“In a pandemic, we’re not switching on the idea that Men’s Mission is an essential service because it was already switched on,” said Gordon Russell, Director of Shelters. “It’s essential because if there is an absence of it, it means that people are on the streets. Without an alternative, people will be without shelter and food while being exposed to a host of risks associated with constantly being outside,” he explained. “The alternative isn’t just shelter – it’s the supports that go with that and the attempts to reestablish their housing in the process”.
To continue offering these essential services throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Men’s Mission collaborated with several community partners including other local charities, the Middlesex-London Health Unit, and the City of London. “We’re one piece of that… When you look at collaborations, we’re part of the conversations of how the system is going to work during this point in time,” shared Gordon.
One of the most significant collaborations took place in light of the need to practice physical distancing. Due to the congregate living environments of emergency shelters, it was necessary for some men seeking shelter at Men’s Mission to move to a hotel space facilitated by a partnership with the City of London. In addition to directing men in need to the hotel, the Men’s Mission team is also providing nourishing meals and 24/7 support to those staying at both the hotel and shelter space.
Community collaborations have also been particularly important in terms of ensuring meals are available to hungry neighbours in need. “During the pandemic, some traditional sources of food and meals are suspended because they are congregate in nature. For example, meal programs at churches where you go into a space and eat together – the ability to control that space is difficult. So during the pandemic, those informal food programs closed. If you’re struggling with poverty, those sources of food security are gone”.
In response, the kitchen team at Men’s Mission (see several members of the team pictured at the top of this page) expanded their services to not only include their own dining hall and delivery to the hotel, but to also provide meals to other London organizations who support those in need. As you might imagine, the kitchen has been busier than ever as the team continues to draw upon their dedication, perseverance, and devotion to those in need. “Our staff have been great at identifying needs, altering routines, and aiding each other to ensure everything is completed as a team and no one person is overburdened,” said Andrew Scott, Shipper & Receiver of the Men’s Mission kitchen. “Our partnerships with other agencies give us an avenue to share between organizations and best serve those in need. Over the last few months, our confidence in our abilities has grown and providing these services has become a familiar routine”.
Expanding emergency shelter and meal provisions during the pandemic have been impressive feats for the Men’s Mission team. “It’s positive that we’ve had the opportunity to respond in this way,” said Gordon. “It also points to a more basic issue – people require this because they are without a home, they are experiencing homelessness”. By coupling a safe environment and filled bellies with counselling and referrals to community programs, the Men’s Mission team continues to walk with men in need on their journey toward stable housing and a hopeful tomorrow.
Written by Amy Bumbacco, Communications & PR Coordinator