Project Water Rolled the Trucks out Today to Bring Water to Toronto’s Homeless
Project Water Rolled the Trucks Out Today to Bring Water to Toronto’s Homeless
KJ Mullins-Toronto: As her voice broke Street Nurse Anne Marie Batten said that a street person died this month because of the heat, “We know that heat kills and that water saves lives.” Without Project Water many of the agencies in Toronto who work with the homeless would be able to save those lives with the source of life, water.
For the people downtown who live on the street a bottle of water can mean they will survive one more day. With the current temperatures soaring in the 30s those who live on the streets need water more than ever. With Project Water those bottles of water are a reality. Founded 13 years ago by Jody Steinhauser of The Bargains Groups to combat deaths of the city’s street community during the hot summer months.
In Toronto more people die from dehydration in the summer than from exposure during the winter. Project Water teams with sponsors such as Nestle Waters Canada, The Bargains Group, Home Depot, Michael Communications PR, Danamark Water Care, Canada Cartage to distribute thousands of bottles of water to front line agencies and homeless shelters so that they will be able to provide relief to those in need during extreme heat alerts. There are plans top expand Project Water throughout Canada so that the nation’s homeless have a chance of surviving the hot days of summer.
Today Newz4u.net worked with Street Health crisis nurse Anne Marie Batten and her volunteers for the day. Her day started with obtaining the water that would be needed for a day of outreach at The Bargains Group. Anne Marie was asked to speak about the need of water for the homeless before a maze of trucks would be lining up to carry the bottles of Nestle water throughout Toronto to the agencies that will be handing them out this summer. The crowd of volunteers were touched as she spoke of how heat can kill. Already in Toronto there has been at least one heat related death in the street community.
As Anne Marie’s jeep was loaded with the cases that would be handed out she took time to speak to local media about the needs of the homeless in the city. It may be her job to do so but the passion behind her voice when discussing the homeless tells of her powerful calling to help those that have fallen through the cracks. Street Health helps those people every day at their Dundas Street East location providing a range of services.
The road from the Bargains Group to downtown was filled with excitement about the outreach that would be taking place. Outreach is more than handing out a bottle of water, it’s taking the time to connect with another person face to face. During those brief moments Anne Marie can assess if a person needs medical care or other needs. At that time no one knew that Anne Marie was walking on a badly bruised knee that would have kept others down.
The first stop was a park in the downtown core with a media crew following Anne Marie’s moves. Not all of the people who could have been helped welcomed the invasion of cameras, waiting for the lens to turn away before they would take a bottle of water despite their thirst. As Anne Marie moved from person to person with her volunteers Marie Michelle, Emma and myself stories of courage came out from those who live the hardest life in Toronto, the life of a street person. There was Michael who has a job and hates that because he makes minimum wage is treated less than by the executives that he passes by every day. Steven, a jolly older gentleman, entertained the younger girls, with his wit and wisdom. He told them how Street Health had helped him when his leg ballooned up and is able to walk easily because of that care. Each person that we encountered had a smile and was grateful for their water bottle.
After the media team left we refilled our bags with more water before going to St James Park. Last fall the park was filled with Occupy Toronto protesters, today small clusters of homeless merged with business people taking a break from the sun. Most of them know Anne Marie, this is her stomping grounds. As they enjoyed the coolness of the water they spoke about their day. It didn’t take long for the water in our bags to be gone.
The next trip was up on Church Street where a small park was the resting area of several street people. One of those had just finished working a long shift in the sun and was about to drop. He welcomed the water before laying on the hot ground to take a nap.
Another park, more bottles handed out. It’s never-ending for those who work the front lines. They give their all even when they are hurt themselves. At the end of the day Anne Marie’s knee was hot to the touch and painfully swollen. She wasn’t thinking about her own pain though, her words were devoted to those who she serves, the homeless, and how they are some of the most remarkable and brave people that she knows.
Thankfully for them this summer these city heroes will have a bottle of water to give to the thirsty when the days are hot. Project Water is more than just those bottles of water though, it’s the connections that are made for those during their hardest days by a front line worker with a smile and big heart.