The Reaching Home Blog: National investment – Community investment


My name is Julie Miller Rushton. I’m the Director of Community Grants here at United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island. The following post is part of my series addressing the federal government’s Reaching Home initiative, and how it’s working to first address, and then finally bring an end to homelessness in communities like Nanaimo and Cowichan. 


Thumbnail for Series 2WEB SIZE.jpgUnited Way CNVI was already involved with Reaching Home when I came on board in 2014. When I was first introduced to Reaching Home, my impression was, ‘What a great job this work is doing in supporting people to come together and really, authentically collaborate to look at the multi-faceted issues of homelessness.’ 

RH funding comes from the federal government, and there are very specific parameters set up around it to ensure change is community based and driven to ensure the solutions stick.  

 When changes are happening, it’s important that they’re not happening too people, but with people. 

When we are trying to support community-based issues, we have a critical task of bringing together those with lived experiences, local experts and policy makers to effect positive change. 

It's like when you’re introducing someone to a new food: if you just put something new in front of them and ask them to eat it, they react with concern, caution, and likely won’t try it. But if the meal is cooked with them, they are more likely to entertain the idea of trying it.  

That’s the same in community, with any human being. If you throw something new at someone, their initial reaction is based in safety, and they often say ‘stop’. 

But if someone is introduced to change in a respectful way that’s culturally safe, they are more able to be interested and curious. 

So, it’s really critical that, to get people to invest in change, they take part in shaping it. 

In Reaching Home, this is done by creating a Community Advisory Board (CAB). They are made up of local and municipal governments and their agents, agency members from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations, as well as people who have experience being precariously housed and/or without a home. So our CABs really have a well-rounded viewpoint and an ability to look at what’s really happening and then fine-tune their projects to react to what’s happening in community. This work allows us to do more than react, but to put forward solutions that will ultimately lead to the end of homelessness. 

In my work across different collaborative efforts over many years, seeing the buy-in from all levels of government, paired with this local participation makes me realize Reaching Home might actually be the road to the end of homelessness. 

Next post, we’ll talk about United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island’s role in Reaching Home.