The Northside Changemakers Program was developed as a way to celebrate and empower changemakers on the Northside. We wanted to develop a program which would not only grow skills and connections from people on the Northside but also foster hope and the idea that people can be the change that they wish to see. There are already so many people on the Northside doing amazing things, we simply want to provide a forum to showcase them.

The program itself is aimed to fund and support a pilot community project or initiative, while also delivering project management skills alongside a team of other changemakers. As well as designing and implementing community projects, participants also receive certification in community action skills such as Mental Health First Aid, Naloxone Training and Non-Violent Crisis Intervention.

This blog series showcases each participant’s journey. The changemaker we would like to introduce this week is Matthew Jessome.

Matthew Jessome: EVICTED: Houselessness in Unama’ki/Cape Breton: Matthew wanted to share what it was like to be houseless in the Northside of Cape Breton. For his project he spent a day travelling around with a couple experiencing houselessness and wrote a zine about the experience. The zine outlines the barriers faced, as well as highlighting some of the incredible community support. 

Tell me a little bit about yourself 

Hey, My name is Matthew. I’ve lived on the Northside for most of my life. I’ve been listening to people tell stories about their lives here for almost thirty years. Most of these stories will be heard once and forgotten. I’d like to contribute to their being remembered and retold. 

What makes you jump out of bed in the morning

Guess it depends on what kind of jump?

Knowing I have something to read, learning new songs, when I realize I am late for work.

Give us a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you great joy?

Laughing with a group of friends about something dumb.

How did you hear about this program?

I heard about Northside Rising a few years ago, and applied to be a transcriber for interviews a few years ago. I was curious about the organization and looking for ways to get more involved in the community. When I saw the Northside Changemakers Program online it seemed like a good fit.

How did your project begin, and what made you start thinking about it?

I met a houseless person in Fredericton, we sat down and started chatting. He told me he was sleeping in a parking garage and it was November, freezing cold. He would wake up most days screaming. The stories he told me  profoundly impacted me. That was my first direct contact with houselessness. I was shocked, and (now) angry that our socioeconomic situation creates and is built on other people’s impoverishment. With my project, I wanted to give people the same form of direct contact that I had. Someone’s story, so they can at least get a glimpse of the barriers faced, and a day in the life of someone who  is experiencing houselessness.

When you think of the word Changemaker, does anyone you know come to mind?

Someone who creates space within which other people can create change.  Or alternatively-I think of people collectively, collaborating in a horizontal way to create change. A lot of change work happens as a group. Example: Halifax Mutual Aid, They are an organization that actively incorporates the people who are supposed to be “ helped” by the organization. 

What do you love about the Northside? 

The people. The fact that this is where I grew up. Most of the people I have the deepest connections with are from here. It’s my home.

What are your hopes for the Northside?

That things get better. That we can find self-managed solutions for our problems.

What is your best tip for making the world a better place?

Get to know your community, and then find ways to organize collectively around the material problem which affects you directly. 

What is the one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now?

Northside Rising, as an organization they are providing opportunities for people who want to make a difference in our community.

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