Updated: Jun 15
This year's YIMBY week runs from June 13 - 18. For more information, please visit https://redwoodparkcommunities.com/yimby/yimby-week/
So glad you asked! 😀
I'm a YIMBYer because...
I'm paying it forward.
People who met me in recent years (or those who knew me as a kid) are often surprised to learn that I spent the majority of my adult life living below the poverty line – some years further below than others.
In those decades, for various reasons, there were several occasions where I would have found myself homeless, if not for a few amazing people willing to put themselves on the line for me (their willingness to help undoubtedly influenced by my own privilege), and a whole lot of right-place-right-time luck.
There are so many myths and misunderstandings about homelessness and poverty, and who our unhoused neighbours are. I hear them a lot, from people who don’t know my history – and yes, it gives me great pleasure to see the looks on their faces when I set the record straight! 😀
I know, first-hand, that it may be a random twist of fate or circumstance that can get you there, and an equally random twist that can lift you out – and that those twists are less “random” for those who aren’t able-bodied, mentally, physically and emotionally healthy, white, or born into a stable socioeconomic group, among other factors. (And don't even get me started on trauma history, or you'll be stuck with a 90-pager...)
I also know that “work harder” or “spend wiser” just doesn’t cut it, when faced with the obstacles inherent in the system. I can honestly say I’ve never worked harder or been more careful with my money than when I worked and budgeted in those decades – when 70-80% of your income (or more, in the bad months) is going to just keeping a roof over your head, you don't take anything for granted.
This is probably why giving myself an afternoon off on a weekend still fills me with anxiety, even a decade after gaining stability. Only now, instead of spending all that time and energy just to keep afloat, I can (and do) spend it giving back to my community.
During this pandemic, I volunteered not only for Engage Barrie, but also was an original admin of Barrie Families Unite, and on the board of Glowing Hearts Charity. BFU was born out of a need to assist those who fell through the cracks when the world-as-we-knew-it turned upside-down in March, 2020. As we developed a new strategic plan for Glowing Hearts, we changed direction to focus on the nearly 14% (by pre-pandemic statistics) of children in Simcoe County living in low-income households.
The stories I heard from the people we were helping within each organization were all heartbreaking. People who thought they were safe and secure, thought they had a plan, and then suddenly they were laid off from what had been secure jobs, or they got sick, or their surgeries were delayed, or the new business they'd invested everything in was shut down a week after the grand opening, or their landlords saw the housing boom and decided to cash in and leave them without any realistic options.
The pandemic not only showed us all where the social safety net was already lacking – it created a whole new set of systemic issues that ALSO weren't "work harder"-able or "budget better"-able to get out of.
And for these people whose lives had just been flipped, so many of these stressors that were making it impossible to put their time and energy into anything other than staying afloat could have been eased significantly by not having to worry about keeping a roof over their and their families' heads.
Just over ten years ago, I was blessed to catch a lucky break. It's not that I suddenly became more deserving, or worked harder, or budgeted better than I had in the decades before. It's because of sheer luck and a few amazing people fighting for me. Because of them, I am now fortunate enough to have a safe, stable and secure home. Because I now have a safe, stable and secure home, I am lucky enough to be able to pay it forward. Something that every single person I've helped in the last two-plus years has dreamed of being able to do one day, as well.
Housing is a human right.
We all need a safe and stable place to come home to. So we can all spend our time and energy working to make our community better.
Happy YIMBY week, everyone! Why are YOU a YIMBYer?