© Photo Courtesy of Homeless Connect Toronto
Mary-Lou arrived at Homeless Connect Toronto’s Community Connect event for her foot care appointment. Due to a dispute with a family member, she was unhoused again. She desperately wanted an eye care appointment but couldn’t secure one before the event. She was patient and willing to wait just in case there were any no-shows.
Luckily, there happened to be an opening, and when she was informed, she was incredibly grateful. After her eye assessment, she tearfully exclaimed that she knew something had been wrong. She was so glad to be able to see the optometrist who told her that she needed cataract surgery and would help her get the referral to make it happen.
Mary-Lou is one of the many guests who access the one-stop-shop events, hosted by Homeless Connect Toronto, to get the direct care and support they need.
Since 2013, Homeless Connect Toronto (HCT) has coordinated these “one-stop-shop” events for individuals impacted by homelessness in Toronto.
Based on the Project Homeless Connect, which started in San Francisco in 1998 and has since been implemented by 221 communities in North America, HCT brings essential resources to those who need them most. From housing to employment, ID clinics to health care, and many more services, HCT makes it possible for people experiencing homelessness to find everything they need under one roof.
Service providers deliver as many of their services as they can on-site, minimizing the need for referral or follow-up. As a volunteer and service-run event, people from various sectors participate and actively engage in the solution to overcome homelessness in Toronto.
Over 25,000 connections have been formed through on-site support from service agency partners across the city throughout the last eight years, helping thousands of people access life-changing support.
On top of that, nearly 1,200 unique individuals have volunteered their time with HCT. Each volunteer is provided with training before the events to educate about issues affecting homelessness, as well as sensitivity training to provide a caring and respectful environment to individuals who have experienced adversity and trauma. Most volunteers serve as guides on event day to provide a one-on-one concierge service that enables and empowers guests who attend the event while learning about their individual stories and experiences with homelessness.
“We get up-close and personal with each guest. One client, Thomas, needed assistance with filing his taxes. Only at the end of our time together did I find out that Thomas had poor literacy skills, which is why getting him that in-person support was so helpful. That day, he also had the opportunity to receive housing assistance and a backpack.”
HCT also plays a vital role in facilitating networking and collaboration among service providers. Over 85 service provider partners come together in one place on one day so that individuals can access the help they need. The synergy created from these collaborations creates a community of service providers, which extends to an ever-expanding network of knowledge and support.
Throughout the pandemic, HCT was unable to continue hosting large-scale events. However, they recognized that the support they provide couldn’t simply disappear. They pivoted their response, instead coordinating 15 smaller pop-up events throughout 2020 and 2021, in collaboration with local community agencies.
These Community Connect events helped individuals impacted by homelessness connect directly to over 770 on-site supports in their neighbourhood, including housing support, legal support, tax clinics, eye assessments, foot care, hearing tests, haircuts, and so much more.
“This is the first time I’ve seen so much joy in this place in a long time.”
Homeless Connect Toronto events help individuals impacted by homelessness navigate the complicated system of supports in Toronto. With your help, individuals can connect the dots to end homelessness in their lives. Support these connections by donating at hctoronto.org/donate
Photos Courtesy © of Homeless Connect Toronto
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Since 2013, Homeless Connect Toronto coordinates “one-stop-shop” events for individuals at-risk-of and experiencing homelessness in Toronto. It is based upon a successful initiative, Project Homeless Connect, which started in San Francisco in 1998 and has since been implemented by 221 communities in North America. Our events bring together essential resources on housing, employment, ID clinics, health care, and other services under one roof for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Toronto. Service providers deliver as many of their services as they can on-site, minimizing the need for referral or follow-up. As a volunteer and service-run event, people from various sectors participate and actively engage in being a part of the solution to overcome homelessness in our city.