Within moments of crossing the threshold, it’s apparent that there’s something special about the drop-in centre at Evangel Hall Mission (ehm). Debbie at the takeout window is greeting each patron by name, filling their thermoses with hot tea, while discreetly conducting wellness checks on them to see how they’re doing. Three clients gather in the corner to thoughtfully give input on who in the community would make the best use of a recently donated jacket.
Providing basics like food and shelter are what draw clients to ehm. But it’s the sense of community and care for a population where isolation runs rampant that brings a sense of purpose and belonging to the patrons.
Established by the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1913, ehm offers support to those facing homelessness and poverty. Their services range from meals and hot showers to dental care and transitional housing. They place particular emphasis on eliminating barriers for those living with mental and physical health challenges, fighting addictions, and fleeing abuse to ensure they receive the care they need in a safe and respectful environment.
During the pandemic, ehm was one of the few community support services in Toronto that were able to adjust for safety protocols and remain open. They offered help from their driveway and opened a takeout window for food and beverages to adapt to new health requirements while meeting the needs of those affected most by the pandemic.
“When COVID hit, not only did we have to alter the way we provided services to comply with safety protocols, we also had an influx of new patrons when other organizations had closed their doors,” said Ainsley Chapman, Executive Director, ehm. That’s when the organization began its Peer Worker program, hiring current ehm patrons to assist in serving their growing client base.
“I call our Peer Worker program our ‘COVID-tunity,’” says Ainsley. “It’s one of the rare positives that came out of COVID. We were able to create jobs and employ people [like Debbie at the takeout window] that bring a level of empathy that only comes with lived experience.” The newly expanded team put ehm in a better position to meet the demand while maintaining the environment of dignity and inclusion that makes ehm so special.
As the aftershock of COVID continues to drive a rise in patrons accessing their services, ehm, with the support of Daily Bread Food Bank, is now serving over 200 warm meals from its takeout window and drop-in centre daily. With that increase in demand comes a greater need for volunteers and donors like you.
Click here to support Daily Bread and member agencies like Evangel Hall Mission.