Archive for the ‘Housing’ Category

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…)

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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.

***

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…)

The State of Food Insecurity: Hunger Count 2015

November 17, 2015

 

hungercount2015-singles-p3-normalToday, Food Banks Canada released the HungerCount 2015 report, which shows that 850,000 people access food banks each month. More than 300,000 of those helped are children. Here in Waterloo Region 1 in 20 households received food assistance. Half of these households are families with children.

The HungerCount offers stark evidence of the realities faced by far too many people in Canada: the reality that a job does not always guarantee food security; the reality that safe, quality housing is too often unaffordable; the reality that social assistance, disability and basic pension benefits are inadequate to support people who have fallen on hard times.

The volunteers and staff who run community food banks are proud of the work they do to help Canadians put enough food on the table. Nationally, the food bank network has adapted to changing times by increasing the variety of food available to the people it helps, and by providing services that go beyond the simple provision of food. The network today is radically different from what existed in the 1980s, when food banks first started opening their doors in Canada.

In Waterloo Region, we have a vital community Food Assistance Network of more than 100 programs anchored by two food banks: the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank and The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. By working together the network provides a respectful, warm environment where members of our community can receive the nutritious food they need. They can connect with programs that empower them to learn more about healthy eating, budgeting, food preparation and services to help find employment, counselling, affordable housing and other needs. (more…)

Healthy Communities Through Harm Reduction

October 7, 2015

In part two of this three part series, Sarah outlined a difficult tension in many social service agencies’s work. Agencies like House of Friendship often walk with people using drugs or struggling with their mental health, which can manifest in behavior likely to be deemed “difficult.” When so-called difficult people are barred or restricted from service, those agencies cannot fulfill their mandate, and individuals who might need the most support receive the least, if any. In this final installment, Sarah picks up on this idea, and explores creative alternatives.

Besides barring people, what might possible alternatives to dealing with substance use or conflict in a social service agency look like? One particular framework seems to offer a different, more inclusive approach. So, today I’ll examine why increasing available harm reduction services, and adopting a harm reduction approach to working with people who use substances may be beneficial for individuals and communities.

Harm reduction is… what?

Harm reduction” means different things to different people, but I’ll say here that it is any policy or program designed to reduce drug-related harm without necessarily requiring the cessation of drug use. In other words, you need not be clean to access services, or whatever. The focus instead is on reducing the harmful consequences associated with drug use. So, harm reduction approaches and practices could include needle exchange programs, methadone clinics, crack pipe kits and “wet shelters,” all of which aim to mitigate harms without requiring abstinence.

From CATIE

The Canadian Harm Reduction Network’s communications often includes the following quotation: “to act and not be acted upon is the essence of joy.” Harm reduction is an active process, or practice. Individuals must engage in self-management, and determine (with support) realistic goals that minimize risk. It is an approach that embraces working with people where they’re at and works to provide access to services regardless of a person’s substance use. (more…)

Community exclusion and ‘difficult’ patrons

October 5, 2015

In her first guest post, Sara started to discuss the relationship between well-being and community inclusion (or not), and the ‘reality’ that many non-profits feel under-equipped to deal some of their patrons who are experiencing mental health issues or are using drugs or alcohol. Today she continues her earlier thoughtful discussion, jumping into a Toronto organization’s survey of folks who have been refused service or have been banned from certain agencies.

In 2013, an organization called Rittenhouse completed a survey of 10 Toronto community organizations that work with these populations and found that 90% of the agencies used barring practices or restricted services as a response to client conflict. Restricting services or barring can involve asking someone to leave or preventing them from entering or accessing the service for any amount of time. Agency staff highlighted the issue that barring practices and service restrictions actually replicate punitive, exclusionary and stigmatizing approaches faced by marginalized individuals in other areas of their lives. However, data gathered through focus groups and workshops with these community organizations demonstrates that staff feel under-qualified to deal with the conflicts that arise in their spaces in non-discriminatory and supportive ways, while balancing the health, safety, and comfort of other clients and staff.

Frank Cotham at The New Yorker

Exclusion negatively affects health

Rittenhouse conducted interviews with another 30 people who identify as current or past drug users and have been barred from a community organization. Many participants reported that the service limitation impacted their access to support services, harm reduction services, and physical health services: 40% of participants reported feeling like the bar resulted in an increase in their risk of violence; 53% felt the bar resulted in an increase in their risk of contact with police; 40%  like they did not get enough chance to talk about what happened; 53% that agency staff did not understand them or their situation; and 53% reported feeling embarrassment, shame, and/or humiliation, among other findings. (more…)

“I Have Always Found a Friend in Music”

September 25, 2014

Today we have a post by Martin and Ashley W from the Men’s Hostel sharing details of a recent event organized by staff and residents

“One of the marvellous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.  When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Charles St. Men’s hostel held its third open mic night at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Thursday August 28th.  The open mic began with a vision to bring people together to share their talents and build a sense of community. We hoped to enact, in a very obvious and practical way, the more abstract HOF value of inclusion, which states that “We believe everyone has a seat at the table.” So we set up tables–thanks for the tables, St. Andrews!–and got to barbecuing, making sure we had enough food and seats for everyone from the community who wanted to eat, or sit and take in the festivities.

Residents from the Hostel and community volunteers were there to assist with food prep and serving.  It was a wonderful experience to see people coming together to help each other and make a contribution even in times of personal struggle.  We were grateful to walk beside these volunteers and participants during this experience and work in partnership as peers in bringing fun and sense of belonging to the community.

Once bodies were nourished, we started the soul-enriching work of making and listening to music.

Guests and participants of all ages came from House of Friendship programs and the community to share.  Over 125 people joined us at St Andrews to enjoy the local talent.  A fantastic local band including a resident of one House of Friendship’s programs volunteered to play for the event. They started off the evening setting the musical mood as one of relaxation and fun.  As the meal came to an end the floor was opened up for anyone to participate in sharing their talents and all in attendance were lucky enough to enjoy some of the talent from our supportive housing residents who brought the church to fits of laughter with their creative jokes and some singing.

The band was excellent in making everyone feel a sense of belonging. In one beautiful and improvised moment, they extended the hand of friendship to a resident who felt inspired to contribute a vocal solo, by using their instrumental talents to compliment his vocals and even including some back-up vocals. And in that moment the delicate joy that happens through shared music sat around us all.

All in all it was a wonderful night and we were inspired by the level of commitment, dedication, and involvement by participants of House of Friendship programming in the prep and running of this community event.  We really could not have done this without the generous assistance of the people we serve and are grateful to be able to work for an organization which encourages such a sense of community. We would finally like to thank St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for making this event possible by allowing us to use their space and graciously being available to help with set up.  We would also like to thank everyone who volunteered or assisted in any way and everyone who simply came to enjoy the event and be with us in this time of sharing and community building.

Volunteer Profile: Luke!

September 16, 2014

It’s easy to say nice things about our volunteers. Though each is different, and brings special skills to our program, they are connected by their commitment to Food Hampers, and the fact that they have decided to donate–usually at least once a week–their time and energy to us. Without them, we would be unable to operate as we do. This is worth repeating: without them, we would be unable to operate as we do.

And though it’s easy to say nice things about our volunteers, it can be hard sometimes to capture the depth of their commitment and contribution to our program, and our broader community. This is certainly the case with Luke, who–if we didn’t make him go home!– might stick around till midnight, connecting with patrons and volunteers alike, providing steady support and understated guidance. No matter how busy we are, he energizes those around him, and challenges us to improve our quality of service. Since he started in April 2013 Luke has volunteered 335.5 hours, but that isn’t the half of it!

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Northern Reflections on Food (in)Security

August 14, 2014

What would you do with $908? Take a cruise to Alaska? Buy a nice new bicycle? A TV? 900 boxes of Kraft Dinner? Bury it under a large rock?

Maybe you’d go grocery shopping?

There is no real grocery store in Gull Bay First Nation, an Anishinaabe community about 200 kms north of Thunder Bay. There is no good public transit connection between Gull Bay and Thunder Bay, meaning you drive. If you can’t afford a car or gas, you have to take a taxi. And you had better fill that cab to the gills, because it’s $908 round trip.

That’s $908 plus the cost of groceries.

A resident of Gull Bay shared this anecdote with Mike Balkwill, provincial organizer for the Put Food in the Budget campaign, on his recent tour of communities in northwestern Ontario. Mike has spent most of his life working with people living on a low-income in southern Ontario (specifically the GTA), and was invited to travel north this summer by Kathy Campbell, Executive Director of an emergency women’s shelter in Red Lake.

Kathy suggested a learning tour, of sorts, because poverty in the north is not like poverty in southern Ontario.

(more…)

Wonderfully Messy: The State of Our Housing Programs Today

July 11, 2014

 

House of Friendship's Awesome Wall

Deb poses with the part of the Awesome Wall that she helped create.  A public art feature that symbolizes a part of the new energy bubbling up in the Supportive Housing Program at House of Friendship

“Supportive housing combines bricks-and-mortar with special supports to meet the physical and mental health needs of tenants.” (Source here) Ensuring that residents have Housing First, and then also a comprehensive range of supports, supportive housing proposes to be more empowering, more likely to help people live happy, healthy and meaningful lives than shelters or other short term housing approaches.

Building bridges and supporting communities

But what does this look like in practice? A quick glance at downtown Kitchener shows how delightfully messy the process can be!

House of Friendship has created a unique space in downtown Kitchener. They have a series of adjoining properties on Charles Street and Eby Street in downtown Kitchener. Eby Village, Charles Village, the Men’s Hostel and Cramer House all serve a diverse set of needs and now, there is something happening here that ignores the walls and gates in between these House of Friendship buildings.

Residents from Eby Village show up at Cramer House to play pool with some new friends. A few men from the hostel plant flowers for the neighborhood on Eby Street that a few Supportive Housing tenants will hand out to bridge the gap between Supportive Housing and the greater community. Catherine the Community Garden Worker works with tenants to create green spaces around the buildings. “I think that community gardens and green spaces bring so much to all of those around them: connection, hard work, fresh air, the pleasure of green, vibrant spaces and the magic of watching something transform right in front of you. It is exciting to help to cultivate these spaces with all of the buildings and slowly watch them grow.” (more…)

Challenge and Encouragement – The Role of Peer Health and Shelter to Housing

May 8, 2014

Yesterday we posted about the upcoming Kindred Spirit BBQ happening today, Thursday at 5:30 at Kitchener City Hall.

Now I am happy to share an interview that Doug Rankin conducted with Clarence, an active community member working and walking beside people experiencing homelessness.  Clarence has his own lived experience to share, and a strong focus on the importance of community.  He will also be one of the two peopled recognized for their contributions locally.

What did you do as a Peer Health Worker at the Men’s Hostel?

I built relationships with people, and then supported them by listening and helping them solve problems. I would let them know what resources are available in the community so they had some points for accessing health care, housing, employment, food, clothing, and a lot of other resources. I was very positive and supportive of the men and would provide a lot of encouragement to them. And I was there to support them when they were ready move forward and make bigger changes. (more…)