Four years ago, Stephanie (name changed) was a vibrant girl who rollerbladed through East York. Very joyful and happy. Then, she became pregnant and somehow her baby was taken from her. She went downhill afterwards and her personality changed. She tried to protect herself by taking shelter in a building, but even though it was the middle of winter, the landlord kicked her out.
One concerned neighbour was walking to the store and saw Stephanie laying underneath some blankets. She tried to speak with Stephanie and explain that there are places in the city where she could go. Stephanie refused, and said she didn’t want to go to a shelter. Somehow she is very attached to the area.
The neighbour tried calling several organizations in the city. The Red Cross said they attempted reaching out to 7 different organizations in the area, but no one could help Stephanie. The neighbour then called a local shelter that was close to where she lived, asking if they maybe could send a tarp or a blanket. The receptionist on the phone grew angry with her saying she’d have to come and pick up a blanket herself. She tried 311 and was disconnected after a 45 minute wait. When she finally reached the city office, they promised they’d come to help; but each time she walked by Stephanie, she remained under the same wet blanket as she had the day before. She made her some coffee and an omelette and Stephanie simply reached out a hand to take the food. She had become numb to the world.
Finally, Stephanie’s neighbour saw that we published an article on the homeless situation so she reached out to us. “ACSA Toronto” is an outreach organization that serves Scarborough that survives through the donations made by others to purchase items for their street outreach. When Stephanie’s neighbour reached out to us, we were able to share their number with her (one way social media is helpful). She immediately reached out to them, and ACSA promised they’d make a trip out to see Stephanie as the snow was coming down hard and the weather was supposed to dip in the night.
Eric Cheung is the Senior Manager of Operations and Donor engagement and was on the shift with his colleague, Jennifer. They updated Stephanie’s neighbour after they left. They were able to give Stephanie a new sleeping bag (as her’s was wet) some glove warmers, a Tim Horton’s gift card for some food and tokens to take a bus if she needs shelter or a place to go. Cheung told Tdot Women that the need for street outreach has increased with the unprecedented streak of extreme cold alerts.
As Stephanie’s neighbour told Tdot Women, “I’m not letting this go. I am definitely going to bring this to the attention of somebody how they (ACSA Toronto) came. They didn’t have to do this! That’s how outreach people are supposed to work.”