HOUSING INSECURITY AND HOUSING JUSTICE PANEL
On January 26, 2016, the Peterborough Student Co-op put on a panel as a part of the Anti-Poverty Week put on by OPIRG Peterborough and the Peterborough Student Co-op in collaboration with other community and student organizations.
This event brought together six community members to speak from their various positions about housing insecurity and housing justice. Rosemary O’Donnell represented the Housing Resource Centre at the Community Counselling and Resource Centre, Katherine Blackwood represented the Affordable Housing Action Committee, and Lee Anne Cross represented the Community Legal Centre. They each spoke about the challenges they see low income people in our community face in accessing safe, affordable housing, the types of supports that are available, and the work being done to grant greater access to affordable housing. They addressed challenges specific to Peterborough, and spoke of how housing has gone from being a federal priority to one that is barely supported by municipal governments. A few of them also spoke to their personal experiences living in poverty earlier in their lives and how that informs the work they do now.
We also had Heather Emme speak about her experiences with insecure housing and homelessness at a young age, and how so often the supports offered to people who are underused require them to make sacrifices to access housing (for example, shelters that don’t allow pets, or partners of different genders to stay together, or a shelter being in a location that no longer allows you to get to your school without taking transit that is unaffordable). Crystal Scrimshaw spoke about her experiences of unsafe housing in Peterborough and the challenges she has faced as a single mother trying to support a young child in this environment. The conversation began with Heather and Crystal’s voices, and then moved to the three representatives of community organizations, and Rosemary, Katherine and Lee Anne were able to address Heather and Crytal’s experiences as they spoke. At the end, Elisha Rubacha from Seeds of Change Peterborough spoke about the Housing Dialogues Project she was beginning to undertake, inviting audience members to participate. Overall this event was an incredible opportunity to bring voices of different experiences together to talk honestly about the types of challenges faces by people living in poverty around housing issues. Many people left the event feeling empowered and ready to take action to challenge the government and our communities to do better at providing safe and affordable housing to some of society’s most vulnerable people.
Gingerbread Co-op Contest
On Thursday December the 4th, 2015, the Peterborough Student Co-op hosted the epic, life-changing Gingerbread Co-op Contest. Six teams gathered to dream, design and create Co-op inspired houses using the resources… ginger bread, candy, chocolate and icing… to build their very own co-op! The evening was full of merriment, friendly competition and idea sharing. We had four celebrity judges join us for the evening: Dwayne Collins, Montana Mellett, Ysabel Tuason and Josh Skinner. They developed and executed a very sophisticated ranking matrix based on structural integrity of their co-op house, the narrative behind its creation, the overall aesthetic and the team’s holiday spirit.
Participants were encouraged to imagine the possibilities of what a co-op could look like and what it means to have control over your own living space. When the teams had the chance to share the story behind their co-op it was clear that there were some shared visions between the groups. People spoke to the importance of community spaces within their co-op through sharing meals together, growing food together and having spaces to build relationships. People dreamed up different ways of integrating social and environmental justice as the foundation of their gingerbread co-op community. This was clear in the ways sustainability, accessibility and challenging capitalism and colonialism were prioritized.
After a heated two hours of construction, then a sharing of visions, the judges deliberated over the merits of the six impressive gingerbread co-ops. In the end, there was only one winner… the 2/3rd OPIRG team! Their post-apocalyptic dream Co-Ho-Op included wind turbine energy sources, solar panelled roofs, a melted snowman and an over-heated Santa and managed to woo both the judges and the crowd.
The Peterborough Student Co-op continues to advocate for safe affordable housing for both students and community members and to have events like the Gingerbread Co-op Contest that bring our community together. We were inspired by all of the ideas shared of the ways we could create and have control over our own homes and community spaces. If you have any questions about tenant rights or need help looking for housing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dream big, Trent.