Arhama Rafaqat
The Neighbourhood Group

the story

There are a million ways life could go, and a million things we take for granted every day. The stories of our lives include getting to go home every night to our air conditioned cars and houses. Although it may seem so detached from your own reality, it may surprise you to hear that many peoples’ life stories include homelessness. More than you might expect. For Arhama Rafaqat, her experience of immigrating to Canada alongside her mother and brother was met with a period of homelessness. As Arhama says, “these people have such limited choices, and no one to understand the elements that contributed to them [ending up] where they are”.

Arhama’s newly-immigrated family went between shelters, experiencing discrimination and abuse along the way. Wanting a better life for her children, Arhama’s mother took a stand. She worked multiple jobs and managed to work her way to becoming an ID social worker. Due to her bravery, strength, and enormous amount of perseverance, Arhama’s mother was able to fund Arhama’s University education in the fields of Sociology and Law. 

It was through her studies that Arhama was able to see the big picture of homelessness and understand the true gravity of the conditions facing people experiencing homelessness. She knew she had to do something about it. Arhama faithfully finished her studies and joined the PAID team as a mobile worker. She now does the incredible work of going into the spaces of people experiencing homelessness and seeking to help those who cannot yet help themselves.

Working in the field and connecting with people who have nothing, putting herself in their place, has been nothing short of an eye-opening experience for Arhama. In Arhama’s own words, “just educating oneself can help generate change, because knowledge sparks action. Seeing most of our clients with such positive attitudes, and seeing how intelligent they are is incredible! They deserve more; more than what they’ve been put through and more than what they’re going through now. Just seeing their systems for survival is unbelievable and makes one think to themselves, ‘I would have never come up with this!’”.

Arhama has had the pleasure to meet so many inventive, creative, intelligent people through her work with people experiencing homelessness. They have full, well-engineered tent homes and water systems made purely out of found materials. However, what is needed most of all is still safe and affordable housing. These people deserve to overcome homelessness and utilize their resourcefulness to the maximum potential in places that they can thrive, and on much larger scales than for pure survival! That’s why we need to help them out of homelessness.

Stated beautifully by Arhama, “We cannot simply blame people for being homeless, without looking at all the barriers we have within our systems that have contributed to their situations. Just looking at someone, making eye contact with them, acknowledging them, and understanding that no one chooses to be homeless can go a very long way”. Arhama encourages us to support the organizations that are tirelessly working towards change. Your contribution can and will be the difference between homelessness and independence for someone who deserves just as much freedom as you enjoy every day.