Community Stories: Meet Peggy

NHA likes to tell stories of our residents’ success! However a huge part of our model is respecting the anonymity of all of our residents. In this series, we’ll keep telling those stories but we will change names and remove details that could point to a particular individual (dependent on each person’s preferences and comfort). We hope you’ll find these stories demonstrate our commitment to serving individuals and families with dignity – wherever they’re at.

Peggy first moved to Sunnyside in 1987 and has called the area home for most of the time since. In 2010, with her children long grown and out of the house, Peggy was newly retired and in need of more affordable housing. Having spent many years in the community, she was aware of Norfolk Housing Association and knew that NHA would be the right fit for her in future. In fact, she’d already met some of her current neighbours and was excited by the idea of maintaining those relationships.

“This community was a real fit for me as it had a lot of people and organizations who worked hard to make this community and city a decent place for working people to live.”

When Peggy moved into NHA, she was paying market rents – owing in large part to the fact that NHA is always conscientious of market rental rates, working to ensure they remain affordable. As her income shifted, so did her rent, and Peggy moved to paying rent geared to her income without having to move apartments or change homes.

According to Peggy, NHA’s unique 50/50 mixed model is a great way of keeping rental housing affordable, especially in an often expensive neighbourhood like Hillhurst-Sunnyside. However, as with anything, it isn’t a model that works flawlessly in every scenario and the market units can see more turnover, especially during times of market flux. Any sort of rapid turnover naturally affects the longer-term sense of community that so many residents hold dear (and will note as a main reason for making their homes with NHA).

Peggy is an active member of the NHA community but also in the broader community, over the years leading the charge on labour rights, women’s rights, running for political office, and upholding the values of community on every level. She never misses an NHA Stampede breakfast, attends most Community Advisory Group meetings with residents, and often volunteers both within the NHA sphere and outside of it. Neighbours will tell you that Peggy is always willing to lend a hand – she is a natural leader and we all gravitate towards her optimism for a brighter future.

When asked about plans for the future, Peggy is, as ever, a tireless advocate for improved outcomes for all.

“I will continue to do all I can to encourage people to empower themselves to speak out and act on their concerns, whether it is the right to affordable housing, the right to public healthcare and education and to make sure the needs of everyone are met.”

How NHA is Supporting Residents through COVID-19

As we come up on a year of “life with COVID”, NHA is taking stock of all the ways that we can continue to support residents through these truly trying times. With no clear end date on the horizon, but hope for something like normal life soon, we are focused on keeping residents safe, housed, engaged, and informed. 

Here’s what we’ve been up to, and what we plan to continue doing: 

Residents are being asked to complete this survey by Feb 15th to let us know how else we can engage digitally or “from a distance” – your input matters to us!

Increased cleaning and sanitization of all buildings

When the first wave of the pandemic hit, we upped sanitization efforts in the buildings to 3 times daily, 7 days a week. As new information came out about the limited spread of the virus through surfaces, and as residents became more aware of how to best protect themselves in common areas, we shifted to a once daily deep sanitization in every building. Every railing, mailbox, door handle, washer, dryer, every shared surface gets a good bleaching once a day and we will continue with these measures indefinitely. In addition to these efforts, we also installed sanitizer stations throughout the building common areas for residents to use as they come and go. 

Working through rent payment concerns

Preventing people from falling into homelessness is what we do! So we worked with residents to manage rent payments through job loss, while waiting for CERB and EI payments, and/or decreased hours and security of their situation. While this takes on various forms and is highly contingent on each person’s circumstances, we encourage all residents to get in touch with us before missing rent payments to discuss options.

Taking advantage of opportunities to upgrade units

While it would be a stretch to say it’s been helpful to have to wait longer times between entering units after move-outs and before move-ins, we will say that we’ve been using these lemons to make lemonade. The longer times between occupancy have enabled us to do some more in-suite upgrades that otherwise might have to wait or that would disrupt current residents. In tangible terms, this means that more of our units will be ready for easier move-ins down the road AND at the level of quality that we like to maintain. Quite a sweet lemonade, after all!

Working with partners to support residents

Partnerships are an incredibly important part of what we do. They allow us to focus on the business of keeping people safely and appropriately housed, while ensuring that those who require or desire supports still have them. Calgary Dollars, especially, has been instrumental in engaging with residents in the past months and creating opportunities for safe learning, sharing, accessing food, and more. In fact, residents of all incomes can earn Calgary Dollars and use those dollars to pay a portion of their rent with us – a huge help for some in these uncertain times!

Assistance for commercial residents

Our commercial residents matter to us, too! They’re an instrumental part of our community and we were diligent about staying in close contact to work together to ensure their survival through this chaotic time. We provided various forms of partnership to ensure the longevity of their businesses, including through the CECRA, payment plans, and deferred rents as applicable. We are so happy to say that all three commercial residents have survived – but we’re not out of the woods yet. Please support local if you can!

No doubt there will be ongoing changes and challenges as our governments work hard towards vaccinating the majority of the population – but we are determined to find ways at every stage to support everyone who makes their community with NHA. Thank you for continuing to support each other with kindness and patience!

Happy New Year and Welcome 2021!

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Happy new year and welcome 2021! Goodness knows we’re all ready for a new beginning, but we’re also aware of the fact that nothing is going to be really different right away (here’s looking at you, summer!). So how do we handle that? How do we look to the future and create sustainable goals that can see us not only surviving, but thriving?

From an organizational perspective, we’re embracing new ways to get digital and stay connected to residents and partners. We’ll be hosting online events, partnering with Calgary Dollars, and looking to bring neighours together to support one another on a more personal level.

We’ll also be working to expand our Portable Housing Benefit program this year, supporting families where a primary caregiver is pursuing secondary schooling and requiring some additional housing income. And we’ll be on the lookout for creative new ways that NHA can offer more Calgarians housing in a sustainable, community-driven manner. 

Our goals – or resolutions, if you will – are centered around compassion, community building, and inclusion. And though the world feels a little ‘off’, we’re going to keep moving towards those big goals by focusing on bite-sized things that keep us going in a healthy direction.

We hope all of you will find inspiration to do the same! Here are a few resolutions for a COVID era, from our team to you, that focus on compassion for ourselves and others. 

Be kind to yourself.

Say something nice to yourself every day when you wake up. And practice that kindness throughout the day. It’s normal that you might be feeling a little lower, or quicker to anger, frustrated or just uninterested. Speak kindly to yourself and surely tomorrow will feel just a little bit better.

Be kind to others.

Everyone is feeling as weird as you are, even though we all show it in different ways. You don’t have to do anything special to be kind, just practice patience with people who see things differently than you or may handle this specific kind of collective trauma differently. Generally, everyone is just doing the best they can.

Get outside every day.

In these dark months especially, it’s important to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on your face. And as a bonus, getting outside boosts your immune system and we all know it boosts your mood. Even a trip around the block can do wonders for your mood, your wellbeing, and your health. If warm clothing is preventing you (or someone you know) from getting out and about, please let NHA staff know what you need so we can help you find items from the community cupboard.

Learn something new.

You don’t have to take up a musical instrument or sign up for an intensive course to learn something new! Google a topic of interest, download Duolingo and do 10 minutes of language learning, read a newspaper article, or watch Youtube videos on “How It’s Made”. There are loads of ways to learn without spending any money or biting off more than you can chew. Challenge yourself to learn something new, no matter how small, every week.

Connect with an old (or new) friend.

Bring back pen pals! Or get back to your teenage years and spend two hours on the phone catching up with someone you haven’t spoken to lately. Connection comes in many forms but we are unanimous in our need to share, socialize, and love. Here are some ideas on where to look if you want to find a new pen pal.

Just remember, you don’t have to do anything big or anything different. It’s okay to just be okay. But if you want to use the new year to shake things up a little in a small, positive way, then we hope these suggestions help.

Wishing you all a very happy new year, and more opportunities to connect. Onward!

Building Healthy Communities