Hope Links North Perth aims to create a comfortable atmosphere for residents in need

LISTOWEL – If all goes according to plan, community members in need will have another tangible support before the freezing cold of winter sets in.

“We call the program Hope Links North Perth,” said Gwyneth Woods, director of family services for the Salvation Army in Listowel.

“The aim of Hope Links North Perth is to offer tangible assistance and in doing so open up opportunities to listen and strengthen as allies those we serve. ”

In 2020, the Homelessness Subcommittee of the Centraide Community Committee began examining homelessness in the region. These discussions began to formulate options on how it could be approached. Part of this discussion was about accessible showers and laundry facilities.

The Salvation Army worked, in partnership with this committee and now its advisory committee, to develop a program that would meet these needs.

“It was probably at the end of August last year (that we realized) that we don’t have time to put everything in place for the winter. We had a pilot meal program in place, from January through April of last year, which went very well, ”said Woods. “It was very well received and showed us a larger group that needed extra help. ”

There was an 85 percent increase in the hot meal program from week one to week six, Woods said.

With Hope Links North Perth, a program is being created that will run three days a week. The program will take place at The Village Table (the former Christ Anglican Church building) on ​​Main Street in downtown Listowel.

“This is Ann and Darryl Voskamp’s building and they have agreed to partner with us,” said Woods. “We can use the space there three days a week, so it will be a downtown space and a little more accessible for the people we are helping.”

Hope Links will connect clients with services within the community based on their self-determined needs and goals while providing tangible on-site services such as hot meals, laundry facilities and showers.

“While providing these services on-site, we will have trained staff and volunteers who are present and ready to build these relationships,” said Woods. “We’re looking to hire a full-time staff member this fall, then we would have two to three volunteers on site.

Hope Links will operate with all current COVID-19 restrictions and maximum capacity limits in mind.

Woods said they hope to recruit volunteers soon as they will need some training.

“We want to make sure they have tools in their pockets,” she said. “We will be doing initial training in partnership with Ontario Works. I take crisis prevention training so that I then train all of our volunteers so that some of these pieces are in place and our volunteers can feel safe and those in attendance can also feel safe. ”

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact [email protected] or call 519-291-3200.

“It’s an interview process and then there’s quite a bit of training that we’re going to do, which people are reluctant to do with volunteering sometimes, but especially in this scenario, I think it’s really important,” Woods said. “We want to make sure that they will be responsive and welcoming and that they will also have tools. Everything has been budgeted for. Everything that is mandatory is covered.

In North Perth, homelessness in its most visible form as a homeless person has become more apparent in recent years. According to recent homeless counts, many people are sheltered on a temporary or precarious basis. Interim housing is when someone can surf on the couch with friends or stay with a family member without a formal rental agreement. Precarious housing is when people have to live in fear that their landlord will evict them because they don’t necessarily have the money to pay the rent.

In a recent survey of residents of Perth and Huron counties regarding the rural response to COVID-19, Professor Leith Deacon of the University of Guelph received data which indicates that throughout the pandemic there has been huge variations in the perception of mental health. In income brackets below $ 50,000, there was a 60 percent decrease in perceptions of excellent mental health and a 75 percent increase in those who self-rated their mental health as poor.

“The outreach sparked a deeper consideration of the needs of the community and a deep desire to serve and help,” said Woods. “We’ve been hearing this from people a lot lately. United Way Perth Huron has been actively working on the development of a site for a community hub where service agencies can work collaboratively in a physical space allowing easier access for community members, especially those with limited financial needs. Although many service agencies are interested in doing this, the process has been slower than expected.

Hope Links has been approved as a supported partner by United Way Perth Huron.

“Our budget is made up of dollars that were raised through our own fundraising and dollars that come from this supportive partnership with Centraide,” she said. “In addition to that, we’ve started looking at other possible partnerships, so we’re starting to reach out to other service agencies to get in touch with them. Hopefully this means that they can either be in the program on the regular days or they can train our staff on what they offer and how they offer that, and how people can access it or just provide us with the information, that either they are leaflets or brochures, so we have them at our disposal to give them to people who enter.

Woods said The Salvation Army’s community and family services do not normally seek financial donations except around Christmas time. However, since this is a start-up program, the committee creates a list of items that will be needed and seeks donations to cover these costs.

“Some of those things will include big things like washers and dryers for the program,” she said. “It can also include smaller things like towels or cleaning products. ”

Hope Links encourages guests to set self-directed goals, and to that end, Woods said the goal is to develop relationships with everyone who visits.

“You know yourself, if you have a friend who says, ‘hey, did you know you can access this? “You’re much more likely to follow than if you just see a flyer,” Woods said. “We want to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable, where it’s a place where they are known and they know us.

There is still a lot of work to do, but the goal is to open in October.

“Centraide is co-financing the project with the Salvation Army. So we are very happy to be able to do that and we were able to raise funds locally in North Perth, mainly thanks to the Out of The Cold walk that we organized in February, ”said Ryan Erb, CEO of United Way Perth Huron. . “We are grateful that the committee that worked together on housing and homelessness issues in the region had this idea and Gwyneth was able to move forward, so here we are… we are proud to be a funder. fundraising and proud to have supported the work that helped decide this was the right direction for the community.

About Lucille Thompson

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