Enough Talk, Think Alternatives; Community Gardens + Housing concept for Bracebridge's old BMLSS

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

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Tricia Bilissis

I am not an accredited business woman, although commerce runs inherently in my family. I know there is more to the economy than making money; we need to demonstrate

Earth Care - People Care - Fair Share - Clean Air - Clean Water - Clean Food - Clean Energy - Affordable Housing - Social Justice - The Greater Good.

First  I want to say I love my hometown of Bracebridge and only wish to see it a greater place to live for everyone. Muskoka known for its beautiful pristine natural landscape and laid back cottage way of life make it the top tourist destination in Canada. The 2018  Muskoka Vital Signs Report on the other hand paints a real gloomy picture of species degradation, poverty and homelessness in a community I so cherish.

⦁Affordable living vs. Income margins are aggressively high

⦁Avg. person needs to work 72 hrs a week to afford a single bdrm apartment at 1300/month.

⦁15 percent of our population lives in poverty + 40 percent feel vulnerable to becoming and numbers are Rising!

⦁Empty property on every street - yet less than 1 percent housing availability

Bracebridge has one option for a woman when she is facing homelessness. A man has little to no option in my hometown for support. Alarming statistics suggest that men are highest at risk to mental health issues, drug overdose and opioid addictions. The men need help and more than anything hope.

Gravenhurst has YWCA Bridges out of Poverty, Rotary Club Donations and Circles South Muskoka.

Huntsville has The Table Soup Kitchen Foundation opened after having closed its men’s shelter an extended type of emergency hostel.

Orillia turns a motel into 20 affordable housing units.  The Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter Initiatives push for extensions for 40 new co-ed shelter beds.

Midland has Guesthouse Shelter and is relaxing their rule on 30 day limited staying, focused on implementing need for extensions.

Maybe Bracebridge could outfit some pre-existing buildings appropriately but our priorities seem to be in favor of destroying more of our natural habitats, clear cutting entire forests and polluting water systems (leaving 46 percent of our species at risk.) Plotting more multimillion dollar infrastructure projects such as the new arena/ library. Vital signs report suggests most local children are unable to even afford the recreational options our town offers. This project is a pure example of how backwards we are.

We Need Public Social Housing!

Global Reports observes countries with a holistic approach to socio-economic challenges. It aims to improve and expand economic theory integrating: Earths Natural Systems + Human Values + Human Health + Well-Being . Homelessness is not just a housing problem, it's more than a physical space. Housing provides roots + identity + security + a sense of belonging.

Witnessing the making of three Hallmark Movies in Bracebridge this last year alone, it's indispensable the idea that we don’t have adequate funds to properly address this pressing humanitarian cry. We need a call to push for action from governments, local authorities, non-profits etc. Will it happen? Are we civilized enough? It is integral we stick through this together as we will be stronger for it.

Vacant for over 13 years, the old BMLSS is one of the last iconic sites in our humble historic town. A certified Heritage building I believe should be returned to the public to build a community epicentre surrounded with interactive walkthrough community gardens; while building our food sovereignty, sustainability, independence and strong resilience in an world of most uncertainty. Those participating in the housing program would be given opportunity to take roles in designing and caring for the gardens while healing the land, the community and themselves. A motivation to wake up with sense of need and purpose fulfilling enough to resonate a superior shift rippling effect throughout the world and our time.

Our first snow fall last month I saw a young man hiding in a make shift shelter next to the abandoned building, this is the epitome of my epicenter for hope. I saw him again and exchanged words, I notice he’s drinking ( I really hope no one dies there this winter.) It is a matter of life and death with one cold night taking a soul through exposure, last time was 2016 in Bracebridge behind Monk public school.

It is no surprise they all congregate there now, it's a beautiful spot to just breathe it all in and take a moment to reflect at the exceptional location which captures breathtaking sunsets, memories of growing up, going to school here and feeling safe. The land is too ideal not to consider. We could harness the already heavy runoff flow to be used as a gravitational irrigation system, the multi-dimensional south facing slope extends optimal growing periods, vertical gardening techniques and high foot traffic would be great for gatherings and inspiring the average walker in more ways than imaginable.

We can become a healthier rural environment through helping people find themselves. From sourcing fundamental roots of rediscovering our important role and relationship with nature- this is the missing Link!  Agriculture can bring wealth to Bracebridge as well as greater economic stability, well-being and more jobs. This equals to boosting household income and reducing rural poverty! We once had a turnip waxing factory that provided a lot of jobs back in the day. Muskoka was prolifically known for growing potatoes and turnips. With soon to be the highest rise in food prices, from our demand pull inflation situation, we all need to learn how to grow our own food.

Resources needed to supply humanity's requirements aren’t meeting demand. Ethical design systems, knowledge of nature and natural systems using regenerative elements that provide the needs, increase diversity, while endlessly enriching all life on earth is how we will move forward.

I'm persistent in conveying my message as far as I can with as many like minded groups. Through joining the Muskoka Housing Task Force I know there has been a lot of talk of Action, now we must take Action into our own hands. The factor most restricting us all is the cost. But what does this cost us? My late brother, your cousins, father or friends?

The smallest act can transformatively change the world - the vitality of a seed and the simple task of gardening is the link toward building dreams into a reality, setting the tone for future community improvement!

Born and Raised Local Girl

Credendo Vides!

Tricia Bilissis

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