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Homelessness from the ground up

The second national conference on housing and homelessness: “Growing Home: Housing and Homelessness in Canada” took place in mid-February at the University of Calgary. I didn’t manage to get to all of the conference — the sun dogs took a large bite out of my hamstring when I was in the Yukon — but people who gathered there had stories to tell.

The first person I met was Jen, one of the stars of Laura Sky and Cathy Crowe’s new film “Home Safe Calgary”. When the film was shown at the conference, Jen and other people whose stories were in the film were at the screening, and fielded questions after the film was shown.

When Jen and I talked, the evening before the conference started, she told me about another project she’s been working on — a cookbook called “101 Recipes from the Hamper: Cooking on a Limited Budget” as part of her Kitchen Magic project. I like the interactive part of her web site — interactive means suggestions about how to get together with people to talk about food. cookbook-calgary2

It’s not your traditional cookbook — recipes include lots of “cheater” ones: chili, casserole, stuffed potatoes, stone stew (and we’re not talking children’s book stories here), mock alfredo, sorta jam and flaked chicken replacement. There’s also a recipe for tortierre, bannock, and yorkshire pudding (maybe I’ve finally found my mother’s secret).

This description of making syrup particularly struck me:

“Despite a hamper program [food bank]’s best intention, due to its inherently fragile nature, fresh fruit is often in rough shape by the time it reaches a recipient. … Step 1: Pick through the fruit well. Cut out or pick out any rotting or questionable parts/pieces. …”

A telling description of how people in this country are making ends meet.
I attended a workshop about research that had been done about northern women and homelessness — a cold story on many levels. The report was called “You Just Blink and it Can Happen: Women’s Homelessness North of 60”; the facilitators were community organizers from Yukon and the NWT.

And as always, we had a PovNet meeting while I was in Calgary — advocates and community workers gathered and we talked about their work, issues in Alberta, and setting up an online resource to facilitate networking around the province.

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