The Parenting Biz – Windsor Essex Organizations On The Front Lines In The Fight Against Youth Homelessness

In this edition of Biz X our main editorial content targets homeowners in time with the annual Windsor Home & Garden Show. However, for The Parenting Biz section this month we are tackling a major issue in our community that impacts, in some way, each and every one of us — homelessness.

While we are all nice and comfy in our beds with a roof over our head, we need to think about those who are less fortunate.

There are many organizations and groups who are doing their part to help the homeless.

Each year in March, the Canadian Association of Business Students (CABS) organizes 5 Days For The Homeless, a national campaign that raises money and awareness for youth experiencing homelessness in Canada.

Participating schools have a week of events and education, which often includes participants sleeping outside for five nights to start a conversation and raise awareness. Donations raised are given to local shelters and programs to support their services within the community.

“By forgoing their comforts, students are encouraged to gain empathy for the situation someone experiencing homelessness might face,” says Cole Hutchison¸ Vice-President of Charity for CABS. “Money raised is donated to the charity partner of each school’s choice and the funding is used for emergency shelters and a variety of services. Often, shelters have depended on this campaign as a major portion of their year-to-year budget.”

The University of Windsor, Odette School of Business is a member school participating in #5Days and more information on this national campaign can be found online.

So who else is helping those living on the streets locally? The organizations that we spoke with for this article below provide food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and other services to homeless youth in Windsor and Essex County.

Let’s now learn more about each of them.

Basic Necessity Of Life: Healthcare

Homelessness is a complex issue that affects many individuals, but for youth, it can be particularly devastating.

Anyone who experiences homelessness is often faced with unique challenges, such as lack of access to quality healthcare, struggles with addiction and mental health issues, and difficulty navigating the healthcare and social services system.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless in the face of such challenges; but for youth, oftentimes it feels even more hopeless. However, there is help in the heart of downtown Windsor at 711 Pelissier Street.

Street Health is a program of the Windsor Essex Community Health Centre (weCHC), and its mission is to improve the health and well-being of eligible clients, from ages five and up. The team at Street Health is made up of passionate and dedicated professionals who are committed to providing essential services and support to those who need it most.

Shawn Rumble, Director of Clinical Practice for Street Health & Addiction Services at weCHC states: “Our staff serve in so many capacities with the client’s needs foremost in mind. They are literally Hope Dealers, Stigma Slayers, and Community Builders, not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of the people they serve.”

One of the ways that weCHC Street Health is helping to transform lives is by providing access to quality healthcare.

The primary care team offers comprehensive health services, including health assessments, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses, blood drawing services, psychiatric medication injections, respiratory therapy, and chronic disease management.

With access to quality healthcare, youth can specifically take control of their health and work towards a brighter future.

Another much needed way Street Health helps people is through its Foot Care Nurse program.

For individuals struggling with foot-related health issues, the Foot Care Nurse offers medical foot care to eligible clients with disorders such as diabetes. Better managing your own health can help avoid more serious health problems in the future.

Clients of Street Health are offered confidential counselling services provided by their Social Work and Addiction Support Workers. These professionals focus on improving the well-being of clients through a collaborative approach, offering one-on-one counselling, family counselling, group support, and outreach, with a goal of either harm reduction or abstinence.

With the support of the highly qualified team at weCHC Street Health, homeless and homeless youth can find hope towards completing their healing journey to improved health.

Partnerships are important to weCHC Street Health, together with Pozitive Pathways they provide harm reduction resources to those in need. The program provides harm reduction supplies and equipment, education, counselling, naloxone kits (intra-nasal and injectable), and training to clients throughout Windsor and Essex County.

With access to these resources, individuals of all ages, including youth, can reduce the risks associated with substance use and work towards a safer and healthier future.

The team at weCHC Street Health provides quality care to individuals affected by or at risk for Hepatitis C. With multiple access points, peer support, short wait times, flexible scheduling, and education and support for clients and loved ones, individuals will find support in managing this serious health issue.

weCHC Street Health takes time to assist clients to navigate the healthcare and social service system, advocating on their behalf and connecting them with the resources they need to succeed. With their guidance, homeless youth have an increased opportunity in finding a path to improved health and well-being.

“Street Health is more than just a healthcare program — it’s a community of hope and support for those who need it most,” comments Rumble. “Their multi-disciplinary team’s passion, dedication, and commitment to helping homeless youth and other individuals overcome the many challenges they face, is truly unique.”

Basic Necessities Of Life: Food & Water, Clothing, Supplies

Located at 964 Wyandotte Street East, the Street Help Homeless Centre of Windsor is a registered charity and non-profit organization that serves all ages, caregivers and youth.

Here, primary families come for help with food, clothing, toys and school supplies, which are requested on an in-need basis.

Opened in 1995, Street Help also provide services to seniors and adults needing sleeping bags, backpacks and other special needs, while food is provided to everyone who asks and nobody is required to provide identification.

“At Street Help in Windsor, our mission as a self-help agency is to provide sanctuary from the streets where the homeless will be given the dignity to provide themselves and others, the services they require,” indicates Christine Wilson, Volunteer Administrator at Street Help Homeless Centre of Windsor. “Street Help is a leader, improving the lives of our community members most in need, making our community a model of giving, understanding and inclusiveness. We pride ourselves in our daily contribution to individual and community well-being; and by sharing common values, we can increase the opportunities for everyone in our community.”

Their main group of seven staff members (all volunteers) provide hot meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, 365 days a year. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate (when available) is also served.

A takeout food service window is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and currently they are serving over 400 people a day (children included) as the need has increased since the pandemic.

They provide unique food bank services to the homeless, distributing individually wrapped snack items, juice packs, bottled water and other food items that do not require cooking along with new clothing depending on donations. Sleeping bags are also given out (anticipating that inclement weather means a sleeping bag will only last a month) and warm winter coats, boots and hygiene kits are also passed out, again dependent on donations. All their services are free.

“I was homeless twice in my life,” Wilson recounts. “Being a homeless kid, I learned how harshly the homeless are treated by many in our community. I was looked down upon each time I begged for money so you can understand why it is of the utmost importance to me to feed anyone who is hungry.”

Wilson also shares with Biz X that when she was 15 and homeless (she ran away from a sexually abusive foster home) there was only one soup kitchen and they only served men. And while there were food banks, you needed a kitchen to cook the food you received, which of course was a problem.

“I have never found it easy, as an uneducated professional,” says Wilson. “Today, I am a self-educated woman. I have basic to medium computer skills, but I was able to open a centre for the homeless that still flourishes. There are many roadblocks and I continue to witness unkindness to the homeless, especially by those in power who do not have understanding and compassion. God kept me off substances for all these years and I believe the goal was for me to do exactly what I am doing!”

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