The fifth Homeless Connect took place this past Sunday at the Shaw Conference Centre. We were afraid we would be late for the morning orientation, but when we arrived, we found an absolute logjam of people at the registration tables.
It turned out that the computer systems were down, and as a result, volunteers had to be checked in on paper, a time-consuming task given that volunteer lists were not grouped in alphabetical order, but by shift length and post.
Thankfully, we both knew which area we had been assigned to, so our check-in time once we reached the front of the line was quick, but it undoubtedly meant orientation times were pushed back, and in our case, was cut drastically short.
Dave and Mack
The doors were to open at 10am, and by the time we reached our stations, we had just a few minutes to get our bearings at the registration desks. The set up had been flipped around this year, with the entrance to the hall having been moved to the west side. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to orient ourselves to the services available this year, and the paper map that was provided to us wasn’t detailed enough – neither Mack or I were able to locate the Bissell Centre identification station or clothing depot on the map, among two of the most requested services by guests (on our way out, we did notice a great addition – the offer of ice cream to those who took the time to do an exit interview).
At our station
Unlike May’s Homeless Connect, the line did not let up that morning at all. We were scheduled to work until 1pm, and the crowd had petered out somewhat by then, but there was still a line. Mack and I both registered 39 people (not including children), and noticed a few trends at least from the guests we talked to: more families seem to attend this time around, and this was the first Homeless Connect for many of the guests. Mack also noticed that many more guests than last time indicated that they were renting their own place (which would make sense given the 900+ people that have been housed through the Housing First program in the last year).
I know bureaucracy prevents government from being more coordinated than it could be, but I was frustrated on behalf of the guests who talked about their need for official identification. I was excited when I read about the pilot being done by the government to allow individuals to use the address of a shelter to obtain an ID card, and though I know it isn’t realistic for them to have set up shop at the event so quickly, how great would it have been if they had, especially with the fantastic turnout at Sunday’s event?
At the end of the day, approximately 1500 guests had used their services, an increase from six months ago. Bravo to Homeward Trust for coordinating another successful event!