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A Window into Housing Outreach: Meet Dyalla

Dyalla works on DEWC’s Housing Outreach team to help women find affordable housing. Our Housing Outreach team is able to get around 150 women housed every year. 

Can you describe an average day at your job?

I would say that there is no average day. With the nature of our job, it’s very diverse depending on what kind of tasks need to be done. The majority of my day is meeting with women one-on-one.

And it depends where they are on their housing search. Sometimes we’ll sit down to talk about their housing needs and the barriers they’re facing. Then, we’ll do application forms. For women looking for market rentals and use our subsidies, we’re looking on Craigslist, reaching out to landlords, and going to viewings together. Then when they get housed, we help them set up with groceries and online orders, and then keep in touch, connecting with their landlords and ensuring that the relationship goes smoothly. Connecting women with service providers is also a huge thing, like connecting them with mental health providers and other community services as needed.

What is your favorite part of being a housing outreach worker?

I love working with the women. Just being able to work one-on-one with them and then of course seeing when they are housed, that’s so exciting. To see women finally be housed, for some of them after a really long time, that’s really heartwarming to see.

What are the biggest challenges you’re seeing right now?

One of the biggest issues is that there is a housing crisis and Vancouver is extremely unaffordable. And it’s only getting more unaffordable. The rents are going up and I don’t think the rates of welfare and PWD have gone up nearly in alignment as the rent prices have. Even if the woman is in my office every week and both of us are actively searching for housing, doing everything we can, there’s a huge shortage of affordable housing. In terms of subsidized housing, there are huge waitlists. There’s just not enough. A lot of what is available – and still often competitive – is SROs (single room occupancy), and one of the biggest things I hear over and over is that they need to have a private bathroom. Especially, I work with a lot of trans women and often having a private bathroom is a safety issue.

What is one story you’d like to share?

One woman that I’ve been working with, she was already housed when I started working with her, but she was going to stop getting subsidies, so we were trying to find more affordable housing. We’re still working on that, actually. She lived at our shelter, and then she was housed, then my manager got her into an employment program, and now she has a six month contract and is going to be fine without subsidies. So, just seeing that transition and things working out for women, it’s really exciting.

How can people support our Housing Outreach program?

More funding needs to go towards services. We need more supports, especially in term of available adequate housing and access to mental health supports.

What would you like people to know about this community?

Many people in this community have complex stories, and we need to work with flexibility and compassion. One thing I would like to see from everyone living in this city, is that we don’t punish people for their past. We need to give people a fresh start, seeing them for where they are in this moment and helping them achieve their future goals. I think the DTES is often overlooked from the rest of Vancouver, but we are part of this city and I would like to see that women we work with be accepted and feel comfortable in all neighborhoods of our city.

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