The belief that a future without homelessness is attainable in Canada is the passion that fuels a national podcast with a Newmarket connection.
To inspire and create a national awareness about what's needed to end homelessness, Blue Door — which provides shelter and services to homeless individuals in Newmarket and area — and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) have teamed up to launch the On The Way Home podcast.
Blue Door CEO Michael Braithwaite and CAEH communications advisor Stefania Seccia are the cohosts of the show that discusses solutions to end homelessness in Canada.
With the federal budget set to be released this month and the continued relevance of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on homelessness, Seccia and Braithwaite believe this is a critical moment for Canada to recognize and act on the needs of its vulnerable homeless population.
The podcast tackles common stigmas about homelessness and aims to create awareness about the hurdles that prevent getting the homeless population off the streets.The podcast was originally launched in 2019 as Out of the Blue before it was rebranded in February of this year.
In their first episode, Braithwaite and Seccia welcomed Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to talk about what policies politicians can implement to end homelessness.
Other guests have included research consultant Nick Falvo to discuss the pandemic’s impact on the homeless and University of New Brunswick- Saint John mental health ambassador Tara O’Toole, who provided insight about the importance of mental health and homelessness prevention.
The hosts are thrilled with the collaboration between the two organizations in their attempt to reach a national audience.
“It's been really exciting so far,” said Seccia. “We really want to make it an accessible conversation because the end game is ending homelessness, and that really takes every Canadian to do.”
Although the material can be disheartening to talk about, the hosts said they feel energized and hopeful after every interview they conduct.
“It's hard not to get lost in the conversation because we're so interested in what people have to say,” said Braithwaite. “These are the best of the best and we're very lucky that the whole sector is so open to sharing and working with us on that. It's just great.”
Seccia has a background in journalism that saw her report on social issues, including the homeless housing crisis in Vancouver. Her trailblazing research and stories about homelessness stoked the fire within her to join CAEH in 2018 to pursue her passion of ending homelessness.
“I didn't want to report on what people were doing,” commented Seccia on why she left journalism. “I wanted to be a part of that movement, I wanted to be a part of that change and leverage what I'm good at and be a part of that solution to homelessness.”
Braithwaite is equally committed to ensuring all Canadians have a roof over their head. Braithwaite has almost 30 years of experience in the social services sector and envisions the podcast as an effective way to transfer the knowledge of Blue Door and CAEH to Canadians.
“If this podcast, in any way, can be a vehicle to share that expertise with communities and other people that are doing this work, that would be incredible,” he said.
Braithwaite added that he has already been contacted by groups for information and advice on the topic of homelessness. Additionally, Ryerson University recently added the podcast to the curriculum for some courses about homelessness.
Blue Door provides housing services to people experiencing homelessness in Newmarket, East Gwillimbury and York Region. In 2020, Blue Door helped over 800 families and individuals avoid homelessness and handed out more than 100,000 meals.
CAEH aspires to find housing for all Canadians on a national level. They support the building of more affordable housing and the education of Canadians about how to end homelessness in Canada.
Seccia and Braithwaite want listeners to feel inspired and hopeful after each show. They both feel ending homelessness is attainable, and that their conversations with guests will help to convey that fact.
In future episodes, On The Way Home hopes to interview political leaders and policymakers about solutions and funding for the homeless.
The podcast can be accessed on both mobile phones and computers through Spotify and both Apple and Google podcasts. On The Way Home episodes are also released on YouTube.