Overview of Gateway 2009 stats
Here we are in 2010, exactly 10 years after the Y2K crisis when many folks believed that the world might very well end as soon as the dates changed on our computers. But here we are still walking along through life and trying to make the best of it while we still can. And through those 10 years we have seen many amazingly beautiful sights mixed with some horrible events that have each changed us all forever.
One of the things that’s happened in the last decade is the creation of The Salvation Army Gateway. We will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of our existence on Valentine’s Day of this year, and we too have witnessed over this past decade both beautiful and tragic things that have changed our lives forever. This story of bitter-sweetness continues on day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year, and I guess now decade-to-decade.
In 2009 we’ve yet again come into contact with many different people, each with their own stories that have brought us moments of pure joy along with deep pain. When all is said and done, despite the many challenges and heartaches along the way, we all would agree again this year that it’s a gift and a privilege to be involved with this work and to be able to journey alongside so many beautiful people who call the streets their home. While it is impossible and perhaps absurd to try and measure or explain success in any real tangible way in a place like Gateway, here are some of the few pieces of evidence that should reveal how truly necessary communities such as this one really are.
1. We had 57976 visits this year to our drop-in and shelter. This means that an average of 159 different people came through our doors each and every day of 2009. This number is up from 154 last year and is staggering in that almost 160 people every single day in one of Canada’s wealthiest cities need to come here for their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.
2. Of a possible 39,420 bed nights in 2009, we used 38734 beds. That means we had a 98.26% occupancy for the entire year, which thankfully is slightly down from last year but is still an alarming number. In 2005 we were at 95.11% and the numbers have risen gradually every year, with the slight exception of last year. This demonstrates very clearly that while some strides may have been made last year, homelessness is still a very major problem that needs very serious attention by all 3 levels of government as well as the church and the rest of the community.
3. 1137 different men stayed at our shelter for at least one night in 2009. Of that number, 621 of them stayed with us for less than 2 weeks. So 55% of the men who stayed with us are folks who are experiencing short term homelessness. These numbers are very similar to last year’s, which demonstrates a changing trend. There was a time when that number was at 65%, but I think that due to the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, and the very difficult path it is to get meaningful work and a decent place to stay in Toronto, that more and more people who have capacity and a desire to work are struggling to find suitable employment and housing and are therefore needing to stay longer in the shelter. The housing and job markets are so fragile that most people experiencing homelessness in Toronto today are those who simply can’t find the means to pay rent in a place that isn’t a slum. These are working class men who are trying to get by but need to humble themselves for short periods of time by living in a shelter long enough to get back on their feet. This is a direct result of the recession in my opinion.
4. We still have 2 housing specialists on staff whose entire job is to help link our residents to affordable and appropriate housing. This year we housed 208 different men into their own apartments. This number is down from the 227 men we housed in 2008, and I would speculate that this drop is due again to the issues I have outlined in my previous point. However it is still cause to celebrate in that as we have 108 beds at Gateway, we housed almost 2 full shelters of people this year.
One of the many things I am proud of with our housing work is that we purchase a brand new single box spring and mattress for every person we house. So last year we bought 208 beds for folks, then loaded them up in our van, drove them to someone’s brand new apartment and helped them move in. This year saw a great new partnership between our housing department and a group called ‘Hockey for the Homeless’. These folks donated a significant amount of money that was used to purchase start-up kits for folks that we have housed as well. So now not only do we give the resident that we house a bed, but we give him over $100 worth of start-up supplies like kitchen aids, cleaning supplies, bedding, toiletries, etc.
5. 534 of the 1137 different men who stayed with us in 2009 had never booked a bed with us before. This means that almost one in every 2 men who stayed here were brand new to us. This number is again very close to the number in 2008. So while people are obviously getting out of the shelter system regularly as you can see by the previous point, there is a steady stream of new people coming in who are slipping through the cracks of our towns and cities all across Canada. Homelessness is not just a Toronto problem; it’s a Canadian problem.
6. The average age of the men who stayed with us this year is 42.8. This has been a consistent age (though very gradually rising) from the day we opened our doors until now. Again, this is clear evidence that middle aged men in our culture have a very difficult time finding meaningful work for meaningful pay and essentially have been declared unemployable.
7. Due to the fact that it is becoming more difficult for men to find work, we took matters into our own hands and opened a social purpose enterprise. Gateway Linens is an industrial laundry facility that we built and opened in 2008 for the purpose of training men who live in the shelter to reintegrate into the workforce. It has been such a smashing success that we have decided to move and expand the operation. We will be moving from our current rented space to a Salvation Army owned property which allows us to expand the program twofold. So we will be up and running hopefully in March of this year and able to do twice as much laundry and enroll twice as many men into the program. We needed to raise $92,000 to purchase the new machines for this expansion, and on Christmas Eve, thanks to our new found relationship with a group called Charity Intelligence, I opened an envelope with a cheque in it from a very generous donor for that exact amount needed to purchase the new machines. This was the beat Christmas gift I could have ever hoped for. Now all we need to do is raise $190,000 to do the actual move and renovations of the new space…I have great faith that this money will come in.
We plan on opening new social enterprises this year in garbage disposal and in printing. We’re very excited about what the future has in store for us in this area.
8. Our case management team was running on all cylinders this year, after a tough 2008 for us in keeping the positions filled due to staff going off to better their education. This was a remarkable year with lots of great0 work done on the part of our 2 case managers. Once a person has been with us for a week, we enter into case management mode with that individual. We do a one-hour intake interview where we find out who the person is and what their needs are. But more importantly we explore what their gifts, talents, hopes and dreams are. Then we develop a goal-plan together with the resident, and then we walk with them towards those goals. This year we recorded 1991 different counseling sessions, our highest number on record. We helped 65 people secure their ID, and assisted 30 people with employment related issues. Our case management structure in many ways is the back bone of our program and this year was a very successful year on that front.
9. We hired a new addictions counselor in May of this year who has taken this place by storm. In the 8 months that he was here, he referred 25 of our men into treatment. He has also started a support group called ‘Let’s Talk About Life” and an average of 12 guys show up for this meeting every Monday night. Having been an addict himself, he has really connected on a very deep level with our men and he has proven to be a wonderful gift to us, to our program, and to our community.
10. We served 113,864 meals in 2009. This is down slightly from last year but still a huge amount of food and of course with that, a huge expense. When I see this number every year I am left with the same question; Why? Why is it that so many people in Toronto need to flock to places like ours just to eat?
11. Our chaplaincy this year took on yet another new look due to a change in position. Our current chaplain moved into the role after having been a housing specialist. So he really has a very firm grasp on our program and that has proven to be very helpful. We were thankful to see a rise in our attendance in chapel services which we celebrate (Chapel is completely voluntary. You don’t have to go to chapel if you don’t want to and you won’t get extra French Fries if you doJ).
We also sadly saw a lot of people die this year which unfortunately kept our chaplain very busy. 11 people who were part of our community lost their lives to the streets this year; almost one per month. Some were horrible and violent and happened right on the street and others were slow, grim and painful deaths in a hospital bed. All were tragic, unnecessary and shameful.
12. We had a very successful upswing in the amount of volunteer time we experienced at Gateway this year. We recorded 8955 hours of volunteer time this year, up by almost 1500 hours from 2008. We certainly can use more volunteers to help us serve meals and do other things but we are thrilled that people continue to give freely of their time. We also now do street orientations for groups of any kind who want to take 3 hours and be exposed to some of the realities of our streets. So if you have a youth group, church group, or a class or even a corporate group that you’d like to take out to the streets, or if you’d like to volunteer here, we’d love to have you. You can contact our volunteer coordinator Erika at email@example.com
13. Our health care clinic, consisting mainly of a nurse and a family doctor who come occasionally throughout the week, saw 1218 visits this year. That’s up again from last year’s number of 1103, which is up from 1013 the previous year and even more from the previous year of 771. So over 100 people per month get health care here that feels safe and accessible to them.
14. Our high support outreach team, which goes out to the streets every day of the year to build relationships with people who live outside, has really evolved into a powerful piece of our program. In partnership with the city’s ‘Streets to Homes’ plan, our outreach work has become far more about quality and far less about quantity. Our outreach specialists spend a lot of time with individuals in effort to help encourage people to come in from the street and into housing. We housed 15 individuals directly from the street and into housing as a result of our work on the streets. Our main focus areas are the Don Valley as well as the Danforth. Our outreach specialists are a great team consisting of long time veterans who have worked here for a lot of years as well as a man who has himself lived on the streets for almost 20 years.
15. Our drop-in centre which is open 5 days per week (including all weekends and holidays) and feeds 18000 meals a year over and above our shelter residents is currently still not funded by any source. We are the only drop-in in our area that is open on holiday Mondays as well as many Saturdays and Sundays. This program costs us over $80,000/year to operate and yet we are still not funded by any source.
16. Our many other programs that have successes that can’t be counted are still in operation. We still have several fully functional computers online and accessible to our community to aid in email, computer skills, job and housing searches, etc. Our other efforts to build community this year involved things such as a softball team consisting of our residents and staff (this year we came 2nd in the tournament, again…), picnics, BBQs, camping trips, Stephen Ministry support, special event parties, clothing distribution (we distributed around 10,000 free articles of clothing this year), a money saving program, and Christmas packages where each man who woke up here on Christmas morning got a bag stuffed with Christmas gifts.
17. We revamped and re-launched our website, www.thegateway.ca, this year. Check out my occasional blog there if you think of it. We’re also thankful to have a ‘donate online’ option which proved to be quite successful to us over Christmas and we are eternally grateful for. So if you’re out there and would like to contribute financially to our cause, we could definitely use the money and would be extremely thankful for your gift.
So, it was a good year for us overall I think. We feel like we have excelled and surpassed our expectations of whatever successes we had hoped for. And we know that we have touched many lives in 2009 despite the many speed bumps along the way. We are looking to 2010 through a lens of hope. We have a great team on board with us right now and all positions are filled with excellent people. Our laundry program is a massive success and will be expanding. Everything is in place for a good year.
But yet our hearts continue to break for the many people who continue to be left behind by this society that in large part values excess, material things, money, power and prestige over human life.
So we continue to place our trust and faith in the Creator and Sustainer of all things, whom we believe with all of our hearts to be bigger than homelessness, bigger than poverty, bigger than crack cocaine, bigger than guns and gangs, bigger than our Prime Minister or the President of the United States, and bigger than we are.
For now, we’ll keep on trying to be
The Hand of God in the Heart of the City.