As the school year draws to a close, we say goodbye to some of our student researchers here at CEHE. Undergraduate thesis students and interns have made many contributions to our RentSafe, incarceration and health, and playgrounds projects.
Best of luck to all!
By Carlos E. Sánchez-Pimienta, Rachel Hayton and Randi Wang
On November 23rd, 2016, over 60 participants convened at McMaster University’s David Braley Health Sciences Centre, in Hamilton, Ontario to attend the RentSafe Roundtable. The event provided a collaborative environment to learn about the findings of RentSafe baseline research on housing-related health risks in Ontario, and to discuss recommendations for action on how to achieve healthy homes for all. Participants included, among others, tenants, landlords, housing advocates, health and legal professionals, and representatives from social services agencies.
The roundtable was organized by the RentSafe Project Team and led by Erica Phipps, Executive Director of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment. Erica is also a PhD student and Vanier Scholar at the Centre for Environmental Health Equity. In the context of Canada’s National Housing Day, an evening public forum was held in the evening of November 22nd as a kick-off to the roundtable. This event featured Dr. Megan Sandel from Boston University, who gave a talk about the impact of physical living conditions on children’s health and well-being, aptly titled “Home is the vaccine for child poverty”. This presentation provided insights on why it is essential to take children’s health into account when making housing policies.
The official Roundtable meeting took place on November 23rd. Elder Yvonne Maracle of the De Dwa Da Dehs Nye>S Aboriginal Health Centre started the event by with an opening ceremony and teaching, which set a positive path for the work of the day. Erica Phipps presented an overview of the RentSafe Initiative, highlighting its purpose, phases of research, and progress to date. Her overview was followed by a panel of tenants who participated in focus groups as well as presentations on RentSafe baseline research thematic panel discussions. The discussions between presenters and other Roundtable attendees enhanced people’s understandings of both tenant experiences of unhealthy homes, and the response of the social service system to unhealthy housing conditions. A link to the final baseline report will be added to this posting when it becomes available.
During the lunch break Elder Yvonne led a smudging ceremony and shared further teachings on the importance of being respectful and knowing our place in the natural environment. Participants also had time during the break to speak to one another and foster collaborative relationships.
The second part of the Roundtable focused on ideas for action. The RentSafe team organized five separate break-out sessions in which attendees could develop recommendations for future action. The sessions focused on the following topics: 1) Tenant rights and justice, 2) Indigenous housing needs and priorities, 3) Housing provider needs and priorities, 4) Health, Legal, and Social Services, and 5) Legal barriers and reform. At the end of the activity, a representative from each group shared their ideas for improving RentSafe’s suggestions for action.
The roundtable concluded with a “5 for 25” activity. This exercise allowed a collective ranking of the most important actions for achieving healthy housing for all. Each participant received a cue card on which they wrote an idea for action. Through five iterative rounds, each participant exchanged their cue cards with others, and ranked the idea they received from 1 to 5 according to the idea’s importance. After the ranking was finished, participants read out loud the recommendation on the cards in decreasing order of importance. This “5 for 25” activity created a collective sense of priority, and ended the session in an interactive and creative way.
Overall, the RentSafe Roundtable provided a space to better understand housing quality issues as seen from multiple areas of expertise. Collective knowledge and experience crafted exciting ideas for action towards reaching healthy housing for all. It is essential to acknowledge the outstanding work of Erica Phipps in her contributions to the Roundtable and broader RentSafe Initiative. Her leadership and hard work set a strong precedent for RentSafe’s collaborative efforts.
Congratulations to CEHE’s Rachel Hayton, one of only 24 Queen’s students who received a 2016 Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship. Rachel presented a poster on her research experience, “RentSafe: An Intersectional Approach to Improve Housing Experience and Support for Low-Income Tenants“.
The Centre for Environmental Health Equity congratulates Robert Huff on being awarded a 2016 ONPHA (Ontario Non Profit Housing Association) Tenant Achievement Award. Robert has long been a fixture of the CEHE team and we are delighted to see him recognized for his hard work. We invited him to tell us a little bit more about his work in the following Q&A.
Q: What do the tenant achievement awards recognize?
A: Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) is a member based organization to more than 700 non-profit housing providers that provides housing and support services to over 400,000 Ontarians.
Each year ONPHA honours 4 tenants or tenant groups from across the province with the Tenant Achievement Recognition Award who help make their non-profit housing community a better place to live. Presented at their annual Conference and Gala in downtown Toronto.
Q: Could you please tell us a little bit about what you do and what impact you think it has on the community?
A: My passion is in the design field. I find tremendous rewards when I can use my talents and experiences to better my surroundings and community. And that can be with print media digital design, interior and exterior decorating, gardening and curb appeal – all tied together with a real world function based approach.
I truly believe that we all deserve the best and healthiest environment to live and grow in. And just because folks are living in this type of environment, it doesn’t need to look or feel that way. When our communities are fostered with a sense of caring, beauty, safety and cleanliness, intricate health benefits are seen and felt. Like a ripple through our lives.
Q: How did you get involved in this work? How long have you been in this role?
A: I publically talk about my past and use my experiences to show others that there is hope in healing/recovering from a serious illness. In 2010, with Jeff Masuda and Tara Zupancic, I became the Community Project Coordinator for The SUCCEED Project. This is where volunteering in my community morphed into an immediate passionate commitment for promoting positive social change and creating healthy environments.
Q: What are your plans moving forward?
A: Working with a social housing providor, I have created community spaces, refreshed and resigned tenant’s homes, created curb appeal and butterfly gardens at 20 large century style shared homes and 2 historic apartment complexes. I was also led an energy conservation program (GLOBE) Green Light on a Better Environment with tenants and managers. As well as partnering not only with CEHE, but with organizations such Centre for Social Innovation, Parkdale Village BIA and The Homegrown National Park Project. I never stop advocating and working towards a better environment, however that may be.
This past summer, I graduated from Natural Minds – Lasting Connections, a 10 person Nature Ambassador Training Program provided by Toronto Conservation Authority. I am very pleased to partner with Parkdale Walking Group, to provide nature appreciation wellness walks with a guided mindful practice to the public.
Congratulations again, Robert, and thank you taking the time to tell us about your work!
A: Thank you for this opportunity to be recognized. Folks can learn more at the following resources: