The last week of January is recognized as Emergency Shelter and Homelessness Service Worker Appreciation Week. On behalf of the city council, Mayor Jeff Lehman recognized prominent organizations “who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic under extremely difficult circumstances.”
The organizations recognized were David Busby Centre, Salvation Army, Gilbert Centre, Youth Haven, Elizabeth Fry Society, and John Howard Society. Councillor Natalie Harrie also added the name of Ryan’s Hope to the list.
Executive directors of many of these organizations spoke during the recognition.
“They are the frontline to the frontline,” said Sara Peddle, executive director of David Busby Centre, about the centre’s staff. “On some given days, we have multiple overdoses a day that they are reversing, they’re trying to support people that are really struggling with trauma, and also just trying to get through the crisis, as well as trying to figure out where they’re going to live.”
“We do not look down on or view people who use drugs as inherently negative. We know that people who feel loved, supported and safe often use it differently than those who do not,”
Sarah Tilley, executive director of Gilbert Centre said that “we do not look down on or view people who use drugs as inherently negative. We know that people who feel loved, supported and safe often use it differently than those who do not.” It provides provides LGBTQ and HIV support services.
Youth Haven supports young people fleeing domestic violence neglect, physical or sexual abuse. “The pandemic has changed our work, but it has not kept us from doing it,” said the executive director Lucy Growers. “They (workers) provide his meals, food and care packages as needed. I am extremely proud to be part of a remarkable organization, working to end homelessness in our community.”
Elizabeth Fry Society expanded its “team and bed capacity from providing emergency shelter to 25 Women in gender diverse individuals to between 65 and 70 each and every night.” Meaghan Chambers, executive director, said the staff members are “not only responding to individualized needs, they’re responding to a pandemic and riding the waves of outbreaks. And risking their own health in the meantime. They’re also responding to the fallout of an affordable housing crisis and a toxic drug crisis.”
John Howard Society launched a warming program in January “through much planning, work and the support at the city council.” Executive director Suzanna McCarthy said “in the three weeks we’ve been operating, we’ve had over 300 visits between our two warming centres.”
Councillor Natalie Harris added another name to the list. “I just wanted to say a quick thank you as well to Ryan’s Hope. They are an organization of all purely voluntary here and Christine Nayler and her husband, Tom have been providing breakfasts, I believe, since last winter.”
“We didn’t come anywhere near to recognizing all the organizations that assist the least fortunate in our community,” Mayor Jeff Lehman responded to Harris’ comment.