Saturday, 4 October 2014

Winter Collections For Our Homeless Community

Now that fall has arrived and temperatures are dropping our thoughts turn to our homeless friends who are facing life on the streets. In my experience, there are many people who want to help but are not sure of how or what to donate. We continue to wish for proper housing but until that can happen we do the best we can to meet physical health, mental health and emotional support needs.

As front line drop in staff we also assist with nutrition, supplies and clothing. If you are interested in helping with donations we can ensure that your items will go directly into the hands of those who need this support. Here is a list of items most needed:

Coats - mens and womens
Boots - mens and womens
Hats, Mitts/Gloves (nylon outer are best)
Thermal Underwear
Jeans, Trackpants
Underwear - mens and womens
Sleeping Bags/Blankets

Also hygiene supplies such as shampoo, soaps etc. from hotels that you may have at home are always welcome. Toothbrushes, toothpaste and cough drops are also helpful.

If you are interested in donating items please contact me or contact All Saints Church and Community Centre. Thank you for making a difference!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Nurses Week 2014

As another Nurses Week draws to a close, I was faced with an interesting question this week. "Why should we celebrate Nurses Week?"

Although every nurse may answer this question a little differently, I have taken some time to reflect on what nursing means to me. Nurses often speak in acronyms so I have created one for my Nurses Week 2014.

Self Care

Nonjudgemental - Treating all persons with dignity and respect is a foundation of nursing. We practice by providing care to everyone without judgement and free of discrimination. We are trusted professionals and although we realize this, we do not abuse this trust.

Understanding - This involves looking at the whole person. We look beyond the obvious or the presenting complaint for what may really be occurring that is not being shared. We ask open ended questions as part of our assessment to gather the information we need to provide care in a holistic manner.

Rationale - Although we may not share our reasons, there is a rationale behind the decisions we make and the suggestions we give for improving your health. For best outcomes, it is important to base decisions on evidence based practice and our holistic care on trauma informed practice.

Self Care - Compassion Fatigue is occurring within the nursing profession. It is not uncommon for us to be working without the tools we require to do our jobs effectively. Many nurses are stretching ourselves beyond what is recommended in regard to our own health. Being self aware and developing rational detachment is essential to our well being. If we do not keep ourselves healthy, we cannot look after others.

Education - Nurses provide health promotion and education everyday. We recognize gaps in our current health care systems and we have the suggestions on how to bridge those gaps. One important way to make a difference is to educate others on the importance of prevention. If we shift our focus toward prevention of health concerns and mental health challenges we can move away from a responsive model. This will have a positive impact on the lives of those we care for.

I wish all of my colleagues a Happy Nurses Week and all the best in the coming year!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Crisis Intervention In Real Time

"I'm a nurse, can I help?"
These words are not complicated. As nurses, we say this everyday without recognizing the potential impact we can have on someone's life. While assisting in an online crisis intervention, these words are saving lives.

As society becomes more accustomed to sharing our lives openly using social media tools, it only makes sense that persons needing assistance will reach out through this same method. Who is there to offer help? This is where Real Time Crisis comes in.

The concept for Real Time Crisis grew from a focus group comprised of leaders within community mental health, education, social services, law, probation, transit safety, policing, nursing and most importantly persons with lived experience. We have built a collaborative team of professionals all passionate about making a difference and bridging the gaps in our current system.

Our focus is on prevention of mental health crisis. We are proactive in a currently reactive system. We recognize the importance of a "Listen More, Talk Less" approach. Through direct online engagement with the person in distress we provide support and assess level of risk. Communication occurs through private messaging for confidentiality. We incorporate a level of response that is appropriate to the level of risk. Safety of the person at risk and all service providers is of paramount importance.

We are real professionals intervening in real time. I look forward to sharing more information as we move forward in becoming fully operational. Thank you to our team members, followers and all those lending support as we proceed with this exciting new venture.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Resources - Homeless Community/Winter Storms

I am compiling a list of resources and contacts that anyone can use should you see someone in need of shelter. Please use your judgement and based on your comfort level, you can decide if you wish to approach someone and ask if they need help.

If the person does wish to go inside there are some options:

The City of Toronto has a Shelter Assessment and Referral Centre located at 129 Peter St. (corner of Peter/Richmond) Transportation to that location may be a barrier, you could help with a TTC token or call Streets To Homes at 416-392-0090 and outreach workers can assist. Within the city of Toronto, a call to 311 will also connect you to services, City Shelter Assessment and Referral Centre is a free call from any payphone 1-877-338-3398.
Please see link for City of Toronto services:

If someone does not wish to go to shelter, Out of the Cold programs are a good option. These programs are staffed by volunteers and are available at various locations around the city. Usually dinner is served and also breakfast is provided in the morning. Again, transportation may be a barrier so a TTC token could be helpful.
Please see this link for more information and locations:

If someone appears to be in need of assistance and you would like an outreach team to attend on scene, please call 311 or Streets to Homes at 416-392-0090.

If you are outside of the City of Toronto, please call 211 or visit this link for resources:

If someone is experiencing a medical emergency or is in acute distress, please call 911.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Project Winter Survival 2014

At this time of year when our temperatures start dropping, we turn our thoughts to those who are sleeping rough on the streets. Every night in the city of Toronto, there are hundreds of people out there without shelter. When someone is staying outside facing freezing rain and snow, the average life of their sleeping bag can be a few days. If someone is fortunate enough to have a structure to stay within, their supplies may last a little longer.

Persons who are homeless rely on organizations to provide essential supplies such as sleeping bags, hats, mittens, hygiene supplies etc. The reality is that many of these organizations are not for profits and/or charities that are struggling to meet the needs. It is difficult for those wishing to help but facing the frustration of financial limitations.

Fortunately there is an organization called Engage and Change that assists us each year with a program called Project Winter Survival. Last year 3,000 sleeping bags and survival kits were distributed to over 170 social service agencies. The survival kits are backpacks filled with essential supplies that help to ease the strain of life on the streets. Sleeping bags and survival kits are distributed by outreach workers from the receiving agencies.

From an outreach perspective, it is important to note that in many cases these supplies are a tool we use to establish trust with the person at risk. There is often a process involved with getting someone to safety and it may take a few outreach visits with supplies to gain the trust necessary to accomplish our goal of getting someone to safety.

If you are interested in helping with this project, please consider making a donation. With the holiday season fast approaching providing someone with sleeping bag and survival kit could be a unique and meaningful gift.

Thank you for making a difference!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Have you ever met "Eddie?"

Yesterday, I was on my way to work like any other day.  As people were rushing out of the subway and toward an escalator, I noticed an elderly man. He was carrying a bag of clothes and walking with a cane. As I walked closer it became obvious that he was visually impaired. I said hello and identified myself as a Street Nurse.

Before I could ask if he needed any help, he told me his name was "Eddie" and that he was looking forward to his day of people watching in the downtown. He was vague about where he stays at night but assured me I had no need to worry about "all of that."  Eddie shared that he had worked as a Chartered Accountant and could have been considered very unlikely to have fallen on hard times. He had a lot of questions about what a Street Nurse would do and advised me to write a book about all the people I must meet along the way.

Eddie was up to date on current affairs and had a lot to discuss about the state of our world. He asked me if I had a Halloween costume and shared what some of his best costumes had been as he was growing up. He also reminded me how in his day, people made homemade fudge and taffy apples for the kids. "And isn't it funny that nowdays you can't give out anything unless its wrapped?" I agreed with Eddie but he said he understands that the world can be a riskier place these days.  He shared some stories about his siblings and their Halloween adventures many years ago.

His face changed quickly as he shared that two of his siblings had then grown up and left for the war. He lost two siblings and life was certainly different after that. Eddie told me that its very important to just keep living your life and not waste time on things you cannot change. I knew that I was going to be late for work but somehow talking to Eddie just seemed more important than the clock.

When it was time for me to leave, he asked me to please remember him and to include him "if you ever write that book."  I hope that all of you get the opportunity to meet an "Eddie".  Don't hesitate to stop and say hello when you see someone in need. Their day and yours as well could be forever changed.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Stay Connected, Stay Safe

If you are a street outreach worker or setting up a team, it is important to consider incorporating the use of social media into your practice. Although agencies are concerned with costs during these times of budget constraints, it is essential to recognize the positive impact of being connected. For both safety reasons and as a source of knowledge and resources the cost of smart phones is minimal.

During severe weather episodes this past year, an informal group of outreach workers kept connected and were able to provide services across the city in an innovative way. This would not have been possible within our traditional system as our workplaces did not have "partnerships." Fortunately, this barrier did not affect us as we were previously connected on Twitter.

By following weather alerts, social media emergency management teams, emergency services, police etc. we are able to keep updated in real time. We can communicate with each other by using direct messaging, BBM, WhatsApp etc. for privacy. As there are no catchments in the virtual world, we have the ability to connect with other outreach workers in any location. Being connected allows us to be aware of trending issues such as missing persons, viral outbreaks in shelters, harmful street drug alerts and time sensitive issues within our communities.

Real Time Crisis is currently being established as a result of these connections. Follow us @realtimecrisis for more information and for support in connecting your outreach team. Stay connected and stay safe!