A Fresh Start

It is really no secret that homelessness is one of the most overlooked issues currently facing our society today.

It is likely something that the majority of us regularly witness without ever actually stopping to think of a long-term solution beyond that of offering a few dollars or the leftovers from our last meal.

Yet, some humanitarian organizations do recognize the real and dire need for action and are working to come up with solutions. The Winnipeg-based Siloam Mission is one of those places.

In addition to providing its approximately 110 residents with a safe roof to sleep under, 3 meals a day, warm clothing, and regular accessibility to healthcare, the Siloam Mission has additionally launched many other “progressive services,” according to Cathy Ste. Marie, a communications spokesperson for this organization.

One service is The Mission Off the Streets (MOST). This is a program which gives Siloam residents a way to earn as much as $11 per hour by cleaning the city’s streets.

Ste. Marie explains more about how the program came to be:

“We were witnessing more and more men and women who desired to get back into the workforce yet were just so down and out. Many had lost their residences. Some folks had lost families. It is such a very hard situation to envision yourself getting out of, and all confidence is simply lost.
Yet we additionally saw many people that had skills, folks who were quite the opposite of what others preceive when they consider homelessness. Once these folks got out there, they really loved it. Because it was giving them purpose and a reason to get up in the morning.”

This initiative found success after it was launched back in 2009.

The work program is currently full-time, Monday through Friday. And last year, it employed about 86 people and was responsible for more than 720 miles of streets getting cleaned and around 886 bags of trash getting collected.

Siloam is using this program to give people who have lost everything to develop skills upon which every job is based, like reporting to a superior and working within a team.

When these residents are ready to move back into employment, Siloam takes things a step further with a vocational rehab program.

This step is done through a program called Building Futures, and it is designed for people who require assistance securing sustainable employment.

Building Futures determines the skill levels of residents who have succeeded in the MOST program and helped develop their strengths through skill assessments and training. This can mean providing career information, securing funding for schooling, or helping their residents build literacy skills.

Ste. Marie recounts one such story about a man who came to them last Christmas, having held the same job for 25 years only to one day find the doors locked, and the company bankrupted.