From couches to campaigning: How this unsuccessful candidate escaped homelessness

·2 min read
Krysta Cowling ran for councillor-at-large in Moncton and came fourth out of seven candidates. (Facebook - image credit)
Krysta Cowling ran for councillor-at-large in Moncton and came fourth out of seven candidates. (Facebook - image credit)

Krysta Cowling might've lost in the municipal election this week but says she's won so much more since moving to Moncton.

Cowling ran in Moncton's municipal election, winning 4,427 votes in the councillor-at-large race and coming in fourth out of seven candidates.

"I remember double checking like five times that my name was there," said Cowling, the executive director at La Bikery Co-operative, a community bicycle centre in Moncton.

"It was almost like one of those moments where you kind of have to pinch yourself to kind of see that it's real and really happening."

Six years ago, she was living on the streets of Vancouver with no place to live.

Losing hope

Although she was working at a full-time job that paid above minimum wage, Cowling still bounced among other people's couches.

A lot of it had to do with the city's soaring rent costs and low vacancy rates.

"You lose a lot of hope when you're working and you're working just to have basic needs met," she said. "But you're never really getting out of that situation."

To fight homelessness, Cowling said elected officials need to listen to people living on the streets.
To fight homelessness, Cowling said elected officials need to listen to people living on the streets. (Facebook)

Eventually, Cowling was able to find a communal house with five other roommates, where she was able to split the cost of things such as rent and groceries.

Then she started looking for work and more affordable places to live outside Vancouver.

She ended up in Moncton.

"Things really started to change from there," she said.

Tips for incoming councillors

Although she won't be working on council, she has some advice for incoming councillors about tackling the city's homeless crisis.

"Listen to voices of people experiencing it now," she said.

Cowling said education is also important, while listening to local advocates working in the field.

And there won't be one solution that works for everyone. So it's important to try different things.

"Homelessness is very diverse," she said. "There's a lot of different experiences, and different ways that people find themselves in that situation."

After running for city council, Cowling has heard back from some of those people whose couches she slept on.

Some of them aren't doing so well, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She's hoping her story will inspire others in a similar situation.

"It gives that hope that people need right now."

In a Facebook post this week, Cowling also thanked the city for helping with her campaign.

"I hope that when we see each other in the days, weeks and months to come that you won't greet me with defeat but with excitement and hope."