More than 50 people from across the province gathered in Port Hawkesbury on May 11th to participate in a People’s School about researching housing needs in their communities. Co-hosted by the Extension Department at StFX, the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society (AAHS), and the Strait Richmond Housing Group, the People’s School brought together community groups and concerned citizens, as well as service providers, elected officials, and researchers/educators.

The aim of the People’s School was to provide an opportunity for participants to learn from each other and from researchers about how communities could gather information about their specific housing needs.

Participants had high praise for the gathering and the approach used by organizers and resource people — Dr. Catherine Leviten-Reid, Fred Deveaux and Peggy Vassallo — to share information and experiences. They also appreciated the chance to network with others who are trying to address the lack of affordable, accessible and appropriate housing in their communities.

On their evaluation forms, participants identified their most significant learning. This included:
• Hearing directly from Catherine, Fred and Peggy and about some of the key pieces needed for a needs assessment. Talking to other passionate people and getting energized that change is possible!
• Connecting with a different spectrum of people working on social issues from academic as well as service providers.
• How we can use research to connect with community and other service providers.

The Mayor of Port Hawkesbury, Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, said, “The day was definitely an investment in the future of our communities. The People’s School created a collaborative forum to explore housing opportunities and the crucial stages of research to move projects forward. Accessible and affordable quality housing changes lives and improves communities.”

AAHS Chair Colleen Cameron added, “The People’s School brought folks together from a broad range of communities who shared a common goal – meeting housing needs in their communities. Coming together and hearing each other’s stories will help us all move forward together.”

Since it was created in 1928, the Extension Department has hosted numerous people’s schools on different topics including health, the economy and the Antigonish Movement.

Extension staff will document the proceedings and the ideas generated during the People’s School and will post the summary on its website: www.stfxextension.ca

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