A Call to Action from Kindred Spirits

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Today I am pleased to share a post by Doug Rankin of the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre (KDCHC).  He has an important message about a great community event coming up this Thursday!  Tomorrow I will share an interview that he did with Clarence, a Shelter to Housing Worker at the Hostel and former Peer Health Worker with KDCHC who will receive an award at this event.

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“We stand here tonight in solidarity with those who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. We all know that without our health we have nothing. Living without a home makes it impossible to maintain health. Every day is a challenge to find food, to stay warm and dry, to search out services, to find shelter, to seek health care, to be safe. Every day, witnessing friends struggling with illness and disease, often dying prematurely. We are a wealthy Region and it is not just that there are those without adequate shelter and living in poverty. No one should have to wait years on a list for affordable housing, sleep in unsafe and unsanitary rooming houses or spend the end of their life dying without a home. We ask you to now observe a moment of silence to show your support and to reflect on the work yet to be done.”

This is what volunteer Kim Wilson said to those attending the 9th Kindred Spirit BBQ last year, calling us to action as a community and highlighting the difficult reality that many live each day.

The Kindred Spirit BBQ is an annual event organized by The Homelessness Advisory Group of the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre (KDCHC), in partnership with ROOF, YWCA and Ray of Hope. KDCHC hosts the Kindred Spirit BBQ to give out the annual Kindred Spirit Award, raise funds for the SOS (Sleeping Outdoor Support) program, and to create public awareness.

You can attend this year’s event this week, on Thursday, May 8th at Kitchener City Hall. The event starts with a free BBQ and music at 5:30 followed by a moment of silence at 6pm to show solidarity and express our concern about homelessness as a community and to publicly acknowledge the impact of homelessness on health.

Local dignitaries Ken Seiling, Carl Zehr, Berry Vrbanovic and Dan Glenn-Graham will also be sharing remarks but the highlight of the evening will be the 5th annual Kindred Spirit Award.

This annual award recognizes individuals who have experienced homelessness and are now supporting others experiencing homelessness. The award honours the importance and value of individuals who are giving back to the community and their peers.

This year’s co-recipients of the award are Clarence Cachagee and Cindy MacRae. Clarence is a Shelter to Housing Stability Worker at the House of Friendship’s Charles Street Men’s Hostel. Allison Dunn, Men’s Hostel Program Supervisor nominated Clarence and highlighted that “Clarence walks alongside individuals with respect and compassion. He strikes a unique balance of challenging people and pushing people to be more, but also having the ability to meet people where they are at”.

Cindy MacRae has supported women in the Mennonite Central Committee’s Circle of Friends Program. Program Manager Katie McDougall wrote that Cindy “has encountered much on her own personal journey, and yet it has shaped and molded her into an individual who can walk with others that are dealing with their own pain, grief, hardship and despair. She is committed to this community – and the diverse group of individuals that are often excluded in our society.”

About the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre (KDCHC): This vital community resource provides a range of supports to people experiencing homelessness:

  • Primary health care at 44 Francis Street
  • Individual support and advocacy
  • Healthcare outreach: Anselma, Mary’s Place, ROOF, St. John’s Kitchen
  • ID Clinic: St. Johns, Men’s Hostel, Mary’s Place and hospitals
  • Peer Health Worker Program: St. Johns, Mary’s Place, Men’s Hostel
  • SOS (Sleeping Outdoors Support) equipment program
  • Health promotion programs: Eat Well, Spend Less; Yoga; Sketching Classes; etc.
  • Homelessness Advisory Group

About the SOS (Sleeping Outdoors Support) program: KDCHC gives out tents, sleeping bags and backpacks to people experiencing homelessness in the spring of every year when K-W OOTC (Out of the Cold) closes. When OOTC closes many people are without a shelter option and the SOS program helps them stay warm and dry. Equipment is given out in collaboration with downtown outreach workers. KDCHC has set a fundraising target of $8,000.00 for the program this year. To make a donation to the SOS program please contact KDCHC at 510-745-4404 x205 or donate online at www.kdchc.org.

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