As I travel around the Diocese, sharing the good news of FaithWorks, parishioners often ask to hear the stories of people who have been helped by one of our FaithWorks Ministry Partners. In response to your requests, we are happy to introduce you to some of these people. Here are their stories.
Mary: “My job is cleaning the City of Peterborough. I love it, it gets me out in the fresh air and gets me exercise. I get feedback from people that we’re doing a great job and to keep up the great work. I’d like to keep cleaning, and expanding to other areas of the city, and in the winter.” (16 October 2020)
Kimmie: “The job gets me outdoors and I have fun and laugh. I love Jenny because she’s a great boss. It’s been nice to have a little extra money that is all mine. It had been a long time since I had worked. This makes me want to keep working. I’m glad to clean up this city.” (16 October 2020)
North House is a not-for-profit charitable organization who supports the North Durham townships of Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge through their mission of providing a spectrum of housing supports for those who are at risk or in crisis in North Durham. Established in 2004, North House has been assisting the low-income residents of the community as well as the most vulnerable who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
In March, the world was turned upside down. 2.6 billion people in our world went into self-isolation. The impact on us is immeasurable and involves the loss of so many things. COVID-19 has greatly affected the day-to-day lives of our community, but more specifically, the most vulnerable individuals are facing greater barriers. As we continue to maneuver through the daily changes during this pandemic, we worry about our seniors and our homeless. We are all trying to do what we can to keep them safe and free from the feeling of desperate isolation.
North House has always focused on housing, but in response to COVID-19, North House felt the need to make a slight shift in order to help meet the needs of our community. North House outreach staff prioritized both their senior and homeless clients, past and present to ensure their safety and to help to alleviate anxiety and isolation where they can. Completing over 133 wellness check-in calls during March staff identified the gaps in services within Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge townships.
Individuals contacted indicated that food insecurity is their biggest concern. Access to food has been an obstacle to many due to transportation restrictions, health-risks, lack of funds and mobility concerns. Accessing a food bank has been a challenge as many individuals have restricted mobility or those with chronic illnesses are at greater risk if they access a public space during the pandemic.
As a result, North House has been delivering healthy food boxes weekly to those seniors who need it. Weekly, on Fridays, the North House outreach team travels throughout North Durham delivering food, checking in and staying connected to the community.
North House has had the opportunity to work with several individuals who were either unsheltered or were living in inadequate conditions and help them apply and move into a new building in Cannington. Some of these individuals have been unsheltered for several years and have had no place to call their own in a very long time.
Once the apartments were secured, North House, through their Community Share Initiative, put out a call to the community for gently used items to help fill the apartments. The community came together in true “North Durham” style, donating several large items such as beds, couches, dressers and tables. With the support of partnerships with local Lions clubs and churches, people volunteered to help pick-up and move the items into the building. With the help of this great community, our newly housed neighbours have somewhere to call home.
Marvin Heller proves that perseverance and believing in yourself gets results.
He was homeless since late 2019. At that time, he was picked up by police on a 20-year-old warrant for a minor offence. Marvin was transferred from Collingwood where he had been working and living on a farm for close to five years, to Newmarket where he sat in custody for several days before appearing before a judge and being released. Although on good terms with his employer, during his time in Newmarket, Marvin had been replaced at work. He received this news at the Newmarket Bus Terminal where he was awaiting a bus back to Collingwood. Marvin was devastated. With no where to go, limited cash, and in a town he didn’t know, he felt completely alone.
A man approached Marvin and asked him if he needed any help. He suggested that Marvin stop by Inn From the Cold to see if they could assist in any way. Marvin describes his first few weeks at Inn From the Cold in early 2020 as “a total shock to my system.” He defines himself as a country man, having worked on farms and doing carpentry for his entire life. Being in Newmarket and surrounded by so many people made settling in difficult. However, with time and according to Marvin, the “lovely and helpful staff”, he was able to start moving forward. He made an application to receive Ontario Works for income support. He also did an intake with LOFT, including a streamlined access application for housing. Marvin broadened his network and began working closely with a York Region Diversion Worker and re-started medical appointments for knee replacement surgery. His knee injury was the result of a farm accident several years earlier. He joined Inn From the Cold’s Getting Ahead in a Just Getting’ By World Program where he learned that others had experienced similar life events that had left them homeless too. Just talking about his experience and putting it into broader perspective encouraged him to keep moving ahead.
When Inn From the Cold’s seasonal shelter was about to close, Marvin went to Kingsbridge Transitional Shelter where he was tested for Covid-19 and placed in isolation to await his test results and be ready if a housing offer came his way. Towards the end of his stay at Kingsbridge, LOFT offered Marvin housing through their Mental Health and Justice Program. He was ecstatic and moved in to his “incredibly beautiful new home” in mid-June.
Marvin continues to visit Inn From the Cold’s Drop-By program regularly, staying connected and continuing to work on his road map to Getting Ahead. When we asked him recently, “What can we do to help you move forward”, he answered, “How can I help Inn From the Cold?” This gracious and kind man is laser focused on his knee surgery, getting back to work, and giving back to the organizations and community that helped him to get ahead!
The Common Table is both urban farm and farmer’s market. It came out of a desire to see healthy produce on the tables of the food insecure residents of Flemingdon Park and the surrounding neighbourhood. The Church of Our Saviour in Don Mills gifted FPM the unused land on their property in 2017 and now, after a few seasons of growing, you will find a farm that produces multiple tonnes of fresh, organic vegetables to be given to the families we serve.
Our produce list includes kale, tomatoes all of kinds, peppers of all kinds, lettuce of all kinds, onions, eggplant, cucumber, zucchini, swiss chard, bok choy, carrots, spinach, peas, radish, garlic, and the list goes on.
The harvested produce is taken to the FPM market where families get to shop with their awarded shopping points, given to them according to family size. Market day in the park is a weekly community event with other agencies and organizations joining FPM to build a fun day of gathering, learning and simply being in community. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 harvest was safely distributed to registered families at the Angela James Arena through a partnership with FoodShare and the Flemingdon Health Centre. Over 750 families were served through this partnership. We hope to reopen our market in the park in 2021, once again building a community atmosphere and bring people together.
“The Common Table Farm thrived this season thanks to agency partnerships. More people received fresh and healthy produce this summer than ever before, and it is ongoing. Snow may be in the air, but the kale is still being grown under row covers. It is joyfully shared with the community each week.”
Amos has been an integral part of the FPM team since early 2018. He came to us through an Investing in Neighbourhoods opportunity provided by the City of Toronto where the city pays the first year salary and contract. We are happy to say that Amos is now a permanent employee and plays a key role at The Common Table farm.
Nigerian born, Amos came to Canada via the United States. As a widower and single father, he believes that Canada has better opportunities for his young daughter and himself. They have been here since 2017. Amos is in process to be a permanent resident in Canada.