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A new name but the same mission: ending homelessness

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness changed its name in February to better reflect the many partners and stakeholders who address the needs of those experiencing homelessness

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness may have a new name — Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region — but its commitment to advocating for the unhoused remains the same.

The non-profit, formed in 2008, changed its name in February to better reflect the partners and stakeholders who collectively address the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness in the capital region.

“The community is looking to us as we refocus our advocacy and speak, capturing the sentiments of our partners and stakeholders, with a united voice,” said executive director Sylvia Caecero.

Along with representatives of community not-for-profit service organizations, Indigenous-serving organizations, government, business and funders, the alliance includes people with lived experience of homelessness.

Homelessness remains an enduring issue in the capital region, with the 2018 Point in Time homeless count identifying more than 1,500 people as unhoused.

“Our days can be daunting, but as a backbone organization, we are always seeking solutions to strike the beast down,” said Caecero, who has spent 25 years in the not-for-profit sector — including with seniors’ organizations, cemeteries and as a consultant to non-profits — and 15 months with the alliance.

“Everybody seeks a home where they can get a sense of belonging, a sense of joy — not just a roof. That includes the most marginalized in our society, who are living on the streets.”

She praised the support of the Victoria Foundation and its trust-based approach to funding.

“They say to us: ‘You know your job best. We trust you to apply the funds to the area of greatest need,’ ” said Caecero, 57. “It shows respect. It shows that they believe we know our business. It’s awesome.”

Similarly, her organization looks to the Victoria Foundation’s annual Vital Signs report, which identifies areas of concern and issues important to the community, for guidance in initiatives involving housing, mental health and addictions.

While the work facing the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region is daunting, Caecero, who came to Canada from Spain 40 years ago, is not giving up.

“I was shocked when I emigrated to Canada in 1983 and found a first-world country dealing with a housing crisis. After 40 years, we are still dealing with that crisis. We may just be holding the dam back — but at least it is not breaking.

“But we are making progress. Can you imagine where we would be if we all lowered our arms? If we did not continue the fight?

“When I find it frustrating, I turn that frustration into fuel — to make a difference.”

parrais@timescolonist.com

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