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Helping our Homeless – Project Winter Survival – Anne Marie Batten

At this time of year when temperatures are starting to drop, our thoughts turn to our homeless friends and many ask how they can help. It is difficult for many of us to imagine how someone could sleep outdoors in the winter but on any given night hundreds in our city are out there. For these folks, there is no choice.

I would like to share a project with you that is an essential part of helping our homeless community. This is called Project Winter Survival. This project has been operating for fourteen years in our city and they have provided thousands of sleeping bags and survival kits each year to homeless service providers. Outreach workers who are on the front line every day and night distribute these supplies into the hands of those who are out there sleeping rough.

When an outreach worker meets with someone who is facing homelessness, sometimes there is mistrust toward the outreach worker. These kits provide us with a communication tool as well. We have something to offer our homeless friends while engaging in conversation, establishing trust, and starting to work with this person in the hope of encouraging them to come inside. Many folks do not come inside the first time we meet them, there is a getting to know you, building trust process. While we are working with homeless persons and in between our visits, we have provided items of assistance until we are successful with bringing them indoors. As well as a sleeping bag, the kits contain survival supplies such as a hat, gloves, scarf, socks, food items, water, toiletries, weather poncho, hygiene products etc.

As a street nurse, I am very grateful to have this program in Toronto as lives are being saved. Of course, we would prefer that no one had to sleep outside but until we are successful in housing people, we do what we can to help. If you are interested in donating or becoming involved as a workplace please see link below: