Leaside High grad Nicole Ilyin gives voice to homeless lives

Nicole Ilyina. Photo credit: Helen Ilyina.
Nicole Ilyin. Photo credit: Helen Ilyin.

Leaside High School graduate Nicole Ilyin (2017) has always been dedicated to helping people in need. Even in her teens, she won Toronto’s Best Rescue Award while serving as a lifeguard as well as the Sunnybrook Hospital Volunteer Association Award.

With her love of sciences and passion for helping others, nursing seemed like a natural fit. Now in her fourth year in the Ryerson, Centennial, George Brown College Collaborative Nursing Degree program, she has launched her newest caring project: creating a book about homelessness filled with submissions from those who have been touched personally or professionally by homelessness or homeless populations. Her aim is “to shed light on the homelessness crisis and disrupt the societally created concept of what homelessness ‘is’ and ‘looks’ like.” In doing so, she hopes “to give a voice to those who are often silenced and dismissed.”

This project was sparked by her nursing program where she has been inspired by several professors who taught her to think critically, broaden her perspectives and expand her knowledge base. She put these skills into practice this past year in a course entitled “Homelessness in Canadian Society,” taught by Chris Munro. Here she realized through the moving presentations of guest speakers that those who identify as homeless are “regular people just trying to survive the obstacles life throws at them.” Discussions with some of her friends who have experienced homelessness also showed her that circumstances leading to this situation could happen to anyone. 

To achieve her goal of compiling stories highlighting the severity of the homelessness crisis, Nicole has set up two pages on the internet: a submission page explaining the project and a GoFundMe page (https://gf.me/u/ybjwab) to support the project. The funds will be used for flyers to solicit contributions, help with publishing the book, and donations to organizations striving to help the homeless.

On the submission page – Experiences Around Homelessness – Nicole outlines directions for the content, length and submission of entries. She suggests accounts of two to six thousand words or other artistic forms such as drawings, images or poems. This page has been circulated already to homeless groups on Facebook, the guest speakers from her course, various contacts and organizations that serve the homeless. The deadline for submissions is currently December 31, 2020, but, if there is a need, Nicole will extend it for another six months. 

While her GoFundMe page has not received much attention yet, she is determined to proceed with the project using her own funds if necessary. Instructor Chris Munro is helping her to find a publishing company to make the book accessible to a larger audience.

As for the future, Nicole is applying to Master of Nursing programs in the thesis stream and hopes to obtain a PhD in nursing in the area of mental health. Her ultimate goal is to work as a community health nurse, supporting the homeless and advocating for improved care.

About Janis Fertuck 73 Articles
Janis Fertuck is a retired English teacher who spent the last 30 years of her career at Leaside High School. She enjoys writing about the vibrant Leaside community where she and her husband have lived for 22 years. Her other favourite pursuits include a part-time job at a boutique on Bayview and volunteering with the Bayview Pixies.