Kaitlin Schwan: Goodbyes & Visions for 2024

December 22, 2023

Hello my dear friends,


I write this message today in both grief and gratitude to share some bittersweet news: I’ve made the difficult decision to step down from my role at WNHHN and pursue a new adventure in street medicine.

I was recently offered an Associate Professorship at University of Southern California, at the Street Medicine Institute in the Faculty of Family Medicine. In this role, I will be Director of the California Street Medicine Collaborative, focused on providing medical care to unhoused people on the streets across California – on their own terms. I hope to contribute to building an evidence-base and advocacy agenda that can advance access to dignity- and rights-affirming medical care for people who are unhoused in California, especially women and gender-diverse people.

My work at WNHHN has been the greatest privilege of my life. If you know me, you probably know how much this work has meant to me. It is, quite literally, what makes my heart beat. I’ve learned the most from lived experts and Indigenous leaders that have offered me space and grace to walk alongside them as we collectively seek housing justice. I carry deep in my heart the wisdom that you have shared with me, and the light it provides for what lies ahead.

It is difficult to express the depth of gratitude I have to the many colleagues, friends, allies, and leaders who have supported me and WNHHN, including Keepers of the Circle, who has hosted us and incubated us into the movement we are today. Our Steering Committee is composed of some of the fiercest champions of justice and care I have ever met. I have seen you provide each other courage and care when the nights were dark, and when hope was hard to come by. I believe in you; I believe in us.

I feel so honoured to have been a tiny link in a long and powerful chain of women and gender-diverse people who know a better world is possible, and who are fighting like hell to make it real. In our Human Rights Claim when we wrote that we see no future for ourselves in the current housing regime in Canada. But we also wrote:

While our present circumstances have been determined for us, the future is not yet decided. We offer this Claim as part of our efforts to author a future for ourselves, our communities, and our planet through which housing is a tool for inclusion, equity, dignity, and interdependence. Out of respect for our right to author our own lives and futures, we urgently call on the Government of Canada to uphold and adopt all necessary measures to ensure our right to adequate housing.

It is this rights-claiming that will define 2024 for WNHHN. Next year, the National Housing Council will launch a review panel on the failure to prevent and eliminate homelessness amongst women and gender-diverse people. This will be a historic opportunity for our movement. 

And the good news: WNHHN will continue to grow and advance under the co-leadership of Khulud Baig (Director of Policy and Community Engagement) and Stefania Seccia (Director of Communications and Advocacy), with guidance and wisdom from our Co-Chairs: Marie McGregor Pitawanakwat and Arlene Hache. These women have shaped WNHHN in deep and profound ways. And they have shaped me deeply. I have tremendous faith in this collective’s ability to lead us forward and onwards, in a good way (as Marie always says!).

If you’re reading this, you probably find yourself somewhere in the movement to secure housing for all. Keep going. You’re not alone.


In solidarity and love,