Job Cafe and the Kitchener Downtown Street Outreach Project

Good Work News, December 2003

This summer and fall, two projects, resulting from the Kitchener Downtown Community Collaborative have taken shape. In particular, the Kitchener Downtown Business Association, The Working Centre, Kitchener Housing and the City of Kitchener have worked closely to implement both the first phase of the Job Café and the downtown street outreach worker. Each morning at 8:00 am, four workers, mostly with few chances at other work, have worked three hour shifts keeping designated routes clean and helping out with downtown festivals and events. Over 50 individuals were able to earn up to $150 per month. This project has provided individuals with a way of solidly contributing to keeping the downtown clean. During the second week of November, the back of The Working Centre was used to store and coordinate the Christmas decorating of the Kitchener downtown with over 300 Christmas trees and wreaths.

In June, after hosting Matt Young from Burlington, Vermont, who described his approach to downtown outreach, a commitment was made to get the program started in September. Downtown Outreach is a work in progress that is already starting to show results. We have received some start up funding from the City of Kitchener. The position is hosted and supervised by the Kitchener Downtown Business Association and The Working Centre. Gerard Keogh has spent the first two months supporting and assisting people who find themselves homeless or at risk in the downtown. The work has ranged from assisting Kevin, a homeless person, suffering numerous ailments, who died on the street in October. After Kevin died, Gerard distributed a card that Kevin’s family had put together to remember him.

Gerard is on the street talking and learning about the trials of being homeless. One individual, who he had met at an Out of the Cold site, was working at temporary jobs but could not afford first and last month rent. After some interventions, this individual was able to get housing. This basic, street level work helps people avoid getting tangled in an unnecessary crisis that the system easily imposes on individuals. Interventions have helped businesses and people on the street. The important work of downtown outreach will take shape as relationships, stories and support are shared in wider circles.

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