Well…I’ve visited 14 of the 120 charitable organizations I’m planning to visit over the next 8 months and already I’m itching to act on what I’ve learned. There are so many positives, they outweigh the negative 100 fold, but there is still work to do to move this sector forward. Our government needs to be more proactive and think strategically, they need to engage and have more dialogues with this sectors front line workers. We must advocate for more effectiveness, fairness, collaboration on behalf of those working in and those who depend on the social service sector.
I’ve met the most phenomenal people whose passion seems to be emanating from their pores. I’m a little jealous of their ability to work on the front lines and of the way they can manage and make the best of anything that comes their way. Their salaries certainly can’t be fair compensation for the way they work to keep people safe and fed and sheltered and educated and cared for. At the same time stretching with every ounce of their being the dollars they have to work with to create added value for their clients and for our communities in general.
Our world is changing quickly and we need to keep up. I assure you that whether or not you will ever require the services of a charitable organization, their existence and their reason for being IMPACTS us all!
FOODSHARE was started 25 years ago by Art Eggleton, the Mayor of the City of Toronto.
They are a Community Development and Food Literacy Program and are involved in a variety of initiatives: grassroots program delivery, advocacy, nutrition education, farmland preservation and campaigns for comprehensive food labeling.
FoodShare help schools set up gardens, teach kids about the seeding, planting, harvesting process and then work with them to put together a maintenance team that will be responsible for the upkeep, before transitioning out of the school.
There is a real interest in food and nutrition amongst students and teachers and Food Share would like to be able to support that interest.
Debbie, thanks for lunch. Good luck with you upcoming event down at Queens Park.
Check out their website for more information…they really do so much more than I’ve captured here.
HOMES FIRST SOCIETY – Strachan House – is one of 16 homes designed to provide overnight shelter, transitional housing, shared accommodation and independent living opportunities that facilitate the transition from the street to temporary shelter to permanent accommodation.
Strachan House deals with the most difficult to house. Those considered Long Term Homeless or Hardest to House…those whose pattern of homelessness is a tough one to break. Most of their clients are mentally ill and require a lot of support…appointments, follow ups, reminders. There are 76 units at the House for single men and/or women.
I could have spent the entire day with the 3 amazing women we met here. Their common sense and no nonsense, honest approach with me was so meaningful…I appreciated every second of the 1 ½ hours we spent with them.
We talked a little about how we have come to value each other…how we base our assumptions of people on what they have or what they can access. It’s true isn’t it…I have to admit I’ve been a bit guilty of that?! These experiences are really helping me shape my assumptions quite differently. It’s just amazing how learning about others has a sneaky way of making you look at yourself a little differently.
When I asked Deena to share one of her challenges with me, she described how one of the biggest problems for the long term homeless is that they do not have “the luxury of wanting”. I found that incredibly sad, yet understood it completely. They have had so little for so long that they do not have the desire to want for anything anymore.
Thank you Deena, Sybil and Suraya…you are truly inspiring!
HORIZONS FOR YOUTH is a Shelter for homeless youth ages 16 -24 where they can stay for a period of 3 – 6 months. In some cases where the youth are successful at staying in school in the area or are thriving in the Horizons environment, their stay can be extended.
Along with a roof over their heads and in an effort to teach them the life skills they need to live and thrive successfully on their own, Horizons provides youth with (among many other things) the support they need to find a job, complete their education, learn simple life skills and secure housing.
About 75% of the youth have been directed to them through the Childrens Aid Society and many of them have mental health issues. These young people are often overlooked or the “forgotten population”. There is little mental health support/organizations that support this age group…they do not receive the same sympathy or compassion offered to younger children with similar issues…society does not look at this population as victims.
What I learned here was incredibly interesting and incredibly frustrating! Horizons is given the designation of a “Shelter” which means they are only meant to provide a roof over the heads of these young people overnight. The youth are expected to leave the Shelter at 9 in the morning and not come back until 4 in the afternoon. I’m assuming the Shelter system was designated this way to encourage people to be out working or in school during the day…wishful thinking, but not accurate thinking. These young people don’t have the skills they need to get jobs, nor do many of them have the desire to be in a school or the understanding of what an education can mean for them. Fortunately, Horizons has a dedicated team that have developed programs and opportunities for these students they house to gain work experience and/or engage them back in school. None of this is funded by the government, so they need to work hard to fundraise for these programs.
From what I understand if you are designated a “Shelter”, you are funded differently (less money per client) than if you are considered a Transition House which is intended to be more of a full service environment.
I’m not really clear on why if we have access to the youth that are already coming to a place for shelter, would we not keep them engaged at that shelter rather than kick them out to fend for themselves during the days. Luckily, the clients of Horizons have many more options available to them despite the organizations designation.
Filomena and Dwight, thanks for the tour and all of your time…you taught me lots!
Horizons For Youth and Strachan House are always looking for some of the following for their clients. If you can help, please contact them.
HORIZONS – Personal Care items; shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorants…you get the idea.
As well as gently used (OR NEW) coats, gloves, hats.
STRACHAN – Housewares; plates, cutlery, vases, pots, wall hangings…things to fancy or pretty up the clients units.