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.
Crystal 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, committed 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.
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.
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