Author Archive

Opening Up Food Hampers This Summer

July 7, 2016

This summer two years of planning and discussing will finally pay off as work will officially begin on a major renovation and reworking of our Emergency Food Hamper Program on Guelph Street.

We are going to extend the front of our warehouse by about 20 feet, demolish the house that sits awkwardly in the middle of our parking lot and greatly improve the safety and efficiency of our operation as a whole.

The New Face of Food Hampers after it's renovation

Food Hampers In A Nutshell

Each week we have two basic jobs:

  1. We receive and sort and store food.
  2. We meet people who need help, we register them, and we give them food.

What Is happening This Summer?

Starting the week of July 11 we will be operating out of two sites.

We will be closed July 11 to finalize the move.  We will be open to the public starting Tuesday July 12.

We will do our food receiving, sorting and storing at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.  This is job number 1.  Half of our staff and volunteer team will operate there for the better part of each day and get things organised for the other half of the staff and volunteer team that will be at 797 Guelph Street (next door to our current warehouse).  At 797 Guelph we will do job number 2:  Registering people who need help and sharing food with them. (more…)

Help Kids Be Curious, Active And Ready For Life

June 30, 2016

Today’s Blog post is from Kristi D. and her son Bastien.

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Happy Canada Day! For many, it is the beginning of summer time adventures! Whether you see the fireworks July 1st, spend time with family and friends or go for the first camping trip of the season!

Like you, my family looks forward to summer and a change of pace.

 “It is fun to be at camp without the stress of everyday life.”     

–  Bastien, 11 year old camper

This is what summer camp is like for kids like my son Bastien. When he goes to camp he has a chance to focus on just being a kid. A chance to be curious, active, and ready to engage in the opportunities that life has to offer.

Thanks to gifts to House of Friendship’s (HOF) Summer Camp Sponsorship program, Bastien has been able to attend camp for the last four years! As his Mom, I’m thrilled that he’s had these wonderful opportunities to make new friends, try new things and to belong. This is his BIG adventure! When he comes back home he is a different kid – he matures so much each time he goes to summer camp! The lessons he learns are AMAZING!

But for our household summer camp is more than just a week of fun and friends.

Bastien has an older sister with autism and …well, life can be pretty stressful with her. As a single mother, it’s just Bastien, his sister and me. Summer camp is more than a fun place to go – it is a much needed break for my 11 year old. Camp is critical for Bastien. It allows him to have a break from the challenges and trials of home life.                       

The guidance and opportunities that Bastien receives at camp makes a difference to our whole family! I can teach him things, but the camp staff and caring counsellors make positive messages come alive! When he comes home, we have some of the best conversations ever as he shares every detail about his time at camp.

The lessons he has learned have an impact long after summer is done, benefiting the whole family!

Imagine, if you could provide even more ‘BIG adventures’ to kids like my Bastien!

It costs $650 to equip and send one child to camp. With money raised  through support for HOF’s Trek 4 KidsHike and Bike and other initiatives, HOF sends all those signed up waiting to go, or as many kids as they can afford.

Recently Trek 4 Kids Hike and Bike participants and supporters got 88 more kids-in-need closer to nature this summer. This is good news for campers and their families living on low income, but another 17 children are on the waiting list, and we may receive more requests.

Once all of the kids on the waiting list are off to camp, we will use any surplus funds to fill funding gaps in HOF’s community centre children’s programming. Your donation to ‘Summer Camp & More’ will ensure that children and youth at-risk continue to have positive, skill-building experiences beyond camp!

With the possibility of a work stoppage at Canada Post, HOF is more determined than ever to send kids-in-need to camp. That is why we’re reaching out today.

Please consider making your donation on-line at www.houseoffriendship.org (simply click on the ‘Donate Now’ button on the Home page and select Summer Camp Sponsorship under Fund/Designation) or call Shelley at: 519-742-8327 x131 or drop off your donation at House of Friendship’s Admin Building, 51 Charles St. East, Kitchener ON. N2G 4R3

Today, please remember Bastien and other kids like him and let Bastien’s words inspire you to make a gift to ‘Summer Camp & More’ and YOU can be the start of many more BIG adventures this summer!

Did you know that if your donation is received on-line before June 30, it is eligible for the Great Canadian Giving Challenge . Give once, help twice and send your gift today!

A House Of Friendship For All Nations

May 31, 2016

House of Friendship believes strongly in housing as a right

Today I am fortunate to share a story from Colin our Maintenance Director. He recently had the following reflections to share about his experience working at House of Friendship:

One the coolest and my most favourite parts of my job is the diversity I get to experience serving in my role here.

I am very fortunate to be able to spend time in all areas of the organization and see first-hand all of the great work we do and connect with so many of the fantastic people we have serving with us. I realize this is quite a privilege that not everyone gets to experience. Sometimes my work takes me to places and situations I would have never guessed getting up that morning that I would get to see. I want to share one of those stories and moments with you. (more…)

Link 2 Feed And a Full Year of Food Assistance

May 10, 2016

“I am going through a transition period losing my job and applying for Second Career for a chance to change the course of my life. I’ve been on EI which will end soon and it’s extremely hard for me to make ends meet, and […] I can’t afford to buy any food, and was wondering where to go for some food hampers?”  “Sarah”

For someone like Sarah, the effort and planning and work that happens each day in our community to save and redistribute food is likely a bit of a mystery.  How it happens isn’t relevant.  That it happens is the most important thing.

As the economic restructuring and changes to the social safety net have unravelled over the last three decades (soon to be four!) communities have adapted and developed tools to help people and to help understand their stories.

A year ago, I wrote about Link 2 Feed, a new on-line database that the local  Food Assistance Network was adopting.  Well, a year later, we have a year worth of experiences and data to share.

Adventures In Data Entry

What is Link 2 Feed? The short version is that it is a cloud based database that by now, the majority of food assistance programs in this region, and an increasing number of similar programs in different parts of the province, have adopted.  Locally, it allows us to work off of one set of records, and for the first time, allows us to definitively understand how many people are turning to food banks to get through difficult times.

In the last 12 months we have actually found our daily service numbers easing off a little from an average in 2014 of 600 families and individuals each week to about 570 families and individuals.  This is a further decline of a weekly height of 700+ during the last major global recession.

Between March 2015 and February 2016, we shared 26,000+ food hampers with approximately 8100 households, made up of approximately 19,000 people.  That works out to an average of about 110 families and individuals getting some help from us each day, Monday to Friday.

Unfortunately for our fingers we had to type the names, birthdays, addresses and other demographic information of a significant number of those 19,000 people into the new Link 2 Feed database.  March and April 2015 were unpleasant and stressful for our clients because they had to wait while we did that, and for us, because it was constant typing and clicking and double checking what we had input.

Simplicity And Ease of Use…

I want to celebrate what a fantastic, wonderful giving community I’m so lucky to reside in. Today I struggle with trying to stay positive.  I’m here because of an addiction.  I just want to say thanks… “Frank”

A year later, things are fairly smooth and the majority of our case load has been incorporated into the system. Each month we meet a few hundred people needing to use food banks for the first time, or people returning from a long absence for one reason or another.

The initial pain of entering thousands of people into the system is past us and we can start to work on ways to make the system work for people like Frank, quoted above.

Link 2 Feed can help all of us working to share food to work together to identify who falls through the cracks of the existing network, begin to understand which parts of the network work with whom and how resources can move to the parts of the city that need more support. Most importantly it will allow the network to speak persuasively about the magnitude of the problem, and as I wrote recently, take measure of how well Food Banks are solving this problem.

So What Can Link 2 Feed Tell Us About Who The Emergency Food Hamper Program Served In The Last Year?

Most turn to us when they have no income, or are forced through circumstances to rely on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.  This is not unusual for a food hamper program like us.  This is more or less, the profile of the people who access food help anywhere in our province.

Sources of Income for the Households Served by the Emergency Food Hamper Program 2015-2016

“It’s Okay to Ask For Help…”

Most did not use us often, with a little more than half of the households only coming 1 or 2 times.  A very small group did require more assistance however, which again, is not unusual.  Typically the people who need to access our services more than average are physically isolated due to age and/or a chronic health conditions that creates a barrier to accessing other services in the region.

 

EFHP Number of Visits Per HH 2015-2016

The total number of times a household visited the Emergency Food Hamper Program between 2015-2016

I’ll Save Some For Other People Who Need It More… The Contradictions Of Food Distribution

Because of the limits of our program (supply, size, volunteers) we are not able to assist people on a monthly or ongoing basis, but when asked, people who need our help will typically describe a greater need than we are able to meet.  It is difficult to generalize because each person who comes through our door has their own story and idea about what we are going to be able to do for them.  It is not unusual for people to self limit what they are taking because they feel like they will be taking away from others if they take more.

I’m sure you have heard the expression “someone always has it worse than you do.” Usually, when I hear that sentiment it’s used to help someone get some perspective on a situation that isn’t that dire.  But, many of the people I have spoken to over the years have embraced the idea that there are people who are in greater need than they are even though they themselves are pretty close to the bottom.  Because of this they often think they should be very careful about taking what we have because with each additional thing they take, they are in effect taking it out of the hands of someone else.

This is often not necessarily the case, because in many instances, we have an abundance of some things and if someone takes more bananas when we have 5 pallets out of sight in our warehouse, they are doing everyone a favour.  They benefit from getting the produce, and we benefit by finding a home for the surplus items, saving them from landfill and eventual spoilage if we can’t get them into someone’s home in time.

What You Can Take Home

We are not as busy as we were in previous years when we were mired in a global recession, but every day, hundreds of people in our community face the reality of hunger. In the space of year we served food that supported more than 1 in 20 of the households of Kitchener and Waterloo.  Coming to us for help is not easy, and when many are here making choices about what to take, they are hesitant and careful.

Experiencing deprivation and making hard choices about basic things like food, rent and things that your family may need are never taken lightly.  The experience takes time and huge amounts of energy.  For many of the households we serve in a year, they do not come in more than six times but for 1 in 10 households we serve there are persistent barriers to accessing us, and a higher level of need.

In Kitchener-Waterloo approximately 6300 hampers are distributed each month by all of the organizations that help with food, House of Friendship included.  By making a donation of food you can help fill a part of one of those boxes.

One way you can do that is by helping The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.  They play a central role in keeping food flowing into the organizations that serve those 6300 hampers each month.  Between May 1 and June 4 they are part of a national month long campaign to ‘fill every plate’ this summer.  Make a donation, organize a food drive with friends, get creative and lead by example with #everyplatefull

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Celebrate Earth Day – Send a Kid To Camp

April 22, 2016

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On Earth Day (April 22) we are reminded that our planet is fragile. As we pause to take in its beauty we should also stand up and take action to protect our precious home!

To mark Earth Day why not plan for a day on the trails surrounded by nature? You can keep the nature appreciation going by joining us for a greener Trek 4 Kids 2 weeks later on the very same trails! Stay active and connected to your environment while helping send 100+ kids to week-long, overnight camp this summer!

Trek 4 Kids Hike and Bike is happening Saturday, May 7th, 2:00 p.m. Starting from the Thrift on Kent parking lot located at 50 Kent Avenue in Kitchener.

Trek 4 Kids supports House of Friendship’s Summer Camp Sponsorship program. We are asking for Trekkers to sign-up, collect pledges and then walk, run or bike the trail route (5 km., 9, km., 16 km., or 23 km depending on your interest). All of this effort makes camp possible for 100+ kids-at-risk this summer. Want to make it a fun family event? Come at 12:30 for a BBQ, bike rodeo and free bike tune-ups. (more…)

Volunteers Are The Roots Of Strong Communities

April 15, 2016

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Roots are important.

A place like Kitchener Waterloo has a history. Each person who lives here, and has lived here, has set down roots. They get tangled up and they hold us together.  They hold our history, and clues to what is important for all of us.

Tomorrow is the last day of Volunteer Appreciation Week.  Volunteers are one of the single greatest factors that help us achieve our goals at House of Friendship.  As

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Pat always has a smile and a joke to share.

Alissa from the Kingsdale Community Centre recently shared with us, “our community  is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers, they are the hands and feet of the support we are able to provide to the community.”

Take Pat, for example, a volunteer at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.  She dedicates herself to making sure things are clean and tidy and lending a hand anywhere when needed.  She told me that, “volunteering is a great feeling. When I volunteer I know that I’m helping and I like to help people!”

She and over 70 other volunteers help each week to ensure people have something to eat in our community at the Food Hamper Program. Each day everywhere in House of Friendship and across the Region Pat and countless other volunteers like her get to work and leave a profound and lasting mark on our neighbourhoods. (more…)

$15 And Fairness Campaign – A Day Of Action Across Ontario Tomorrow!

April 14, 2016

Today I’m happy to share a message from Marjorie, a BSW student on placement with us, and a representative of 15 And Fairness.

Do you care about any of the following?

$15 minimum wage?
Paid sick days?
Equal pay for equal jobs?
Fairness in the workplace?
Employment Act that protects ALL workers?

Come and join 15 And Fairness on Friday for a day of action!

The Ontario government is going to make changes with or without you now is the time to let them know what you think is important!

Meet us at Victoria Park by the fountain entrance closest to the Charles Street Bus Station. We will meet at 11:30am get organized and then march to City Hall! Come have your say! 11:30am to 1:00pm – BE THERE AND HAVE YOUR SAY! (more…)

Sing The Song Of Your Heart And Trek 4 Kids!

April 13, 2016

Today‘s blog comes to you from the desk of Phil Martin, Trek 4 Kids Hike and Bike committee member and cycling enthusiast who is making week-long, overnight summer camp a reality for kids-at-risk!

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When I’m not on my bike, I’m introducing kids to the love of cycling through a school program I founded called Cycling Into The Future (CITF)! In schools across Waterloo Region I teach young people (and a few older ones) about cycling safety and etiquette by presenting the CITF program which includes hands (and feet)–on cycling experience! Many kids find that their world grows bigger when they take our course. They have more independence (I don’t have to rely so much on being driven everywhere), a growing sense of competence (I can fix a tire) and the great feeling of fresh air in their faces as they pedal off on new adventures. (more…)

Continuing Conversation About The Working Poor

March 29, 2016

The following is a repost of a piece that ran yesterday, in the Cambridge times, written by Marjorie, a BSW student on placement at House of Friendship.  It carries on the theme we explored in a few posts last year and raises some questions that the many people we meet each day struggle with.

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My name is Marjorie and I am a member of the working poor.

I have to thank Lisa Rutledge of the Cambridge Times for publishing her series of articles on the working poor last June.

This opened a dialogue which has persisted over time. I have been approached on the street, on the bus, at church, at work, by people who had read these articles, largely because my photo was featured in one of the articles.

I have, for some, become the face of the working poor.

Many wanted to discuss the issues. Many were experiencing the same problems, but others were surprised that I was dealing with these problems. It was not a visible problem to them.

There continues to be a misconception of just who the working poor are, and whether it is because of their behavior that they remain poor. Hopefully that misconception is being corrected due to articles such as the series done by Ms. Rutledge.

Now that the conversation has begun, where do we go now? How can we collectively improve the lot of the working poor.

It seems to me to be grossly unfair for a person to work full-time, to not be able to provide for their family in a meaningful way.

There is an argument for decent work, for decent wages. What would be a decent wage? (more…)

After 30 Years of Food Banking How Are We Doing?

February 5, 2016

We are rapidly closing in on the 1 year anniversary of adopting Link 2 Feed.  If you recall, we blogged about it last year and some of the implications of using it for the future.  Look forward to a bit of analysis next month as we consider a year worth of data and what insights we might gain from it about hunger in the region and how busy our program was.

Today I wanted to reflect on 2015 in general, which provides a nice opportunity to consider 30 years of food banks, basically, from their inception as a desperate measure to help out, to an established and complicated part of a very different society.

I want to narrow the focus down to the experience of the House of Friendship.  We have spoken in other posts about what food banks do, some alternatives and some implications of different ideas.  I want to sidestep that, and instead take a look at what emergency food assistance looks like for the us. (more…)


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