Continuing our series of blogs written by folks in Edmonton with lived experience, meet, Nadine Chalifoux. Nadine is an independent advocate for housing, homelessness, health, Indigenous affairs, human rights, social injustice and women’s rights.
The political view has been skewed over decades of social and societal thinking. The tiered classes of citizens created and biases manipulated by politics and fear. As a living and lived experience resident of Alberta, I am skeptical. Afterall, in all honesty, I have been personally victimized by the outdated, barbaric bylaws and regulations placed on society’s most vulnerable populations. I was placed into poverty while trying to recover from a serious tragedy. Rather than given my well-earned employment insurance benefits while I was in the hospital reeling from my injuries, I was evicted from my apartment and left with literally zero income. I was still in the hospital when I was supposed to attend my appeal proceedings to get my E.I. approved and was later placed with two social workers. These inexperienced ladies didn’t think I worked hard enough to find a new residence.
But despite the awful laws, I found that if I spoke clearly, passionately, and with true conviction - I could be heard. When I was at my lowest point and homeless, I decided to speak up on homelessness at a debate for the civic election. I spoke with pain, frustration and despair. My dignity, faith and pride were at their lowest but I said my piece. I was confronted by concerned politicians among housing and homeless agencies. With further co-operations, I was housed shortly after (60 days later). A home to call my own.
I spoke frequently with the eventual elected civic officials to share I appreciated they wanted to take homelessness seriously. That’s not to say there have not been hurdles. I’ve held them 100 per cent accountable since. Each level of government wants to always pass the buck. Blame the other. My question to them now is, ‘wouldn’t housing first enable the rest of the province/city/country to prosper? That’s when you can get to work helping us become less dependent on government funds, mass health resources and extensive policing/governing assets. Make it possible for us to become self- sufficient individuals.’
Regularly I get to work with government officials to advise on these very subjects. I advocate to keep all levels of government accountable to us, their citizens. Anyone can do this. If you are reading this, you can ask your politicians the same questions. One person can help shape our future, can you imagine if we were all to ask and hold them accountable? Great things can become our shared reality. I’ve seen many new housing and wrap around services come to fruition. I’ve helped people better navigate the social system and watched them become self-advocates.
Stand up for your rights. They do exist and can be accessed. Just ask. Just say what needs to be said. I’m not the only one who benefited from being housed after speaking up at an electoral platform. If you want to see change, VOTE for people in your area to help you get the difference you need.
Great change can happen.