Intake process: referrals


Today I would like to add a few things to Melissa’s blog post (here) about some of the ways people can get additional help from other organizations in the region.

First of all I would like to mention that we are one of the busiest programs in the region and also probably most of Ontario. Last year was the busiest year in the history of House of Friendship, with over 33000 emergency food hampers going to 9959 households. In total over 22000 people shared the food in our hampers.  This year has been busy as well, and so far we have been giving out an average of 134 hampers a day, Monday to Friday.

Each day, these average 130+ families come in and go through our fairly brief intake process.  To recap on Melissa’s post, basically we need to know your name, birth date and address to register you in our database. We want to make sure when a person walks into our program they don’t leave empty handed.  We don’t ask for proof of income, but for statistical reasons we do ask what their source of income is. Trust is a very important part of the process.

Sometimes people are frustrated and since they are going through some rough times, they don’t feel comfortable sharing information about their current life situation and what they are going through. That is why our program made the registering process as straight forward and helpful as possible.  The main way we offer help, other than food that is, is through referrals.

At the first visit we provide information about other organizations to the patrons on the reverse of our basic informational brochure that is given to all new clients. This list includes places that help with food assistance as well as other services available in the community that would help someone in difficult economic situations.

This can include places like the Working Centre, which has employment supports and employment counselling; Emergency shelters like Mary’s Place or the House of Friendship’s Men’s Hostel; local counselling services for people with emotional or mental health concerns; Waterloo Community Legal Services and more.

As we have talked about in several of our posts, we have a “theoretical’ limit of six hampers a year. This is not necessarily set in stone, but is our general guideline. To put this in perspective, the average number of hampers our patrons receive is three.

If a patron comes to us five times, on their fifth visit we talk to them again about the limits of our program and give them a shorter list of resources, that focuses on other programs that assist with food. We also provide them the same information on their sixth visit to make sure they have other resources available on hand and ask that they pursue them first if they find themselves in a difficult situation.

So who are these other programs that help with food? Beside us, there are several non-profit agencies that also provide food for people in need in Waterloo region.  The larger ones include the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Ray of Hope Community Centre (previously the Waterloo Regional Dream Centre), the regionally funded Outreach Workers operating at select community centres and churches like Glencairn Mennonite and Country Hills Church.

There are some challenges for some people accessing these programs. The first is their hours of operation. Or, because of their size and resources, some require that you make appointments and they are able to only do a certain number of these each day. As a result, in the busy times, it usually takes a few days for some of the volunteers at these programs to provide food to a person in need. Some people might not have access to a phone on a regular basis, and others might have difficulties waiting a few days until receiving food.

The Salvation Army generally helps people up to four times a year. They also offer a host of other services in their Gage Ave facility. Some of the smaller church based programs may only be able to help out once a month, or once every other month.  Additionally, theymay have to focus on assisting families first over single people if donations are in short supply.  As a whole, the different programs work together to ensure people get the help they need, and work together to do this.  It is not unusual for us to call one of these programs to see if they can help someone or vice versa.

Here, at our program, patrons are also allowed to use our phone, or fax if they are trying to send resumes or follow up on jobs or other appointments.  People who walk or take the bus to come to our program for a food hamper may also receive a bus ticket if they have no other way to get home.

We are fortunate to have a variety of services and programs available in Waterloo region.

I personally feel grateful and fortunate to work with a great organization like House of Friendship. People are treated with respect and dignity here at EFHP; I believe in the universal human right to eat and that no one should be left hungry. As human beings it is our responsibility to help people who are in need of food assistance.

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2 Responses to “Intake process: referrals”

  1. A step away from the unexpected « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] But today while I listened to his story, I could tell he wasn’t upset about having to go through all the steps to make his claim. He simply felt hopeless to find an end to his problem. He doesn’t know where to turn or who can help him get those final documents from his previous employer, except a lawyer that he obviously cannot afford to hire. So today just before he received his food hamper, I offered him some resources from our pamphlet rack that may be able to help him – or at least should be able to point him in a better direction. (You can also read about other referrals our staffs make by clicking here.) […]

  2. The question box: why do we only give six hampers per year? « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] per year, or 12 for people over 65 (Nadir talks more about the intake process and our limits here). This theoretical limit (more on this wording later) exists because of our capacity—we already […]

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