Ida is the former CEO of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. She has been a Streetohome Board Member since 2008, when the Foundation was founded. Ida currently sits on the boards of Fortis Inc., Fortis BC, and Pharmasave. Ida also devotes a signficant amount of her time to the non-profit and community sector and, in addition to Streetohome, she is Chair, Genome BC, a board member of the Canada West Foundation, and past board member of the Vancouver Foundation.
Why did you join the Streetohome Board?
At the time, I was CEO of Vancouver Coastal Health and we were committed to initiatives to support the treatment and recovery of vulnerable people, especially in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We worked with many other groups and organizations united by the same goal, but Streetohome was the first organization to bring the private sector and business into an informal coalition with health, provincial and municipal governments, police and NGO’s. Streetohome also brought a clear focus and direction with Housing First as the foremost plank in a cohesive strategy to address homelessness and its causes and attendant consequences.
It has been amazing to see what has been accomplished. Why did you want to lead the Employment Access Committee (EAC)?
I was particularly pleased to be asked to Chair the Employment Access Committee. The title is actually a bit of a misnomer as we are focused on ensuring access to purposeful activity for homeless and vulnerable populations – whether that is conventional employment, volunteering, or working in social enterprises. It is our belief, supported by good research, that individuals need not only a home and appropriate healthcare and social supports, but also activities to fill their day – activities which fill them with a sense of purpose, allow them to be productive and creative, to be part of a team or organization, to learn new skills and develop talents, and, of course, to become financially independent when possible. Streetohome has an opportunity to create bridges and links between potential employers, social enterprises and volunteer organizations and the vulnerable folks who want to find employment opportunities. Our Committee would like to help make these connections and enablers happen on a larger, system-wide level.
What are the deliverables for the EAC?
The Committee has been working on creating a strategy which will first address how to bring employers and potential employees together – because right now it is difficult for employers to identify potential job applicants and vice-versa. Conventional employment recruitment models don’t work very well for people who are homeless, at risk, or in recovery. The second aspect of the strategy focuses on identifying and removing barriers to employment or purposeful activity – including skills training and education, lifestyle supports such as daycare, transportation, financial incentives, and coordination with housing and health providers for vulnerable, but motivated, people; and supports, education and incentives for employers, social enterprises and volunteers. Those are high-level systemic goals; in addition, we hope to be able to support specific on-the-ground initiatives where Streetohome can be a catalyst, facilitator, champion and possibly funder.
What ‘aha’ moments have you had – if any – while leading the EAC?
The ‘aha’ moment for me was more a ‘YES’ – we can do so much more in our city and our province to provide opportunities for vulnerable populations. So many exciting small-scale initiatives are already underway with impressive, inspiring results. The challenge is to take the learnings from these projects and scale them up so that opportunities for the appropriate ‘purposeful activity’ are available to homeless, at-risk and recovering people in our community. A full and rewarding life requires not just decent housing, good health and social supports, but also access to meaningful and creative activities and the potential to contribute and give back, thereby increasing self-respect and providing pride in accomplishment.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
That question always makes me wish I had some exciting hobby or activity – sky-diving, mountain-climbing, opera singing. Unfortunately I can claim none of those things and instead spend my free time at my cabin on Bowen Island watching the deer nibble away at the garden.
What keeps you up at night?
Other than a good book and the occasional deadline, very little. I have learned that no problem actually improves with my sleeplessness. But in fact some problems are dealt with more effectively if I have had a good night’s sleep.
What gets you up in the morning?
I still believe the world can be a better place. I no longer believe it is quite as simple as I once thought it was, but all each of us can do is make the effort.