Event offers glimpse into homeless experience

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You’re a 15-year old girl with suicidal ideation who has just been kicked out of your home by your emotionally and verbally abusive mother. You have no money and no place to go and you’ve been ordered to take your pet cat with you. What do you do?

This was just one of seven scenarios that attendees of the April 12 Linking Hands Homelessness Maze were tasked with solving during the interactive portion of the event. Other scenarios included single moms, dual-parent households, working poor, single seniors, married seniors with intellectually disabled adult children, young adult males with addiction issues, persons whose first language is not English, and so on.

“The scenarios were created by a team of agency representatives,” Linking Hands coordinator Sandy Casselman said. “Each scenario is based on a compilation of real-life situations.”

More than 80 people attended the full-day session at the Joel Steele Community Centre in Winchester, including politicians, agency representatives, and community members.

“What an amazing experience today presented,” HOL Volunteer Coordinator Vicki Cane said. “We were given a scenario/role play of a young man who was in an immediate homelessness crisis and our goal was to secure a place to sleep, food and future income. Services were spread out in the building for us to access but each service required things of us we did not have or [they] were unable to accommodate our needs immediately. It felt very real. It was very humbling. It was eye opening. Every politician should be required to participate in workshops like this one so they can understand where the need is, where we fall short and that these services are vastly underfunded, ultimately tying the hands of service providers with red tape.”

The day included a debrief session, where participants were able to talk about their experiences and agencies were able to answer questions about available services, as well as the gaps and issues that exist around those services.

“I would like to congratulate Linking Hands on a fantastic day,” Cindy Drouin, Community Relations Worker for Cornwall and Area Housing said. “I was there as a booth but three of my co-workers walked the maze and found the information very eye opening! Thank you again for this wonderful learning opportunity.”

The intention for the day was to create awareness around the issues people face when attempting to secure need-ed services within the community. The event sponsors hope that this awareness will not only help community members and agency representatives to be more empathetic toward this sector of the population, but also pro-mote necessary changes to fill gaps and solve existing issues.

For more information, visit www.linkinghandsdundas.ca, or contact Sandy Casselman at [email protected], or phone 613-989-3830.

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