Stories from the Frontline
Walk through our doors…
Frontline workers, Becca and Meghan start their morning shift at Unity Project with a hope for good outcomes.
Despite their collective 27 years as frontline support workers, they never can tell what the day will bring – an overdose, serious conflict or the sad and debilitating news of yet another death in our community – but they are always prepared to respond with whatever it takes.
Homelessness is a crisis that someone can face for many different reasons, but it’s not who a person is. It doesn’t define them. Too many people are forced onto the streets simply because they have nowhere else to go. Often, stigma associated with living rough is a significant barrier to community support.
Ultimately the solution to this crisis is increasing minimum wage and social assistance rates and ultimately implementing a basic income, along with creating truly affordable, quality housing. Affordability can be achieved whether through de-commodification of housing, rent controls, or new public housing builds.
Becca and Meghan do their best to navigate these barriers with participants they serve, with the goal of achieving secure housing and lasting stability.
A knock at the door…
The first knock on Becca and Meghan’s door brings a resident named John to ask for cab vouchers to get to his appointment at the hospital.
John is dealing with some serious health issues but is hopeful about the treatment outcome. He smiles and straightens his tie as he thanks Meghan for the vouchers, and she calls to arrange his ride.
The experience of homelessness makes mobility incredibly difficult. Public transit, even for intercity travel, is expensive, especially when a participant needs to travel multiple times per week. With low social assistance rates, some might be forced to choose between a meal or bus fare, a choice nobody should have to ever make.
Meal-time: an opportunity to check in…
Becca and Meghan go door to door delivering breakfast to each of the 40 rooms. Each knock on a door is an opportunity to have much-needed social contact with a resident. Sometimes, this is a simple checkup, other times it’s to fill a need or solve a crisis, but often it is just to talk.
Becca walks up to a door and knocks. Sara answers and invites Becca into her unit. Sara is pregnant, and has been desperately waiting to get a family doctor.
Becca reminds her of an important appointment at London Inter-Community Health Centre today: an ultrasound, to check on her baby.
Sara is trying her best to put all the pieces together, as she knows she may lose her child if she’s unable to provide a stable home. The thought worries her greatly, but her motivation is strong and she is as determined as ever, with Becca’s help.
A few doors down…
Henry has dementia and is being supported in our shelter while he awaits a bed in long-term care. Our shelter provides Henry with immediate support so that he can be as comfortable as possible during this wait.
Meghan talks to him and validates his feelings, delivers his breakfast, and continues on her rounds. Our Frontline Team has to provide more specialized support for Henry’s condition.
The anxiety surrounding the experience of homelessness…
Meghan comforts Alex who has returned to Unity Project’s door after being evicted due to renovations. Alex had been successfully housed for the last 7 years after having been homeless for 30 years.
Being back in shelter is making him anxious. Meghan does her best to allay Alex’s anxieties by providing him as many options as possible – whatever it takes.
Meghan is able to get Alex a spot in our supportive housing where he could live more independently while searching for his own place.
Alex will also be connected to our Housing Stability Program, led by Jess and Jenny where he will be eligible to access rent supplements for rapid re-housing.
Alex’s search for housing begins again. With support from our team, he is never alone during this challenging time.
The nurse arrives for Ray…
With breakfast delivered, Becca and Meghan begin to plan the rest of their day, when the nurse arrives from Home and Community Support. Becca takes her to Raymond’s door.
Ray has a festering wound after spending months sleeping unsheltered with his labrador retriever, Milo, due to limited services for people with pets.
It could take awhile to find a place where both Ray and his dog will be welcomed as tenants, but in the meantime they can take shelter at Unity Project.
During the nurse’s checkup, Becca was able to connect both Ray and Milo to healthcare and they are improving. Progress is initially slow as their search for a home begins, but Unity Project will support them throughout their entire journey.
Good news finally comes…
London Housing calls for Morgan. Their application submitted 5 years ago was approved and there is finally a subsidized unit available for them.
With a fixed income from ODSP, and complex housing requirements due to their disability, Morgan’s options for housing have been extremely limited. Many places offering housing are not equipped to accommodate people living with disabilities.
It’s the right moment for a big hug as Morgan and Becca celebrate this joyous news. In the coming days, Morgan will receive the keys to their new place – a moment that, after experiencing homelessness for any period of time, is extremely liberating.
… and it’s not even time for lunch yet.
“Unity Project has stuck with me through so many of my ups and downs. I really trust them to have my back and support me even though I can be a lot at times.” Says Morgan.
“The trust our participants put in us is rewarding and we respect that every single day.”
– Becca, Frontline Support Worker
“Our participants need and deserve more resources and supports to really break through the barriers.”
– Meghan, Frontline Support Worker