Street Outreach with Soul
There are approximately 35,000 marginalized individuals experiencing homelessness in Canada every day. They are divided into two distinct groups: those who are temporarily homeless – the transitional homeless – and those who are chronically homeless – living on the streets for more than one year. Each of these individuals lacks both accessible and sustainable resources for health, and safety. More than anything, they lack compassionate support and care.
- Over 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year, including over 5,000 in Toronto alone (Toronto has the 2nd highest homeless population of any Canadian city).
- Approximately 1,350 chronically homeless people die each year in Canada, with an average life expectancy of 39.
Ve’ahavta’s Theory of Change
- by providing health supports, referrals to shelters, and essential supplies, we can meet the basic physical needs of homeless or under-housed individuals, and we can ensure their safety.
- by providing consistent, frequent, and compassionate service, we can decrease social isolation, and build trusting relationships that provide the emotional support needed to create change.
- by engaging and educating volunteers, we can raise consciousness about homelessness, reduce the stigmatization of the homeless, and inspire people to seek solutions to end homelessness.
Ve’ahavta’s Mobile Jewish Response to Homelessness outreach van(MJRH) is one of the most effective and valuable services responding to the needs of people living on the streets of Toronto. Volunteers join the Ve’ahavta Outreach Worker five times per week, delivering coffee, food, clothing, hygiene supplies, and supportive companionship to the city’s homeless population in Toronto’s downtown core. One of the program’s unique features is its focus on the development of relationships based on trust and accountability with service users, a key element in their potential to restore their lives.
Ve’ahavta outreach workers also provide case management and advocacy for select service users on an as-needed basis. This extension of MJRH services connects service users to resources such as counselling, correctional services, health care, and access to secure housing.
A harm reduction component of Ve’ahavta’s outreach services includes the provision of kits (needles and crack pipes) to substance-users, upon request. Harm reduction supports positive hygiene practices and has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis dramatically.
MJRH works in partnership with a number of shelters and health support services in Toronto in order to share resources, knowledge, and develop specific programs in the interest of our common service users.
Some of our network agencies include: Covenant House, Evangel Hall Mission, Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre (PARC), Fred Victor, Scott Mission, and Streets to Homes.
We extend a special thanks to Sistering for providing harm reduction supplies to our program.
Want to know what a night on the van is like? Check out this blog post written by former summer student Hannah Ziegler.
Call to Action
Each MJRH van shift is facilitated by a Ve’ahavta Outreach Worker accompanied by three volunteers who receive a hands-on education and volunteer experience.
Each year approximately 600 volunteers give over 3,000 hours of volunteer time to assist MJRH Outreach Workers on the MJRH outreach van!Learn more about volunteering on the outreach van
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to have such pleasurable and interesting conversations with some of the homeless people we met through the van program. Recently, we were stopped at a light at one of the van stop locations, and began to chat with one of the van’s clientele we had met previously through the program. It was amazing to be able to interact instead of just “ignore”. It made us feel better about the world and it made us feel that we were equal somehow.
– Rachel Yaegar, MJRH volunteer
“Where Ve’ahavta stands out is its consistency. Ve’ahavta provides food and clothing, but your workers forge relationships with the clients and give useful and practical advice, and when possible offer real help. Because the van is out there almost nightly, there is follow-up and accountability for both the worker and the client. This continuity makes positive results possible. Which is why, in addition to maybe two other outreach groups, I cannot think of another organization as effective as Ve’ahavta.”
-Sheldon A. Hosannah, MJRH client and Ve’ahavta Street Academy Graduate
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