Tag Archives: NFA

What is your boardroom used for?

Is it a multipurpose room set as a meeting space during the day and a bedroom to multiple people at night? A child’s safe place with their mom? Is it someone’s temporary home?

Here at the YWCA Niagara Region, ours is regularly just that.

I will never forget that one Friday morning I came into work at the YWCA Niagara Region. It was a little earlier than usual. I was on my way to the Fund Development office, walking past the boardroom when I noticed the lights were on. That was rare for that early in the morning. So, naturally, I glanced into the room.

What did I see?

Not one, not two, but three beds. In our boardroom! Unbelievable. The purpose of a boardroom is for meetings, not for someone to sleep at night. The fact that there were three was even more alarming. That meant three people were crammed into a room with all of the tables and chairs for a meeting along with the three beds. Three people!

The YWCA Niagara Region St. Catharines Emergency shelter already holds at least twenty women and their children every night. To think that more people needing a safe place to lay their heads are being put on pull out couches and cots was extremely upsetting. I then found out that there were two more cots in our Kate Leonard Room (another boardroom across the hall). Five people in total were sleeping in what was intended to be a meeting room. This was in decent weather. Can you imagine what the demand is like during terrible weather? I teared up a bit as my heart went out to these women and children.

How would I feel if I were tossed into a boardroom with two other people or with my little kids? How would you feel? Vulnerable, to say the least. Grateful, of course and happy to be safe; but sad, scared, and uncomfortable. I can’t grasp exactly how they must feel. Unless you’re in the position, how could you? The thought of small children and their mothers curling up in a room that I personally use to plan events and gain community support is upsetting. One that’s used to make decisions to help clients, not house them. It’s not a bedroom, there is no closet to put away clients’ belongings.

After taking a minute to let it sink in that this was a daily reality, I stepped outside with my hand to my lips in utter shock. The advocate on duty apologized that she hadn’t had time to clean up the beds. Well no kidding, there were at least 25 women and their children who most likely needed her attention in the morning. So, no, she didn’t have time to clean up all of the meeting rooms. This is what we have to do to ensure that Niagara women and children have somewhere they can safely sleep, have a warm meal, and the comfort of a shower, even if they have to be placed in a boardroom with others. At least they have a safe place and a semi-comfortable cot.

            “I was shocked and heartbroken, tearing up. I mean, who wants to sleep in a boardroom? My heart went out to these women and children living in this type of situation!”

The unfortunate thing is the YW as well as all of the other shelters across the region and country have been running overcapacity for quite some time. They’ve been struggling to find the room for women and children in need. In 2017, the YW operated at 110% capacity. Hotels are thrilled when they reach 60% capacity. That’s how high the demand for just a bed is. Not to mention the fact that the demand for meals went up 42% in the last year at the YW, which had us serve a total of 94,691 meals.

I can’t explain my heartbreak. We are trying our best, but the demand is still rising and we are running out of room.

This is why I’m participating in No Fixed Address and supporting the YWCA Niagara Region, and this is why I am passionate about my job.

Because there are women and children, as well as men (in the men’s shelter) who live in impossible situations and deserve better. Who would I be if I didn’t try to make a difference? I certainly would hope for help if I was in the situation, and the hard reality is it can happen to any one of us.

So, what is your boardroom used for?

Help me make a difference and participate in the YW’s No Fixed Address event on June 8th-9th, where we can help end homelessness.

NFA 2015: Past Participant Interview

Happy Thursday everyone! We are a little over a month away from next month’s NO FIXED ADDRESS 24 hour live-in-your-car-a-thon! Our big event takes place on August 14th and 15th in the Pen Centre parking lot! Our goal is to raise awareness about poverty and homelessness by having others experience what it’s like to live out of your car. Want to make a difference? Visit the NFA website to sign up, make a donation, or volunteer (www.nfaniagara.ca)!

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Maybe you aren’t sure if you want to sign up just yet. Maybe you need to hear what it was like from someone who has participated in the event? Well, we reached out to past participant Christina Papetti to answer some questions about her and her family’s experience at No Fixed Address. Christina and her family have participated every year since 2012.

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Y: What first caught your attention about No Fixed Address in 2012?

C: The first time I heard about no fixed address was from my sister. She was working at the YWCA and told me about it and asked if we would do it. I’m so glad we did.

Y: Why did you choose to register as a team with your family, rather than as an individual?

C: We register every year as a family because we use this to help the homeless and it’s also bonding time for us! We do everything as a team: our signs, getting the donations, and we make it kind of like a family day. We look forward to it every year.

Y: What was your first family experience like at No Fixed Address?  What was it like trying to fit yourself and your children into one car for the night?

C: The first year was a little difficult, we weren’t very organized. We now know that it gets chilly out in the early early morning, so we bring warmer blankets and socks. I now know how much my daughter moves when she’s sleeping and how loud my son can really snore!

Y: What are some of the things that you and your children have learned from No Fixed Address?

C: I love that every year when we get home after spending the 24 hours in the car, my kids ALWAYS  say how sorry they feel for the people that have no choice but to sleep in their cars. They say how lucky they are that they only have to do it once a year and then they get to come home to THEIR beds.

Y: How has No Fixed Address changed yours and your family’s perspective on homelessness?

C: My kids see that it doesn’t take much to make a difference, and they see that some people really don’t have a choice. I think they have learned a lot. I am a very proud mother of all 3 of my kids; all 3 have done things that put me in awe. One example is how they gave up THEIR lunch money to buy a coffee and muffin for a older man who looked like he could use it. When I asked my son what he had eaten for lunch that day, his reply was “I’m good, I know I can eat when I get home.” It makes me so proud to know that my kids know that they can change the world for a person in need.

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A very special thank you to Christina and her family for their ongoing support — and to everyone involved in No Fixed Address! Make sure you sign up for NFA TODAY!

Leading by Example

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As a part of our No Fixed Address filled summer, the YW blogging team thought it would be a great idea to highlight some of the event’s past participants and sponsors.  Intrigued with the opportunity to hone in on my interviewing skills (I did want to be a journalist, after all), I jumped at the opportunity to talk with these local leaders.

As I began sending out email requests, I was overwhelmed by how enthusiastic they were about sharing their event experiences and reasons why No Fixed Address is important to them.

I enjoyed reading all of the responses to the questions I had given them.  Their individual passion to make change in the community, as a team, is undeniable and No Fixed Address has given them an opportunity to be a voice for those who cannot find their own. 

Our Leaders

IMG_0914Crystal D’Cunha (CD) is the Sales Coach at Mountainview Homes, the leading home construction company in the Niagara Region and one of the major sponsors of No Fixed Address.   Passion is something Crystal exudes, as she enthusiastically coaches and manages an innovative  sales team.  As Chair of the Planning Committee since 2013, her leadership and enthusiasm are greatly valued by all of her teammates.  Her commitment towards the success of No Fixed Address has made her a leader in the eyes of those working closely with the event.

Niagara Falls Mayor, Jim Diodati (JD),  is a lifelong resident of the Niagara Region, IMG_0888committed to making a difference in the lives of those who live here.  Last year, Mayor Diodati and his family  participated for the first time in No Fixed Address and as a result were greatly impacted by their experience.  His passion and enthusiasm for participating in various community events and inspiring change throughout the Region has made him a leader to those at the YW and within the community.

Their Insight

What first caught your attention about No Fixed Address?

CD: My son and I were searching for a community event to be able to make a difference in as I wanted to get him involved in helping others. When Nicki presented the concept to me,  I thought it was so unique and creative that I knew immediately that Zorique and I could easily make a difference. Three years later- we have and will continue to!

JD: One was how much homelessness there actually is and how often the working poor spend nights in their car, like some of the people I met that night. They were sleeping in their cars, yet they looked like everyday working type people.  Clearly there was a part missing; they didn’t have a home.  Their home was their car and they maybe had their animal in their car too. That was one of the first things that definitely jumped out at me because I realized that homeless people don’t necessarily sleep on the sewer grates or park benches.  Homeless people have other means so you don’t always see them.  That was the first thing I didn’t realize;  the problem of homelessness  was bigger than I how I originally saw it.

How was your first experience at No Fixed Address?  How was sleeping in your car for the first time?

CD: Humbling to say the least! One does not realize how privileged we really are.  It was an emotional, rude awakening and a somber moment when you realize that your headrest is your pillow, and you have no heat.

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JD:  Sleeping in my car for the first time was a little bit challenging because I had both my daughters in the car.  Number one, it’s hot so it’s hard to stay cool.  Number two, there was a light, a security parking lot light, that was flashing on and off and on and off, and I would just rather it was either on or off all the time so that was a little frustrating. The other thing is that every time someone went to ‘Johnny on the Spot’, the door was spring hinged so it banged and banged and banged and kept waking me up.  You can’t get a good night’s sleep in the car and, I don’t care how you set it up, it’s not that comfortable so you could appreciate people’s struggle who have to live in their cars everyday.  Definitely not the way I like to do things.

Why have you continued to participate in No Fixed Address and support the YW?

CD: Because of the impact I’ve been able to see.  We have tripled in size in just 3 years, and we actually have a chance at making a difference in women and children’s lives. They can go on to be successful, independent, confident, educated, strong individuals and that alone will give us a stronger tomorrow. And of course, because it’s sincerely helped to make my son and I more compassionate people.

JD: Well I’ve got two daughters, a mother, and a wife so I think it’s important to support women.  I especially think it’s important to support women in distress, which is why I’ll continue to support them in as many different ways that I can.

What are some things that you’ve learned about homelessness from participating in No Fixed Address?

CD: That much of homelessness is hidden and we may not even consider it to be homelessness, but in reality it is.  Also, many people are 1 to 2 paychecks away from homelessness.  It’s not addictions, mental illness, or other stigmas that are the primary cause of homelessness.

JD: I think back to Question # 1, that there is a lot more working poor in our community than maybe we’re aware of, certainly more than I was aware of.

How has attending No Fixed Address changed you and your family’s perspective on homelessness?

CD: We have actively tried to improve the lives of those around us since the event.

JD: I think I shared with my girls first hand what it’s like to be homeless.  You can tell them about it, but it’s very different showing them.  It’s like the difference between eating a steak versus a picture of a steak; it’s a different experience that they got to experience first hand.  As a result, they have a greater appreciation and respect for it and were engaged with the community.

How has your experience at No Fixed Address changed since you first participated?

CD: Well, I have now been chairing the event for two years, and my passion for the event continues to grow year after year.  I’m lucky to have the support of my company, Mountainview Homes, which allows me to take such an active role in the community event.  I have also have a phenomenal team of community leaders to work with, and committee members that are equally as passionate about the cause.  Their passion and commitment has made a tremendous difference in the experience year after year!

Images courtesy of Google and YWCA Niagara Region