much about before. That’s due to a variety of reasons, not least of which is trust, as well as belief in Reaching Home.  

Before now, we didn’t have people from housing services on-Nation saying ‘This is how many people are on our waitlist, we have people living on our beaches,’ so how do we support those people? Now, as we move forward together, we are earning trust and sharing this kind of information. 

And that’s happening the same in Nanaimo, too – on-Nation participation is really moving forward. This all helps us to better understand the varied needs of our homeless community members. 

Having broad representation at the CABs is so essential to the work of Reaching Home. But we as United Way British Columbia, acting as the CE (Community Entity), understand the trust that is required and the time that is required to have this broad representation. 

We know it’s our responsibility as the CE to ensure that any of the work we are doing is meaningful in terms of asking people to come to CAB or governance meetings, for example. The work that we do is very pointed and needs to be that way, so we are not wasting anyone or any community’s time. It’s a big responsibility we shoulder as the CE. 

But, knowing how essential this work is to bringing an end to homelessness, we are happy to take on this role and bring more people to the table.