A Spoon for Change
by Kparker on April 25, 2014 - 2:53pm
I have recently become interested in how Quebec services have tried to reduce homelessness. What attracted me to this social issue is how the Quebec Government plans to give 52 Million dollars to “tackle homelessness”. This money is going to provide education, health services, housing, and social inclusion activities (CTV Montreal, 2014). I have decided to look further into a specific nonprofit whose goal is to reduce homelessness and what type of services that they offer to tackle this reoccurring issue.
After a quick GOOGLE search on homeless shelters in Quebec, it lead me to the nonprofit, Mission Old Brewery. What is interesting about Mission Old Brewery is the amount of services that they have to offer. Not only are they a traditional soup kitchen but they aim to provide a stable and secure environment for the homeless by offering transitional, housing, and emergency services. They also have a separate service specifically for women that helps provide support for women’s basic needs. The Mission Old Brewery is able to provide these services through donations and the volunteers that they acquire, this allows them to not just serve the homeless, food but also provide stability through hiring counselors and transitional housing.
As a change consultant, one is to investigate the fundamental goals and ideas and see if the programs are successful or need to be adjusted. Mission Old Brewery is a service that needs to continue because they have the basic fundamentals of delivering a community experience with the volunteering projects that they have. What is interesting and most likely attributed to their success is their “Supper Experience”. This is a dinner where volunteers offer their help in providing dinner to the homeless. They also take a tour of the shelter, and donate $1,500 dollars, bring a group of 3-12 people to take part in the dinner. The goal of the foundation is to “be a part of a meaningful and caring experience, building a sense of community while developing a better understanding of homelessness” (Mission Old Brewery, 2014). This goal reminds me of a Sociologist named Emile Durkheim who would argue that building a sense of community or integrating someone to community would be an ideal way to help the problem of homelessness. Once the volunteers feel that they are a part of something meaningful and have developed a sense of belonging to their community is when a Collective Efficacy will occur. Collective Efficacy is when a group or society comes together and participates in the same action, thus leading to a more unified group and social change will occur (Wikipedia, 2014).
However there is a small flaw in this in this mission. This “Supper Experience” is only one out of eight events (the other seven events people have to create themselves), that would create this collective effervescence, which is an experience that the community feels after they’ve participated in the same action. Once this experience is felt, the feeling of acting together for a common goal, it has to be preserved. One way to preserve this feeling is to develop collective representations of this nonprofit, this could be a symbol that the agency gives to the families and people who have participated to remind them of the goal that they have worked towards. This representation could be a framed certificate of their achievements and participation in the Supper Experience along with an engraved spoon with the date that they participated, symbolizing them actually feeding the homeless.
The other ways to get funded or donations are through simply giving money or attending golf events. These events will not be as successful as creating a community social action as the “Super Experience” because there is not one specific same action aimed that the exact goal to reduce homelessness. Majority of Mission Old Brewery’s funding comes through donations, but their mission is to” strive to permanently reduce homelessness by offering emergency, transitional and housing to the homeless” (Mission Old Brewery, 2014). The obvious outputs of this nonprofit are to, feed and provide the homeless with clothing and satisfy basic needs of survival. Although this is necessary, it does not contribute to a long term effect of ending homeless all together. Their inputs, resources through donations are too individualistic and their services that they offer only change homelessness for individuals, not the society. Durkheim would argue that we also need to attach the homeless to the community.
Using a Theory of Logic Model to promote change, we can see how this nonprofit can adjust their activities to have a more successful output of permanently reducing homelessness. By attaching the homeless people to the community, the more they will feel that they are a part of something, making their life more meaningful and with the help of the transitional services that the mission already has to offer, they will want to feel more a part of the community. I would advise that the “homeless” would help out at fundraisers and be more interactive during the fundraising events to create more of a collective effervescence between all community members. The outcomes of this new implemented program would be to have a more integrated community and more people working on a common goal of ending homelessness permanently, this is the long-term goal. By keeping the same resources, donations and volunteers, I would recommend that we just change the fundraisers to include more of a task for the “homeless” to work on, this would include, possibly making the flyers for the event, checking in runners at marathons, possibly during “Bake Sale” have a competition and have the “homeless” be the judge of the best cupcake/cake etc. I think it would be interesting to do a reversal “Supper Experience” instead of the community serving the homeless, have the community feel how it is to be homeless and have the homeless serve the volunteers. This would also lead to a Collective Effervescence experience.
Another way to “permanently end homelessness” is by introducing a new way of thinking about homelessness. The Mission Old Brewery’s website states that “Several factors contribute to homelessness: poverty; inability to pay rent; stress associated with job loss; family crisis; drug or alcohol abuse; gambling addiction and very frequently, mental illness. No one is immune from the possibility of becoming homeless” (Mission Old Brewery, 2014). By stating that no one is immune, the community that is not homeless needs to understand what the other side is like, in order to eliminate the stigma of homelessness. A sociologist named Blumer would argue that we need to change the common definitions of the community before social change can occur. By this I mean change the idea of homelessness from “dirty, or the word poverty” to “Housing Equality” more people would try to fight and change the homeless conditions (2011). This could be implemented with the Supper Experience as well. By having a role reversal of the community becoming the “homeless” they are forced to “walk a mile in their shoes”, leading them to change their definitions and thoughts of poverty and homelessness.
The Mission Old Brewery is the most successful homeless shelters that I have ever heard of or investigated. By not only having a traditional soup kitchen, but also offering educational counseling services and transitional housing that helps provide the people with stability is a key element to their success, by just adding more community events to create a unified experience, homelessness could be reduce significantly, even eliminated.
Blumer, H. (2011). Symbolic Interaction, Phenomenology, and Ethnomethodology. In P. Kivisto, Social Theory: Roots and Branches (pp. 242-248). Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Brewery, O. M. (2014, April 7). Mission Old Brewery. Retrieved April 24, 2014
Montreal, C. (2014, Feburary 28). Quebec unveils $52M plan to tackle homelessness. Retrieved from CTV Montreal News: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/quebec-unveils-52m-plan-to-tackle-homelessnes...
Wikipedia. (2014, april 14). Social Action. Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_action
Original Post by: Nivetha on April 7th Homelessness and Youth: How volunteering at the Old Brewery Mission can help the issue