St. John’s Kitchen’s role as a supportive place with values rooted in the local street culture is important, because people belonging to this culture are often not supported by mainstream systems. In many ways, this is due to the disconnect between mainstream and street cultures.
Mainstream systems are designed to leverage the norms of mainstream culture in order to efficiently serve wide populations. In our society, mainstream cultural norms mean that most people carry ID, have a fixed home address, keep to a schedule, and have the support of their immediate family members. By structuring care around the norms of mainstream culture, systems of support are able to simplify the organization of people and processes, and to define clear limits to the scope of their services.
For people belonging to street cultures, mainstream support systems present a complex set of expectations that are counterintuitive and disorienting. These systems also require a set of personal supports that people belonging to street cultures often do not have. The supports that people do have, which fall outside of mainstream norms, are not embraced, and are often considered illegitimate.
In this context, St. John’s Kitchen has a unique role in local systems of support as a place where activities are integrated with the values of the local street culture. For people identifying with this culture, this makes supports and services at St. John’s Kitchen easy to access and come back to over time.
When people do need to access more mainstream systems, mobile outreach workers weaving through St. John’s Kitchen are available to provide the support of accompaniment and help to bridge cultures.
Sometimes, conversations at St. John’s Kitchen reveal areas where no adequate supports are available. When this happens, St. John’s Kitchen and The Working Centre work to respond in creative ways.