– Word by Angela Cowan Photography by Lia Crowe
Krista Loughton was in her late teens when she first witnessed the extreme level of poverty which would shape her entire experience with the world.
“My dad worked in international development and I was in Zimbabwe to visit him,” she says. “I had never witnessed poverty like that. It really affected me. The idea that 80 per cent of the country was sleeping on dirt floors was something I couldn’t get my head around.”
She came back to Canada with a fierce determination to help, but the experience also opened her eyes to the hardships in her own community. Already passionate about filmmaking, Krista began to see a way to combine it with her drive to make a difference.
“I decided I didn’t need to go back overseas to help people. I just needed to go downtown,” says Krista, who’s been in Victoria since 1996. “So I started talking to homeless people and making friendships.”
It was the beginning of a storytelling journey that’s lasted well over a decade, and has included two short films focussing on the new location of Our Place and Reverend Al Tysick, and Us & Them, Krista’s first feature-length film that centred on four chronically homeless people in Victoria, each struggling with addiction. The film—powerfully empathetic and compassionate—premiered at City Hall in Victoria and has screened thousands of times across North America, including an exclusive parliamentary showing for Canada’s MPs, hosted by the federal minister of health, Jean-Yves Duclos.
“Done well, films can be very powerful and they can influence people,” Krista says. “Filmmaking was part of how I wanted to help. I wanted to tell stories about the homelessness situation, to help others understand, or just to witness it.”
Shining a light on those four people and their struggles with homelessness and addiction humanized the issue for a lot of viewers, but it wasn’t enough for Krista.
“I was making films to try to influence politicians to think differently and develop new policies, but it wasn’t happening fast enough, so I decided it was time for me to step up,” she says.
This year, Krista dove into the realm of politics when she became a Victoria city councillor for the first time after campaigning on an intensive platform with major focuses on public safety, the housing crisis and supporting Indigenous relationships.
“It was a very powerful day,” she says of being inaugurated. “The Lekwungen dancers led us into council chambers. There was an address by the Esquimalt Chief Rob Thomas, the mayor did an address and we were all sworn in. It’s kind of surreal, to be honest. But it’s wonderful. I’m so excited.”
Following her lifelong passion, Krista is driven to address homelessness and housing as soon as possible from her new position.
“The sheltering issue is one of the first things we’re going to be looking at, and then the housing crisis,” she says. “Sheltering is really intertwined with public safety and we need to work on that issue. We can’t continue business as usual.”
As well as getting multiple partners at the table—including service providers, advocates for the unhoused, the police and different levels of government—Krista adds, “I feel strongly that it’s important to have people with lived experience at the table, to make sure that what we’re proposing is going to work. They’re the experts.”
Looking forward to the next four years, Krista is excited and optimistic.
“We’re a fresh council. There’s lots of camaraderie, good conversations and positive feelings. And I’ve been unbelievably impressed with city staff in all the departments,” she says. “It’s inspiring and a privilege to be part of creating a well-functioning municipality.”
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
Jack Layton. Had Jack become Prime Minister, I don’t think we would have a homeless encampment crisis exploding across our country in 2022. In his early political days as a Toronto city councillor, he worked on the ground with the homeless and their advocates. He wrote an influential book called Homelessness: How To End The National Crisis and understood that social housing is like the roads and sewers—essential infrastructure for every town and city.
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
In the spirit of gluttony, I choose two. My grandma’s stuffing—partly because it’s delicious, but also because it connects me to family traditions. Followed closely by an endless dish of tiramisu.
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
I would put a down payment on a multiplex so my mother can age in place and I can live beside her and help care for her.
Online warriors. People who talk a big game online but don’t show up to help with the problem.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
Thermëa Spa. However, I’d have to travel to Winnipeg to partake. We need one on the island. Someone reading this please look into opening one!
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
My dogged determination. My favourite quote is, “Now that all possibilities are exhausted, let’s get started.”
What makes your heart beat faster?
The idea that everyone in my community has a safe place to sleep at night. The possibility of leaving my community better than I found it makes my heart beat faster.