Family Homelessness INNformation Series: Focus on Housing
Housing families experiencing homelessness – Interview with Raymond Bwititi
Raymond Bwititi, is the Senior Manager of Housing at Inn from the Cold. He has been working at the Inn for four years and his contributions to our housing programs have helped it grow and become a key pillar of our work. As Senior Manager of Housing, Raymond oversees the Housing team which provides families with client care plans and assessments, ensuring compliance with case management standards, monitoring the data collection (HMIS) for funders. His day-to-day also involves liaising with landlords and troubleshooting any problems they may arise with properties, as well as recruiting new landlords. Raymond also monitors the safety of the case managers when they are working alone in the field. Raymond and his team are an important part of a family’s healing process. By assisting families in housing programs maintain independence and thrive in the mainstream community, they are ensuring the family’s stability for years to come.
Read his perspective on housing in the homeless-serving sector and how we can be doing more for families experiencing homelessness to be housed and living independently:
Q: Please explain the role of your team.
Raymond Bwititi (RB): The role of the Housing team is to be a facilitator, advocate and resource person for our clients as they work to achieve self-actualization, self-reliance, and independence.
Q: Why does housing play such a huge role in helping families achieve independence?
RB: Housing means belonging. Housing is such a big part of our work at the Inn as it is a crucial step for families to heal and regain stability over their lives. They now have a safe and calm place to care for their family, and can pave their own path forward.
Q: What gaps are we seeing in our city around affordable housing?
RB: I think the biggest gap is the lack of adequate affordable housing, in particular, housing for larger families.
Q: How is Inn from the Cold filling in those gaps?
RB: The Inn has adopted a Housing First philosophy. Housing First is a recovery approach to ending homelessness where the goal is to move people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing with appropriate supports based on the family’s needs. Inn from the Cold’s purchase of Journey House 2 and the leasing of Journey House 1 from HomeSpace Society. By creating more family-sized affordable housing in Calgary we are leading the sector
Q: What else needs to be done?
RB: Our city is in desperate need of family-sized affordable housing. There needs to be more work with the community and relevant stakeholders to tackle the housing crisis, the growing income gap, and the significant trauma that accompanies homelessness. It will take action from everyone to see solutions.
Q: Do you have any situations that have personally moved you and made you feel proud of the work you are doing?
RB: It is always quite amazing when a family moves into their new home. One time a single mother in her 30s told us that Inn from the Cold had helped her rent her first place ever, she and her children had always stayed with friends or relatives but never had had their own place. I remember that moment so clearly because it was a great reminder that we truly are changing lives for the better.
Q: What has challenged you?
RB: The issues of prejudice are the most challenging part of the job. Issues of discrimination for Indigenous families, new Canadians and the visible minorities, are always a challenge. As well, we are working on breaking down stereotypes surrounding addiction and homelessness.
I remember a situation where one staff member was working on budgeting with a client and remarked “we are all a paycheck away from being homeless”. It was very eye-opening, and a great reminder that for many of us, missing a paycheck can have a detrimental impact on housing security and our peace of mind.
Q: What is something you would like everyone reading to know about affordable housing?
RB: Affordable housing is not only for people with severe trauma, minorities or immigrants. Affordable housing effects all. Everyone wants to pay an affordable price for their house, but in some cases, they cannot choose from the available supply. Which is why non-profit organizations and different levels of government provide services to ensure everyone has access to the right housing with the right supports in order to thrive and be part of the community.
Q: If someone wants to get more involved with affordable housing, where would you recommend they start?
RB: First of all, for those with available housing please consider contacting one of the agencies working in the homeless-serving sector who provides housing programs. The easiest way to find out who they are is to contact the Calgary Homeless Foundation (www.calgaryhomeless.com ). Someone’s economic situation does not define them. When we create opportunities for vulnerable people to know housing security, we create a better community for everyone.
As well, please come and volunteer with us at the Inn and get to know our work, the children and families we serve and our vision. Lastly, support our housing programs. As I mentioned, there is a significant lack of family-sized housing in Calgary and with your support, we can ensure every child and family who becomes homeless, can have a safe place to call home.
Thank you, Raymond!