Stage Three in Hamilton. Many people have waited in anticipation for this; for increased capacity in stores, and for restaurants, entertainment, and more retail spaces to open up. They’ve been waiting for things to be more “normal”.
At Mission Services, we’ve been anticipating the return to more “normal” ourselves – the ability to have in-person programming, allow those in need back into our spaces, and increase capacity where we’ve had to limit service. As we adapt, and move into this next phase of program changes, we are also anxious. We want to open our spaces, welcome people in, and have more personal connections, but we want to do so safely and cautiously.
We are constantly reviewing our plans for programming in the fall. We are hopeful, but we are cautious, as things can change at any moment. As we “open”, the need for increased staffing will continue, and the cost of personal protective equipment, sanitizers, and cleaners will increase. Plexiglass shields will need to be installed in program spaces where participants will be entering once more; new furniture will need to be purchased to make physical distancing and sanitizing easier; and so much more will need to change.
At our Good Food Centre (GFC), we continue to see high numbers of new families accessing emergency food. As the province updates their health and safety guidelines, staff continue to transform service to best meet the needs of our community to ensure they receive the compassionate care they need.
The 196 youth continue to be supported virtually and via drop-offs as staff explore how we can safely welcome youth back in the fall.
The Youth Afterschool Meal Program is still on pause as the uncertainty surrounding school reopening continues. Mission Services is committed to feeding youth in our neighbourhoods in a way that keeps everyone safe. Until the meal program is running once more, the GFC continues to give extra food to families with youth so they are not affected by the inability to access community meal programs.
As we move into the fall, Suntrac staff are beginning to arrange ways to safely have participants in our meeting spaces. Additionally, Partner’s in Recovery will be offered virtually sometime in the fall, and will hopefully lead to the introduction of more virtual group counselling and programming opportunities.
Addiction Services is now hosting virtual court for our Drug Treatment Court Program participants.
Our Men’s Shelter is anticipating being able to accommodate full capacity by planning for necessary renovations. Housing UP! continues to find housing for men, and has helped over 40 men since this past April.
At Inasmuch House, the pandemic caused capacity to drop by half due to social distancing and public health safety protocols. Now, they are back up to full capacity and helping as many women and children as able, while ensuring strict cleaning and safety policies.
While women with some form of housing were being supported outside of the hub previously, they are now being welcomed back into the Willow’s Place spaces during the afternoons to do crafts. During these “crafternoons”, staff have been connecting with the women to see how they have been doing. Despite dealing with isolation, and changes happening in their community, they said how much they appreciate the crafts and being able to come back, even if it’s only for a few hours a day for now. Willow’s Place is once again able to welcome in every woman who comes to the doors, and ensure they continue to have a place to find food, shower and laundry facilities, mental health supports, social interaction, and more.
Since beginning to work out of Willow’s Place, Mission Services’ Transitional Housing Worker has found housing for 20 women and their children. In a time of people losing jobs and housing, this is something to celebrate.
While we highlight the successes of Housing UP! and housing support workers, for every person housed there are many more in need of permanent, stable, safe and affordable housing.
Pandemic funding has not created new affordable or appropriate housing opportunities for those affected by Hamilton’s housing crisis, nor for those tenants who may lose housing as eviction enforcements resume. Our unsheltered neighbours are our neighbours too. They are part of our communities. We need to continue to advocate for permanent housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness.
In the meantime, we need you. You can create a reality where everyone has access to support, healthy food, and safe housing by giving today.