Bridging Rural Homelessness and Well-Being Summit: Personal Reflections and Graphic Recording


Graphic recording takes me into some of the most amazing rooms. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunities that this work affords me, for sure. What follows here are my personal takeaways, not to be confused with official report out.

This week I got to be a willing listener to 140 or so people as they came together to tackle the ongoing challenge of homelessness and its related effects in our region. The Summit was the first of three, part of an ongoing (three-year) project by Selkirk College Applied Research and Innovation and Community Partners. It began with speaker panels (capturing process in the accompanying photo, credit: Bob Hall), went into some seriously intense planning time, then ended with two keynote speakers in the evening.

Oof, I learned a lot. My thinking is still somewhat disjointed, so bear with me. I’m still digesting it all – metabolizing has been the word I’ve been using. I feel like the day is becoming part of my cells. The most informative pieces for me were the People with Lived and Living Experience panel and the final speaker, Ronnie Grigg.

The second panel of the day were people who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness – the bravery and vulnerability that these folks displayed. . .well, I don’t really have a good word to describe the enormity of it. There was massive call for breaking stigma, for SEEING people – really seeing individual people as individuals. To come up with real solutions and then to allow the people they’re intended for to access those solutions. Over and over again this phrase came up: “It’s not US and THEM, it’s WE”.

No kidding.

My personal hope is that folks will respond differently on the street, in their businesses, and in their political choices (at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels) based on their experience yesterday. That folks will look each other in the eye. Acknowledge human-ness. See people, not circumstances, not problems. Look to bridge and create solutions. Bring empathy and curiosity to something they initially don’t understand, particularly from the side that holds the resources, the privilege, the decision-making power.

I learned first and foremost that there are a LOT of people wanting to find solutions, and that no one thinks that there is a magic wand to wave, ‘fixing’ everything. There were people there who had their eyes opened to a reality that they were misunderstanding previously. Because of that change, they will see that it’s not about rescue, it’s about co-construction of next steps.

The afternoon was bursting with creative ideas to enact pathways to change and a LOT of will to drive the process. Service recipients and folks with lived experience were at each one of those tables, informing directions that actually make sense and have potential to make real changes.

I’ll write again soon, friends. There’s a lot more metabolizing to do.

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