Archive for November, 2012

Advocacy and family services programs at House of Friendship

November 22, 2012

In my last blog about advocacy at the house of friendship, I talked about advocacy in our residential programs and with our chaplaincy director, Michael Hackbusch. Today I want to talk about advocacy at the community level, with our family programs.

Advocacy work is something the House of Friendship has been focusing on more and more since our last strategic plan. When we developed our current strategic plan last year, over 400 people were consulted and over one third of those consulted were program participants. What we heard over and over was that people wanted House of Friendship to speak up more in the community to target the root causes of poverty. While we’ve been doing advocacy work for a long time, now ‘speaking up’ is actually in our mission statement, so it’s going to be a bigger focus in the next few years.

Though they’ve been quiet about it, our family programs have been doing advocacy since they began. Family programs at the House of Friendship include our four community centres (Chandler Mowat, Courtland Shelley, Kingsdale, and Sunnydale), as well as the camp sponsorship program. To get some background on each community centre, you can read previous blog posts here, here, here, and here.

In a lot of ways, the community centres are advocacy hubs by their very nature—they provide places for people to come together, have fun, and support each other. This sounds abstract but it’s very important; when people are part of a community they have better access to social networks and resources, and can more easily fulfill their needs. Neighbours who care about each other help each other out, and when there’s a serious issue facing the entire neighbourhood, a community that advocates together is much stronger than a single person.

People gather at Sunnydale for food distribution on a Thursday.


Wreaths with a cause

November 15, 2012

For the fourth year in a row Colour Paradise Greenhouse is opening their doors to the creative efforts of many community members to accept wreaths that were distributed last week to be decorated.  Each wreath has a unique decoration and theme.

Charles Village, one of the House of Friendship programs, submitted one of the 40 wreaths that will be put up for auction until November 24th. Here’s a picture of our wreath:

You’ll notice the decorations are simple; but there’s a thought that inspired the wreath to be decorated this way.

A few of the Charles Village tenants will contribute jokes, recipes, comics, articles and many other things for our building newsletter: Charles Village News & Views. The following article was submitted from one of our tenants, Pete for the newsletter.

Where do you find hope in a world where the daily news seems to be a parade of what I call the “bads” in the world? Is it naïve to think that you can have hope for what the future holds?
Our universe, and thus we who occupy it, are under the law of entropy; the whole thing is running down. The best scientists teach that the universe is headed for a heat death. So, where do you go to find hope in a troubled world?
Hope consists of looking to the future and believing that your passions, desires, and dreams can be realized. You dream of what you want your life to be like in the future.
Sometimes I look at the lives of the rich, the famous and the infamous and wonder what it would be like to walk a mile in their shoes—no matter how expensive they may be. But hope does not reside in an unattainable tomorrow.
Not all of you will reach the dreams that you have. But, action and a life lived with purpose and conviction will lead you to a future where your hope dwells.
To dance between the present now and the unknown tomorrow requires vision and a fortitude that is rewarded by pleasant triumphs in your life.
Do you lose hope when a situation assaults you or when you fail to pick yourself up and risk more defeat in your life? Will you be satisfied with a degree of hopelessness that plagues your tomorrow and clouds your vision?
You may have heard that all things work to the good to those that put your love and hope in God. The creator of all things will not leave you wanting. Hope is built on the foundation of love directed towards God and a respect for others and their rights, their hopes and their dreams.
If you don’t allow collisions of your tomorrow with their todays, you can live in the light of a future that warms, comforts, and lights a path that you can’t wait to travel and openly embrace. Hope will then be yours, for the rest of your days.

I thought Pete did a really great job on this article. It got me thinking a lot about what hope means and how individualized and imperfect hope can be for everyone.  So this is a glimpse at what inspired our wreath decoration. Not every wreath will come with a story, but I encourage you to connect with Colour Paradise Greenhouses to look at one of the many wreaths available. You can start by visiting the ribbon cutting ceremony on November 15th at 5pm to view the wreaths, enjoy live music, and treat yourself to a home-baked goodie. When I dropped off my wreath earlier this week I took a sneak peek at many of the beautiful wreaths available. I believe there is something for every taste; and the best part is that the proceeds from the winning bids on each wreath will go to support the work of House of Friendship.

Thanks in advance for your support in this wonderful event. And a big thank you to Colour Paradise Garden for all their continual hard work and generous efforts! Bidding can be done by a visit in–person during Greenhouse business hours or by phone 519-745-0200. You can find all the wreathes on the Colour  Paradise’s Facebook page here.

Advocacy organizations respond to report on social assistance

November 7, 2012

In a recent editorial printed in the Record, physician Gary Bloch talks about a patient of his who lost his job as a carpenter after being in a car accident, and like many, had to go onto Ontario Works to survive. The patient suffered from depression and with only $600 per month to pay for rent, food and everything else you may need to live a normal life, had difficulty affording basic necessities. In other words, as Bloch writes, he had trouble ‘presenting himself with dignity’ in order to be employable. Instead of helping him get back on his feet after an accident, OW trapped him in poverty, exacerbating his physical and mental illness. As this individual’s doctor, Bloch could only prescribe physiotherapy and counseling, knowing that these were only treating his patients symptoms rather than the underlying problem: living in poverty.

Stories like this one are exactly why the provincial government created a commission to research social assistance and look at ways to reform the system. Last week, after consulting stakeholders across the country, the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario released its final report called Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario (read the report here). Many are saying that the report is the most in-depth review of social assistance—which includes Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program—since the 1980s.

As you know if you’ve read our blog before, many people who regularly come for food hampers are recipients of OW and ODSP. In fact, in 2011, 36% of hampers we gave out were to OW recipients, and about 20% were to ODSP recipients. Together, this means that over half of the food hampers we give are to people on social assistance. Needless to say, we are very interested in social assistance reform going forward, like many poverty advocacy groups in Ontario.