Archive for February, 2011

Volunteer Spotlight: Cassidy

February 24, 2011

It’s my pleasure to introduce you all to Cassidy, one of our youngest volunteers.

Cassidy is quickly approaching her one year anniversary and dedication to volunteering with our program and also her 17th birthday! Over the last year Cassidy has volunteered about 140 hours. Cassidy enjoys coming here to talk to the volunteers and staff, but also works hard while she’s in. She’s not picky on what job we assign her to in the warehouse because what’s really important is for her to come in here and make a difference for those in need of help. So while she was working, I took a seat beside her to ask her a few questions: (more…)

Give food a home

February 23, 2011

“For many, stable housing is a foundation which must be in place before other challenges in their lives can be addressed. A lack of stable housing can function as an insurmountable barrier – both physically and psychologically — for individuals and families needing to face an employment search, obtain adequate food and clothing, or deal with situations of conflict. Often it is only once some level of security has been attained in their immediate physical environment that the energy can be found to deal with other issues needing their attention.” (Source: Working center)

One of the most common struggles for patrons is housing. Some are living in a rooming house because they simply can’t afford a bachelor apartment. Some fight with their landlord as they fall behind in rent; while others live in facilities that may not even meet the building code and local property standards but stay because it’s all they can afford. For many affordable housing is difficult to obtain, especially because they have unstable incomes.  As a result some of our patrons have to move around a lot, or spend a lot of time couch surfing coming to us for food because they have no form of income at all.

“Being poor is learning to live with condemned-quality housing because coming up with the first and last month’s rent, plus utility deposits, you’d need to move is a pipe dream.” (Source)

Like many other social service agencies, House of Friendship believes that everyone should have access to safe, secure and affordable housing. One way our program specifically tries to help is by posting weekly rental listings, distributing helpful pamphlets and problem solving with people who ask for help or advice dealing with an eviction notice that showed up on their door that morning or a rent increase their landlord wants to impose.

The House of Friendship offers several programs that provide shelter and support, which you can view here. But we’re just one of the many organizations working towards a better future for many people in need within this community.

“A single person earning minimum wage or receiving the Ontario Works shelter allowance cannot afford the average rent for a bachelor or one bedroom apartment.” (Source)

Why is housing important? Well that’s simple. It goes back to the quote that I shared from the Working Center’s website. Having a permanent and stable address may be the first step in a longer process to deal with some of the larger issues in their life. For example, it’s difficult for a person to obtain employment if they have no permanent address or regular contact information to provide with a potential new employer. Or how can a person focus on overcoming personal and traumatic issues in counseling when they don’t know where they’ll be sleeping at the end of the day?

Though there are supports and programs to help people who are homeless, or facing the threat of homelessness, such as Out of the Cold, the Lutherwood Rent Bank, the Region of Waterloo Community Housing team, and many others listed here, this is often not enough. Wait lists for people in need are growing faster than the units are being produced in communities across the province.

Housing costs consume the most significant portion of most household’s budgets.  For many people on the edge between having an address and being homeless, food is the flexible part of their budget.  All other needs will be put on hold as every penny is devoted to keeping a roof over their head.

Like many of the stories we hear each day, there is no quick and easy way to write a happy ending for them.  As one part of a range of programs and organizations the Food Hamper Program and the House of Friendship help in many small and big ways.

What can you do to help?  Whether you choose to educate yourself and others, advocate to the government to make this a focus in the budget and policy, or do something to help build an affordable unit, there are many ways you can help. Some food for thought can be found at the Wellesley Institute, especially a recent report from the summer here.  For some local ideas please visit the Working Center’s website by clicking here or share your own here in the comments section.

Time to pay some bills. How are you going to do it?

February 21, 2011

Today is Family Day!  You are no doubt enjoying it with your family and maybe even playing a game or two.

Games are important, and at some point in our lives we all play them – young or old.  Board games, hide and go seek and tag are an important part of almost everyone’s childhood.  Modern games are big business, especially video games.   In fact, you have probably played a video game a time or two in your life – be it solitaire or Tetris.  They’re fun, and the best ones teach you a thing or two about the world.

Well an American charity called Urban Ministries of Durham has come up with an interesting online game called Spent.  You can play it here and read a little about it here via the Toronto Star.

While some of the situations are unique to the United States (buying health insurance for example) many of them are the same ones our patrons face every week.  Do you pay off a bill collector or buy your kids new shoes?  Do you focus on keeping the lights on or keeping the heat on?  Do you ignore your fever and go to work, or take unpaid time off to go to the doctor knowing that it might mean the difference between eating or not next pay cheque.

Similar to the Do the Math online challenge, (here) this game puts you in the position of someone who has to make some very hard choices.  Many of us don’t realize how many pay cheques away from making these hard choices we are. I hope this game gets you thinking.

What can we do about it?  Well, there are local people today who need help getting through the consequences of making a lot of these choices.  You can support local people who are trying to do just that by volunteering or donating.   But why are so many more people being forced into living spent and not just playing it?  Helping to answer that question will help make Kitchener Waterloo a more prosperous and healthier place.

In praise of Potatoes!

February 18, 2011

Potatoes are one of the things on everyone’s mind at House of Friendship right now, since we’re in the midst of our annual Potato Blitz. During the various events throughout February House of Friendship hopes to collect enough potatoes or financial contributions to meet the needs of our various programs throughout the year.

So far Allison has covered some of the blitz events and how many potatoes they have collected,  but you may wonder, why are potatoes so important to House of Friendship?  The answer is simple: they are a chance for us to talk to someone about their neighbours who are less fortunate than they are.  Even if it is only for the short period of time it takes them to hand us a 10lb bag of delicious Yukon Gold potatoes, they have been able to put themselves in an other’s shoes, and find a way to help them. (more…)

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure

February 17, 2011

There is an old saying that one mans trash is another’s treasure.

If you talk to someone who lived through the great depression and the war that followed it in the 1930’s and 1940’s they might think nothing of carefully folding the wrapping paper from their birthday gift and saving it. They might cut off the bruises from an apple and approach canning and preserving in times of plenty as a sacred duty, on par with voting.

Talk to a younger person, in their 20’s and they may think nothing of throwing out a bruised or slightly over ripe piece of fruit. For them canning is something they don’t have time for.  And, depending on how and where they grew up, they may shudder at the thought of buying second hand clothes or picking through the trash at the end of someone’s driveway to grab some furniture, or an appliance that maybe needs a little bit of know how to get it working again.

Melissa posted yesterday about some recent work highlighting the wastefulness of society in general when it comes to food.  But, there is a flip side.  Waste is an important source of food for us. A lot of what the food industry and retailers determine is waste is a gold mine that helps feed the people who turn to us each day. (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Alana

February 17, 2011

On top of being a full-time student Alana finds time to come in to pack hampers and work in the warehouse once a week at our program. Alana began including our program into her busy schedule in September of last year, and in this time she has volunteered about 50 hours. Over the past holiday season she was especially helpful to come in extra days while some of our other volunteers were out-of-town on vacations or absent to spend additional time with their friends and family. During this time Alana has taken the chance to learn more about our program and agency, so now I took the time to ask her some questions so we can all get to know her a little bit more. (more…)

Can this be true: are we this wasteful?

February 16, 2011

On January 17 The Record and Guelph Mercury featured an article (here) by Jennifer Bain titled “Canadian Waste Land: Canada is a nation that squanders its food. Nearly half of our food becomes garbage”. The article brought to light a bunch of disturbing facts regarding Canadian food consumption, or lack thereof. After reading this article I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the facts mentioned in this article. My hope is that we all take a few minutes to reflect on our “waste” and hopefully persuade ourselves to change how we use food. (more…)

The Adventures of Spuddy: A Day at the Supermarkets

February 14, 2011

Spuddy sports his trademark smile, overwhelmed by excitement at the beginning of the Supermarket Blitz day.

On Saturday morning, with a fresh layer of snow on the ground, Spuddy and Sweet Potato set out to visit all 17 of the grocery stores participating in this year’s Supermarket Blitz. It was no small task. Never before have so many supermarkets or volunteers been involved! While the results are not quite in, one thing is certain: We have a dedicated and compassionate community to be thankful for. (more…)

It’s potato time!

February 11, 2011

If you’re familiar with the many events that occur during the year at House of Friendship, you will know that December is associated with Christmas Hampers, and February is marked by potatoes! Yes, with February now upon us, Spuddy and Sweet Potato have been dug up and the February Potato Blitz is effectively underway.

The February Potato Blitz began as a fundraiser to help supplement the vast amount of potatoes that House of Friendship—in all its 18 programs—uses over the course of a year. Over time, this campaign has been refined and perfected, and now consists of three major events: The Don Cameron Potato Night, the Supermarket Blitz and the Community Potato Lunch. None of these events would be complete without an appearance from either Spuddy or Sweet Potato, the life-size potato heads who have become public faces of this campaign. (more…)

2010: The people behind the numbers

February 10, 2011

It is a real challenge to put a human face on the many numbers that I can attach to all the things we do here.  Give me a minute and I can roll all sorts of stats off the top of my head about how many hampers we give out, the averages, the quarterly break downs and the five year trends.

But that doesn’t tell you the whole story, or even really scratch the surface of the everyday experiences of people working and volunteering here.  Numbers don’t tell you all you need to know about the people walking through our door, unsure if they’re going to get the food they need to feed their family, worried about who is going to see them here and dreading the long journey home balancing everything in bags and boxes that they don’t have the energy to carry. (more…)