Men’s Mission – Forging Connections

Gordon Russell, Director of Shelters

Gordon Russell, Director of Shelters

There are a multitude of situations that lead men to the Men’s Mission doors. Some men are suffering from mental illness (or illnesses), others are struggling with substance abuse, and there are men wrestling with the criminal justice system; there are also men who are in precarious housing situations or are dealing with conflict in their housing, where they see no other way to resolve it than to leave.

The previous instances listed are simply the most common circumstances that can lead a man to seek emergency shelter, but anything can happen to anybody at any time. This can result in financial straits or feeling alone, while lacking a safe, reliable support system.

Gordon Russell is the Director of Shelters for Mission Services of London, with oversight for Men’s Mission and Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter. He notes that, while homelessness is an economic issue (because individuals do not have sufficient financial support to take care of themselves), the challenges people face are also greater than that. “There is a lack of support, a chronic estrangement that leaves people struggling on their own. I want people to understand that you can’t just tell them to get a job and then it’ll be fine.”

Men’s Mission is there for struggling men as, primarily, an emergency shelter. The other services that Men’s Mission offers also meet basic needs that each person should have: nutritious food, access to clean clothing, and points of connection with others.

At the Men’s Mission kitchen, clients have the opportunity to receive three meals per day. There is also a Guest Meal program (through sister branch Community Mental Health Programs) that allows hungry men and women not in shelter, to access a bagged lunch prepared by the Men’s Mission kitchen.

Also, Men’s Mission offers a men-only clothing room that provides men in shelter with clean clothes at no cost to them; this gives them access to seasonal, appropriate wear and also to a clean change of socks and underwear –staples in constant need.

In addition, an often-overlooked aspect of Men’s Mission, 24/7 supports for men staying in shelter, gives a human dimension to the emergency shelter experience. There is someone for clients to talk with at any time of the day, on any day of the week. This fosters a connection that allows Men’s Mission staff to walk with clients as much, and as far, as they can.

Gordon notes that, “There is disconnect from support networks, and not just between these men, but between all of us. It is important that we learn to engage with our neighbours. And you should start with your immediate neighbour so it’ll be easier to engage with your neighbours on the street. Just say hi, and perhaps even engage in conversation.”

Connection is the one thing we are all capable of fostering. Gordon explains, “Twenty-seven years ago, someone said to me that individuals who are experiencing homelessness are looking for four things: a place to be (like a home), meaningful work, they are looking for a friend, and they are looking to belong.” These are all fundamental aspects to being human. Sometimes, due to various circumstances individuals lack even these most basic human needs.

“We are all citizens of London and each person deserves respect and neighbourliness. Connection begins with individual action,” concludes Gordon.

Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel, Communications & PR Coordinator

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