What REALTORS® can do to help end and prevent homelessness

Written by Mary Johnson, Vice President of and a Sales Representative with StreetCity Realty Inc., Brokerage.

As REALTORS®, we understand the importance of home and take pride in helping our neighbours find the spaces where they will build their lives for years to come. We believe everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home; and yet, here in Canada, 30,000 people experience homelessness each night.

I was honoured when CREA asked me to interview Michael Braithwaite, CEO of Blue Door Shelters, on behalf of all REALTORS® across the country, so we can learn more about this important issue as part of REALTORS Care® Week.  

When I met Michael, I was impressed by his expertise and passion for this subject. I was so interested to hear from Michael that there really is no one face to homelessness and it is not just a “downtown problem.” It affects Canadian communities big and small. It’s also important to realize that homelessness can be hidden and just because we might not be seeing the magnitude of this crisis in our communities doesn’t mean it’s not there.

While the Canadian homelessness statistics can be disheartening, Michael and I had an uplifting conversation about how the movement to end and prevent homelessness is gaining momentum. There are thousands of wonderful people—as part of non-profits, governments and volunteer partners—doing great work in communities across the country. There are also organizations—including A Way Home Canada, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, and Raising the Roof—pulling these groups together to share best practices. While all of this is promising, there is an urgent need for even more work to be done because the fact remains that tens of thousands of Canadians still do not have safe places to call home.

Michael and I continued our conversation off-camera about the work being done to support at-risk youth. I shared stories of my experiences supporting Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a charity in London, Ontario, that is close to my heart. Not surprisingly, Michael was already familiar with the great work being done by this wonderful organization and explained to me that a lot of homelessness prevention work starts with youth. According to Michael, there is a two-year window before at-risk youth are on a lifelong journey in and out of homelessness; so it’s crucial that we invest resources to support vulnerable young people and put them on a path toward reaching their potential.

Overall, what I took away from my conversation with Michael is that we, as REALTORS®, can make a big difference in supporting Canadians experiencing homelessness and organizations working towards homelessness prevention by: 

  1. Being kind: It’s so simple but it can make such a difference in the world. For example, making eye contact and giving a smile are easy ways to show respect and give others a sense of dignity, regardless of their station in life.
  2. Lending our voices: By talking about the issue of homelessness more openly, we can help decrease its stigma. We can help raise awareness about its prevalence and advocate for solutions to local influencers and government officials by leveraging the REALTOR® community’s existing advocacy networks.
  3. Supporting charities in our communities: Resources, time and money are all valuable to charities working to end homelessness. Reach out to a local charity near you to find out what they need and how you can help.

If you’re interested in learning more about homelessness in Canada, the Homeless Hub (homelesshub.ca) is a great resource. I would also recommend subscribing to “Out of the Blue,” a fascinating new weekly podcast produced by Michael Braithwaite and the team at Blue Door Shelters.

Mary Johnson is Vice President of and a Sales Representative with StreetCity Realty Inc., Brokerage, based in London, Ontario. She is also the Founder and President of Kindness Above Everything, a charity that aims to improve the lives of local impoverished families in her community through financial support. Mary’s real estate career began with her ownership of a property management company and continued in her role as vice president of leasing for a large development company.

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