Ten years ago, Barb Macpherson saw the homeless crisis at a tipping point in Saskatoon.
But when the newly-named executive director of the YWCA Saskatoon spoke out on issue, she faced backlash and denial.
“The economic boom came and with that economic boom, Saskatchewan became a have province, not a have not,” said Macpherson. “But for many people, it was a bust.”
She said the crisis came to a head when rent and housing availability became scarce; a trend still impacting people in 2016.
“Homelessness is still a huge issue. I know of many women who’ve had to choose, ‘Do I feed my kids tonight or do I pay my rent?’” said Macpherson.
It’s an issue Macpherson won’t see resolved during her time as YWCA executive director – she is set to retire Thursday.
While change has been slow, it’s also been incremental. Macpherson said awareness of the issues is growing, and will be key to practical solutions in the near future.
“Talking and that awareness is always the first step. You can’t change something until you’re really aware of what is wrong and needs changing,” she said.
It’s also how Macpherson feels about attitudes toward victims of interpersonal violence.
During her time at the YWCA, Macpherson helped develop shelter services for victims of domestic abuse.
“We still have a long way to go. We’re still blaming the victims of interpersonal violence,” said Macpherson.
“We still aren’t giving it its due; we still don’t understand the complexities of what goes on for the victims and how they suffer.”
When asked about high-profile cases of sexual violence, Macpherson said it can be frustrating to hear people negate a victim’s experience; however, every trial is an opportunity to shape the conversation.
“We don’t understand how victims of sexual assault, what that does to them and their thought processes and what that does to them,” she said.
“The question that people were asking me was, ‘Why don’t they leave? Why don’t these women just leave?’ That’s not the question. The question is, ‘Why are men doing this?’”
Macpherson said her retirement plans include travel and spending time with her nine grandchildren.