City Centre Mirror
With Toronto’s homeless population growing at an alarming rate, a new local agency is looking to help ensure those living on the streets have access to the programs they need.
Homeless Connect Toronto, a branch of the North America-wide Project Homeless Connect initiative, is looking for partners, sponsors and service providers in anticipation of its first semi-annual event.
The event will bring together service providers in a variety of fields, from housing and employment support to health care to clothing to haircuts.
“We’ve been planning this for two years now and we’re collaborating with various agencies to get it going,” said Homeless Connect Toronto coordinator Melody Li. “It’s sort of a one-stop shop for a lot of the services (homeless and underhoused people) need.”
Having a variety of services under one roof will certainly make things more accessible for those in need of support, who must often travel between appointments.
“The homeless guests are asked to decide what their top four needs are,” Li said. “It’s not just about housing, food and clothing. It’s really about working with the individual as a whole person with a variety of needs.”
Homeless Connect Toronto plans to hold events twice a year. In addition to providing valuable services and support for those living on the streets, the events bring together various social service agencies, fostering a greater spirit of collaboration as they work to support Toronto’s homeless and underhoused.
“We want to connect the dots for agencies as well as for the people who use the services,” Li said.
The initiative also aims to raise awareness of homeless issues and garner additional support from the corporate world.
While the first Homeless Connect Toronto event is not slated to take place until Sunday, April 13, 2014, the organization is looking to enlist support from as many corners as possible.
It has already garnered the support of the Centre for Social Innovation and is seeking out additional social service agencies and service providers, volunteers, corporate sponsors and champions.
“We have quite a few agencies on board, we have dentists and haircutting professionals, but we’re always looking for more,” Li said.
The April 13 event will take place at the Harbourfront Community Centre, and Homeless Connect Toronto will reach out to the homeless through the drop-in and shelter network to get the word out to those who will benefit most.
Li acknowledges that, while the community centre will allow for anywhere from 500 to 700 guests at a time, it is still not enough to serve everyone in need.
“They just released the results from the latest Street Needs Assessment and (the number of homeless in Toronto) has risen five per cent since the last one they did in 2009,” she said.
Homeless Connect Toronto is also looking to raise funds through an online competition, with the public invited to vote in support of the initiative. Voting will run through Monday, Oct. 14 at www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf17303
For more information on the organization or to get involved, visit www.hctoronto.org