A new e-learning course is being developed at the University of the Fraser Valley on issues surrounding local homelessness, in partnership with the City of Abbotsford.
Cherie Enns, associate professor in UFV’s geography and the environment department, said the Many Ways to Home course should be up and running for a pilot starting in January, and includes four modules.
“We’ve been talking about it and thinking about it for a while. I was privileged to lead the homelessness task force,” Enns said.
“At that time, an idea (came up) of something that would be useful for new residents to Abbotsford, for business owners, the general public, perhaps employees at city hall, and it would just provide a general overview of the challenges that are faced by those that are struggling to find housing and what the current response system is.”
The course is not for university credits, but rather more in the vein of professional training, Enns said, adding that the intent is to at least cause people to reflect more deeply about local homelessness – “and potentially respond to the current challenges.”
“It’s just one more tool that can hopefully sensitize people, but also motivate and mobilize people to respond,” Enns said.
“Module one is homelessness 101. It’s about human rights. Module two is more about the current status and challenges within Abbotsford” such as the most current homeless count and the cost of housing, she added.
“Module three would be about Abbotsford’s prevention and response system, and stories about those that are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness … And then module four would be more best practices, examples of response.”
She gave the example of business owners struggling to work with homelessness-related challenges on their front steps. Through the course, those business owners could learn the best practices in responding respectfully.
In developing the program, Enns is seeking to work with people with lived experience of homelessness.
Those who do work with her on the course, she said, will be paid an honorarium.
The course will be free for the pilot, though Enns said she is looking more specifically for those with lived experience and experts in the field to take the pilot to improve the content.
Ultimately, the course may come with a fee. However, Enns said she isn’t making any formal plans for the program just yet.
“I could see, over long term, and this is just me speaking, what if every new employee in the City of Abbotsford, city hall or police force was required to take the course? Then maybe there’s a way to generate revenue and to have more ongoing paid opportunities for people that are involved.”