The Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network believes that an end to homelessness in Canada is possible with lived experience leading the way. The group aims to bring together people with lived or living experience of homelessness across Canada, to help shape Canada’s response to homelessness.
The Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network (CLELN) launches today with the express aim to prevent and end homelessness in Canada through the knowledge and expertise of people with experience of it.
CLELN believes an end to homelessness in Canada is possible with lived experience leading the way. The network is led by a diverse group of people with lived experience of homelessness, and they’re hoping to grow membership to lift up their voices and ultimately help shape Canada’s response to homelessness.
We know that 36% of Canadians have been homeless themselves or know someone who has been homeless, and it’s estimated that 235,000 people experience it every year, with 1.7 million households in core housing need and at risk.
“It’s time to end homelessness in Canada,” says Debbie McGraw, CLELN Co-Chair. “For that to happen, Lived Experience needs to be at the forefront of policy changes. No one understands homelessness more than those who lived it.”
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Debbie experienced hidden homelessness as a youth and adult, after being kicked out of her home at the age of 15, she bounced from one family member to another friend’s home. She then spent many years raising her kids as a single mom or living in abusive relationships and poverty. Now, Debbie has dedicated her life to activism, research, and advocacy at the local provincial and national levels around poverty, housing, homelessness, and women’s issues. Debbie has sat on many boards and been involved with various organizations. Today Debbie is a Housing Case Manager who works for Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership.
“The only way to move forward with positive change is to recognize the knowledge and skills of those who are homeless or have been homeless,” Debbie says.
CLELN will advocate for policy changes in support of preventing and ending homelessness in Canada, working for inclusion of people with lived or living experience at all levels (programs, systems, and policymaking), and developing training to support the transformation of programs and systems to support ending homelessness.
“One of the key components to ending homelessness is a strong voice of Lived Experience,” says Al Wiebe, CLELN Co-Chair. “After all, who else has the intimate knowledge of the tragedy and trauma of the streets? This is the informed perspective.”
Al experienced homelessness on the streets of Winnipeg for over two years. Now, he’s a 24/7 advocate who splits his time between Winnipeg, Toronto, and Vancouver for his empathy-driven housing program, he chairs the Lived Experience Circle in Winnipeg, hosts the “Of No Fixed Address” radio show, and serves on many boards and committees related to homelessness, poverty, health, and human rights.
“The stigma still exists that once you’ve been homeless, you have lost something, or become lesser than, somehow,” Al says. “If anything, one gains strength, perseverance, and wisdom from experiencing homelessness, which must be utilized to the fullest possible measure.
“The network and its website provide a very visible and strong platform for Lived Experience voices to be heard.”
Learn more and join at cleln.ca.