Sunday, September 20, 2009

Calgary Homeless Connect 9/19/09

September 20,2009
I set the alarm clock for 7:30 a.m. but my internal clock woke me at 5:30 a.m. (a carryover from the shelter life) and there was no arguing with it. I still waited until 8:30 before heading out to catch a bus to the Suncor Building. I expected to arrive downtown around 9:15, by then the doors would be open and the line would have been considerably reduced. The line was down to about 75 people and the wait time was around 20 minutes. Which by homeless standards is quite good. Volunteers came by serving coffee and flat muffins to us. Upon entering, each client was asked to participate in a survey... so much of this world (shelter services) relies on statistics which are used to justify funding for almost everything. Instead of increasing funding for the increasing numbers of homeless; I'd so love to see us redirecting the funds into affordable housing initiatives and reducing those numbers. But until attitudes change we must continue to gather our statistics.
One of the joys of events like Homeless Connect 6 is that everyone is so nice, friendly and open. Last time I was at Homeless Connect as a volunteer on the intake desk, this time I am a client. Most of the volunteers seem to be from the industry (social services) which gives them a higher comfort level when dealing with the homeless population. I've noticed at the soup kitchens I have gone to, that many volunteers won't look you in the eyes when you pass. A very nice young man introduced himself then gave me a walk through mini tour of the exhibitors. After which we (clients) were encouraged to wander freely through the building.
There were over 50 agencies represented. One booth gave photo I.D. (4x6 cards to hang around one's neck like something a 5 year old would be issued for a school field trip) not government issue but better then nothing. I have often wondered why the D.I. doesn't use the technology we have for staff I.D. cards to create pocket sized photo cards for the clients. Is there perhaps some government regulation against producing I.D. that looks like I.D.?
The most immediately useful areas were the free hair cuts, hygiene products (rationed to 4 items each), clothing tables and dental screening (that was a long wait list). The agencies represented addiction services, job services, abuse prevention, family services, health services and housing resources, brochures were available and kind, knowledgeable staff were on hand to answer any questions. Much of this comes under good to know... but it is unlikely people would be signing up for treatment programs during the event. So I guess the single most important piece of paper we came away from this event with, was the 2 page "Project Homeless Connect 6" agency directory & map. Saved in the side pocket of a backpack or the bottom of one's locker it is an at a glance list of services that can be referred to as the need arises. Thank-you Calgary Homeless Foundation... for this and all your other hard work.

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