This year’s Housing Central conference boasted an immersive environment conductive to interactive learning experiences. The three-day event was chockful of educational panels, inspiring speakers and networking opportunities—all from the safety of your home or office.
Despite its virtual format, the Housing Central conference last week conveyed both warmth and community, according to Luc Labelle, program manager at the Community Housing Transformation Centre. “Attending for the first time, after having heard so much about this event, I was curious to see how it would fare in a virtual format this year,” he says.
“I was impressed by the warmth and how much fun the speakers and the hosts channelled.”
Indeed, Housing Central’s presentation was reminiscent of The Sims: a virtual format presenting an immersive environment encouraging highly interactive learning experiences—all while fostering a deep sense of community.
The conference included keynote speakers and educational panels on a broad variety of topics, including:
- Housing development in rural communities
- Creating inclusive housing
- Housing women after violence
- Harm-reduction approaches
- Tenant engagement strategies
- Supporting Indigenous families in crisis
Attendees were also pleasantly surprised to find digital spaces for a tradeshow and even art exhibitions, interactive engagement and networking opportunities with colleagues and thought leaders.
“It is impressive to see the quality of the speakers and panels [organizers] were able to put together,” adds Labelle. “I must say that I was moved more than once by the testimonies presented by lived-experience speakers. In From Encampment to Housing: Successful Strategies, the testimonies put a human face on homelessness and deepened our conversations.”
The conference included keynote speeches from a diverse array of leaders such as Sandy Hudson, founder of Black Lives Matter (Canada), as well as Hon. David Eby, B.C.’s attorney general and its housing minister.
Whose voices matter?
In Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion—led by Erica-Nicole Griffin and Jamie Joanou from Monday Morning Consultants—attendees were encouraged not only to ponder diversity in the workplace or adapting spaces to accommodate people living with disabilities, but to dig deeper and get uncomfortable: Whose voices matter?
Stephanie Allen, associate VP of BC Housing and founding member of Hogan’s Alley Society, facilitated the session, which asked: Is our culture safe and welcoming to all? What is considered normal and why? And perhaps, most importantly, how do we—those of us working in the community housing sector—contribute to the oppression we seek to dismantle?
Gabrielle Peters, a disabled writer, offered a historic presentation of systemic oppression against people with disabilities, drawing a clear line between ableism, colonialism and white supremacy.
The host federations’ shared values were front and centre at Housing Central, with a roster of speakers with lived experience, such as Angel Gates, from the Megaphone Speakers Bureau, who offered testimony on her experience dealing with foster care, homelessness, and drug abuse. The pivotal moment in her healing journey? Being offered an SRO (single room occupancy).
The Community Housing Transformation Centre had its own booth “on site,” staffed with several program managers alternating shifts, over the three days. According to Labelle, who chatted with dozens of drop-in guests, it was “a good place to share our message and engage with attendees who didn’t know us.”
The Centre was also present to raise awareness of our services and grants. We sponsored Small But Mighty: Scaling Up Your Organization, where panellists discussed how to grow non-profits to deliver more affordable housing. The Centre’s executive director, Stéphan Corriveau, kicked things off with an impassioned presentation. Jill Atkey, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, and Margaret Pfoh, CEO of Aboriginal Housing Management Association, both members of the Centre’s board, were also guest speakers.
The three-day event managed to present many educational and networking opportunities, setting a new standard for virtual conferences.
Centre program manager Renée Hébert was thrilled with the event. “Congratulations to all the organizers for the great conference. What an innovative way to connect with colleagues and learn!”
Housing Central is an annual conference hosted collaboratively by three British Columbia associations/federations:
• The BC Non-Profit Housing Association has been the provincial umbrella organization for the non-profit housing sector for nearly 30 years and currently serves more than 600 members;
• The Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, whose mission is to unite, represent and serve its members in a thriving co-operative housing movement;
• The Aboriginal Housing Management Association, an umbrella organization composed of 41 members that are each Indigenous housing providers.