Tracey Berry has seen the powerful impact housing can have in someone's life firsthand.
Years before depression took hold, Berry had been taking a medical office assistance program at Douglas College.
"I worked, then I went to Douglas College," said Berry, who lived in New Westminster on and off since she was a child. "The funds weren't there, so I didn't continue, which was really stupid. I was doing really well."
Before she realized she was sick, Berry found employment in a variety of jobs, including work in an office and as an activity worker.
"I did something stupid," she said about her downward spiral. "When I wasn't well, I left my aunt's place - I was renting the basement from her, and I moved out."
After losing that home, Berry rented a room for a while, eventually ending up in the hospital.
"I wasn't doing very well. They figured I needed more help. They brought me to Lookout," she recalled. "I had just came out of the hospital. I had episodes where I would cry, and I couldn't seem to do anything."
Suffering from depression, Berry would be doing OK for a short time but then crash and find herself struggling.
"At that point I was very paranoid too," she said. "I would not go out of the house."
When asked what she was afraid of, she quietly says, "everything."
About 12 years ago, Berry got connected to folks from Lookout Emergency Aid Society, which operates a number of housing programs in New Westminster and Vancouver. She was among the first people to move into the Cliff Block when Lookout opened the building 10 years ago.
"We definitely need more housing," she said. "It makes a difference in a lot of people's lives, not just mine. It (homelessness) could happen to anybody, it really could."
As someone who has struggled with housing and mental health issues, Berry knows the importance that housing has on one's health.
"I think they should have more housing and more supports for people," she said. "There's a lot of people who need help," she said. "Talking about it, I realize how much it's made a difference."
Berry still has some down days, but those lows come less often and pass quicker than they did in the past. Because of the support systems in place around her at the Cliff Block, Berry has reached the point where she'd like to find a part-time job.
"I have done volunteer work," she said about the Cliff Block. "We have a place to stay. You have help if you need help, you have food."
In addition to being the president of the tenants advisory group at the Cliff Block, Berry also takes part in a cooking club at the building.
"It wasn't that way at first," said Sherrill Gullickson, manager's assistant at Lookout. "She wouldn't leave her room. She is a total success story."
Although it is "scary" to think of getting back into the workforce, it's something Berry hopes to do. Ideally, she'd like to start by finding a part-time job, perhaps doing office work.
"I catch on pretty quickly," she smiled. Berry has been asked to take part in some of the events being held during Homelessness Action Week in New Westminster. Week-in and week-out, she's continuing to take part in Diana's Dining Club, a tenant-led initiative that sees Cliff Block residents pay $60 a month and work together to plan meals for every day of the week, shop for groceries, and cook dinner.
"It has improved life for a lot of people around here," Berry said. "They are just happier, have more energy."
Many of the residents who participate in the program have noticed they feel and sleep better and their medications seem to work better. People involved in the program take turns cooking meals, which include sloppy Joes, liver and onions, roast and lasagna.