Tuesday, April 25 – work, Centre of Hope volunteering and tour, family visits, and blog plans
Today feels like a long day. Looking back on yesterday – I did way more yesterday than I did today, but for some reason, today just feels like it was long.
This morning, I worked. I started early as I have a fair amount to get done this week. Andrew had his regular Tuesday morning appointment, then I sent him off to school, and got back to work. Mid-morning, my cousin sent me a message saying he was arriving today and staying for a few night. I made arrangements for my dad to pick him up as I would be working then off to the Salvation Army Centre of Hope for my tour and some volunteering. I got through as much of my work as I could, then transitioned to City work.
At 1 pm I left for the Salvation Army Centre of Hope. As I was going to be in the warehouse, I wore my #ridealong boots for the trip. For many of my ridealongs, CSA approved footwear was required. I found these boots in the clearance section of the Men’s department, and they are a close enough fit.
I was invited to tour and shadow a staff at the Centre of Hope following a facebook post I made in January. I had posted a picture of a man sifting through the garbage for food and recyclables and was commenting on the level of abject poverty I was observing while in Mexico. My friend, a staff member at the Centre of Hope challenged me to spend a day with her at work, to likewise experience the many issues here in London. This was a great idea, and we attempted to schedule a date. Today was the day.
I arrived at the Centre of Hope, somewhat unsure of what to expect. I had worked in social services for many years but admittedly have become further removed from the frontlines over time. We all see poverty, disability, homelessness, mental illness, and addictions to some degree in our normal every day, but I think most of us gloss over this, look the other way, or address it on a higher level. I was still unsure what my afternoon would bring.
We started by touring the facilities and seeing a sampling of the many services provided to hundreds of Londoners every day at the Centre of Hope. We toured the storage space, where resident’s belongings are kept for a few weeks, even after they leave in the hopes that they will return. Bags and suitcases, filled with their only and most valued possessions, left behind and hoping to be reclaimed.
We toured the communal dining spaces where those staying in shelter receive three home cooked meals every day. A space with seating for a hundred or so people. We toured the housing stability bank and some of the program spaces that are available to the community. The chapel where NA, AA, and CA groups are run on a weekly basis – welcoming those who are struggling with addictions. We discussed the different levels of support that are given to the community members who access the Centre.
The shelter offers a few different styles of rooms, from a group situation with 5 beds and individual lockers, and private rooms which are rented to those who are staying long term. I met and shook hands with some of the residents.
I spent time in the detox unit, where 18 beds are available for short stays (7-10 days) who are voluntarily choosing to detox in a safe and supported space. We toured the storage area where donations are sorted for the various programs, such as the Hamper Program, the on-site food bank.
I spent time with the Executive Director who shared with me her vision for the future of services in London and some upcoming changes in how the Salvation Army Centre of Hope intends to provide service to the community. She shared with me the story of one man, whose permission she had to share his story. He went from being one of the top users of the hospital and emergency services in London to not having accessed those services in the past 5 months. Can you imagine the time, dollars, and social costs saved through supporting this one individual? I mean – an average week of three hospital visits via EMS would be thousands and thousands of dollars and would pull that personnel out of servicing others. Now because of appropriate supports, that one individual, while he may still struggle with many things, has not accessed EMS services or the hospital. He has a safe and clean place to call home. We have so much work to do, and there is not a one size fits all solution.
I ended my afternoon volunteering in the food program. Community members can access the food program 9 times per year, an additional time near Christmas, and one further time on an emergency basis. The food program used to provide a bag of food based on household size but recently switched to a choice model. Clients enter and register at the front desk, then are called individually to go to the shelves at the back and select the food from a prescribed list of categories. They don’t get a lot. They receive:
One can of: vegetables, beans, soup, pasta sauce, tuna.
One package of: pasta or rice, side dish, cereal, crackers, milk powder (today they had run out of powdered milk.
And one of the ‘extras’ – things like pudding, a frozen pizza, coffee, cake mix, etc. Larger households get more, but it’s pretty basic.
Larger households get more, but it’s pretty basic. Assessing the options I judged that you could conservatively make 2-4 days worth of food out of the supplies. The cereal could last 4-5 days for breakfast. Day one could be soup and 1/4 pack of pasta 1/4 can of sauce for dinner. Day two – Cereal for breakfast, 1/4 pack of pasta, 1/4 can of sauce for dinner. Day 3 cereal for breakfast, 1/4 pack of pasta, 1/4 can of sauce for lunch, crackers, and tuna for dinner, Mix in the vegetables, stuffing, and beans… well you get the idea.
This is not intended to be anyone’s full nutritious food for the month. Some people access many different food banks each month.
I helped about a half a dozen people select their groceries. They are packaged in regular grocery shopping bags which have been donated. Staff commented that people much prefer choosing their own food, and there is hopefully less waste – someone who is receiving food that they can’t or don’t eat means that food will go to waste, and by selecting their soup and food options, they are getting the items that they will most likely eat or will supplement the other things that they have.
A lot of people still chose Kraft Dinner for a side. I was rooting for the stuffing – one of my favorites, but not too popular as a selection this afternoon.
I wrapped up around 3:30 – and made my way home. Peter, Tracey and their dog Sophie were waiting at my home for me. Ben had come home from school with his respite worker, Ryan. Andrew and his babysitter Alaa had gone to the park.
Tracey had cleaned my kitchen! How lucky am I, that I have a houseguest who is one of those tidy people? I have told her several times that it is not necessary that she help out around the house, but she insists that she is happier to do little chores and keep herself busy. I wish they visited more often 😉 – ok, not just because she is a constant cleaner (partially – because it’s kind of awesome), but because I enjoy their company.
I heated up the leftovers from last nights dinner. Unstuffed peppers, and lasagna. We won’t be having leftovers again tomorrow, as they went over really well.
After dinner, Andrew and I had the opportunity to clean out his backpack, and to organize his bag for school. The boy keeps everything. I don’t know where he get’s it from as Matt and I are both more minimalists. I often do spring cleans and donates forward items we are no longer using. I also try hard not to accumulate “stuff”. Andrew keeps everything. If that boy has ever looked at a piece of paper or drawn a line on it, he keeps it. Tonight, I let it go – provided it’s all going to his room, he can keep the 1″x1″ scrap of paper that he want’s to keep – heaven only knows why. Every three months or so we do a clean up in his room, and I encourage him to sort his papers and recycle at least half. We will likely tackle this in May, then again in July after he has had some time with all the school work he is bound to bring home in June.
We got our new internet service from Start.ca installed tonight, and I’m very excited. Our speed has increased about ten times over our old service, and the change over was very straightforwad. Our download speed is now around 25 – whereas with our old service it was around 2.5. Significant changes – and hopefully it will help to solve my timing out issue in my inbox (my next project to tackle before bed!)
After the kids went to bed, Matt went out to a meeting for a few hours, and Peter, Tracey and I watched a movie. That brings us to now. I am going to review my emails and get some of them answered – the remainder I will do tomorrow afternoon from the office between meetings, then make it to bed – hopefully before midnight.
I will be blogging the remainder of this week, then will do Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Sunday night as we are planning to be out of town, getting the cottage ready for the season. That will conclude my month of blogging.
Blogging each night is taking about 60-90 minutes, mostly of writing, but about 15-20 minutes for reviewing. I know there are still some typos slipping through my review. At this time of night especially I tend to miss them, but am trying my best. It looks like about 100 people a day are reading my blog, and I am amazed, shocked, and a little bashful that so many of you are finding it interesting and following along. Thank you.