Giving back during COVID-19
Peer workers like Anita helped over 1,000 people staying in COVID recovery hotels
“As peer workers, we’ve been providing holistic care for people who are homeless and recovering from COVID-19 in three recovery hotels. We’re there 24-7, providing comfort items and harm reduction support to improve people’s stay, chatting with them and supporting them emotionally, and connecting them with resources. We work closely with nurses and other community workers to help people with the extra challenges that COVID and homelessness may create, especially for the issues that arise when people leave the hotels.
My job as a Community Health Peer Leader has made me realize that sometimes all people need is our presence. The relief people feel when they know someone is advocating for them, and helping them with their own unique situation, at a time when they may be dealing with a lot, is very comforting. For me, I can build on my own experience to care for people, not only physically, but mentally and socially.
As someone who experienced substance use and homelessness, this is an amazing opportunity to give back to a community that helped me.”
people in COVID recovery hotels improved their mental and physical health through the compassion and dedication of our peer workers
Rising to the challenge
Jason Bourner shares the difficulties of working at our Overdose Prevention Site during COVID-19
“We’re working extra hard to navigate this surreal situation of operating during the pandemic and supporting people who come to the Site. It’s been tough for us since all of our funding comes from donations, but our struggles don’t come close to the challenges faced by the people we help.”
“For people who are homeless, it’s particularly difficult. They can’t really do social distancing. People have moved from shelters to tents, only to be evicted by the City. They’re grateful that we’re open during COVID-19. One person told me he literally didn’t have anywhere else to go. Nowhere to sit down for a meal; nowhere to shower; nowhere to go to the bathroom. So many people feel isolated and have struggled with depressive episodes.”
“The pandemic has had deadly consequences for all people who use drugs. Market shortages have made the drug supply more toxic than ever, causing a spike in overdose deaths. That’s resulted in tremendous grief in our community, which in turn can lead to more overdoses.”
“Thankfully, we have a great team that has adapted and has risen to the challenge. We’ve made extra effort to distribute naloxone kits and provide training, to remind people of the dangers of using alone and how to use more safely. And we’re working with all levels of our government to raise awareness about the overdose crisis, and the need for decriminalization.”
“It’s a privilege to provide whatever support we can for the exceptional, resilient people who come here.”
increase in visits to our Overdose Prevention Site between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020
Coming up roses
Nasrin Safary, Identification Worker in our PAID program, understands how having proper identification turns lives around
Nasrin Safary, PAID worker, fondly remembers the joy one of her clients felt when talking about decorating his own apartment with roses
“Trevor was 65, alone, and living in a shelter. He had many health issues and lost of most of his teeth. When I met him, he had lost all of his identification. Without ID, he couldn’t apply for housing, health care, or even the most basic services. He didn’t even have proof of his entry into Canada.
I helped Trevor apply for his replacement immigration documents, and provided an agency letter so he could get his health card and start receiving social assistance.
Not long after, Trevor came to my office with tears in his eyes. ‘You don’t know what you did for me. I was working with all these aches and pains just to survive. I couldn’t get any help without ID.’ He shared other good news: he was applying for old age security through one of our partners, and he had his own apartment, even decorating it with little rose plants. And he was getting dentures. Trevor was so happy that he could enjoy his meals!
Whenever I see roses in my garden, a smile comes to my face as I think about the joy Trevor felt:
This was a dream for me. You made it came true. Now I can live the rest of my life in peace and happiness. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”
people gained connections to essential rights - housing, health care and social services - by receiving government identification
The heart of the matter
Emily Brunelle helps people with endocarditis who use drugs intravenously
Endocarditis is the inflammation of the heart’s inner lining. The mortality rate in the first year is 5.5%. For people who use drugs intravenously, it’s a staggering 30%. Through the Cardiac program at the Augusta Centre, we save people’s lives by alleviating factors that contribute to mortality.
Emily Brunelle, Case Manager in the program, helps people with any surrounding issues. From providing referrals for primary or mental health care to assisting with applications for housing or identification, she provides personal attention to vulnerable people who may not have anyone else.
“We’re helping people who don’t have any community support, who haven’t worked with a Case Manager before. And providing holistic services helps them in so many ways that we might take for granted. I just did a Toronto Community Housing viewing with one of my clients. He’s got multiple health complications so getting him a safe home in a city like Toronto where getting good housing is so difficult…it’s super exciting!”
“Getting wraparound support is only part of the issue. Most people in the program don’t have the social support to help them cope. Unfortunately, stigma still plays a role. And in the midst of the pandemic, the problem is magnified.
Emotional check-ins, especially during COVID-19, is a big part of what I do. Even a brief chat to let them know someone cares goes a long way.”
mortality rate within one year for people with endocarditis who use drugs intravenously