Yukon homelessness, poverty action group shares their stories on paper

Jack Bogaard founded Voices Influencing Change in 2017 with a vision of “not being the only one” with lived experience taking part in community meetings. (Katie Todd/CBC)

By Katie Todd · CBC News 

Voices Influencing Change group pens new booklet for the public

A group of people who have experienced poverty and homelessness in the Yukon have put pen to paper to introduce themselves to the public.

The group, Voices Influencing Change, has released a booklet which details their backgrounds, their work and their vision for the future.

That future should have more people with “lived experience” at the table making decisions, said one of the contributors, Frederick ‘Fritz’ Andre.

“I believe people with lived experience — we do have a voice, we can make an impact. And this book is just the beginning,” he said.

‘Whether it’s social justice or housing or health. We we can make an impactful difference.”

Andre joined Voices Influencing Change shortly seven years ago, shortly after it started.

He spoke at a gathering in Whitehorse on Wednesday to mark the milestone launch of the booklet, called Voices Influencing Change: Our Story.

Members of Voices Influencing Change have penned a 38-page booklet to introduce themselves, their work, and their vision for the future. It’s available from the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. (Katie Todd/CBC)

Earlier in the day, the group also celebrated five new graduates.

Thirty-two people in total have completed its ten-session storytelling, advocacy and leadership course.

Since it started in 2017, the group has contributed to consultations by Yukon Government, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, on topics including housing, health and income support.

Members have also presented to high school groups, delivered a delegation to the City of Whitehorse, and volunteered at community events.

“It’s just so wonderful to see the faces in here and to reflect back on some of the things that we’ve done,” Andre said.

“I’m so proud of this book. It’s far exceeded my expectations. I think this book is going to go a long way to provide sort of a rough guideline for any other lived experience groups that would like to get started and to see what they can do,” he said.

“I think it’s really important for us to serve, to be out there, because we are doing good work and it’s taken us a long time to get to here. We’re no longer so invisible.”

‘My voice is as equal as everybody else at the table’

The group is run through the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

It was founded by Jack Bogaard, who said he had a vision of “not being the only one” with lived experience taking part in community meetings.

“My voice is as equal as everybody else at the table,” he said.

“With 32 voices, the power is 31 times more than my voice. That’s huge.”

Jason Charlie said he’d shared his story in the hope of helping others. (Katie Todd/CBC)

He said a significant amount of time and love went into writing the booklet.

“When we get to pass it out, it has a picture of every member and it has their bio on it. And it tells stories in here of our successes of what we do within this community, Each and every one. It shows what we do, the Garden Project, helping homeless, helping as many as we possibly can,” he said.

Jason Charlie, another group member who contributed to the book, said he’d shared his story in the hope of helping others.

“A lot of people in the community they know me. They know all the all the things that life threw at me. And they saw what I went through. So I decided to go back to the school so that I could learn more about myself and the world around me,” he said.

“I wanted to to set that example that no matter you know what life throws at you, nothing is impossible, that you can do anything that you want. You just have to set your mind to it.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Person-focused homelessness strategy tabled in N.W.T., CBC News

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