Volunteering at the Old Mission Brewery: A Short but Stimulating Experience
by kevingemme on May 15, 2014 - 1:29am
For about two months now, I have been writing a lot about homelessness in Canada. In fact, this particular social issue caught my attention at first as it affects hundred of thousands of Canadians every year, and a lot more around the world. Moreover, I felt homelessness was an important issue as it can affect anybody. In fact, anybody can become homeless at one point in his or her life, which I believe makes it a social issue that needs addressing.
As I read more and more about news concerning homelessness and wrote more about it, I ended up finding some very interesting information about the subject. To my eyes, the most important and surprising thing I found was a work made by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH). The article entitled “A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in 10 years” came as a shock to me as I did not really believe it was possible to eradicate the issue completely in Canada or in any other country. In sum, the CAEH affirms that in order to effectively end homelessness, we must invest in supportive and affordable housing rather than providing emergency services to itinerants. This to me was very interesting because it was a totally new way of addressing the issue that I had never thought about, as I believed it would simply be to costly to do so. However, this article suggests that it is in fact more expensive to provide emergency services, as it does not keep the homeless out of this unfortunate situation.
After writing about the CAEH’s article, I then wrote about another interesting article concerning the Montreal Health and Social Services Agency. The news article was claiming that the agency had decided to not to go on with the first ever “housing first” model introduced in Canada. In fact, the program that was first known as Chez Soi/At Home, was going to be dropped as the Montreal Health and Social Services Agency claimed to not have enough economic resources to keep that program going. Obviously, this article showed me that ending homelessness with affordable housing is not as easy as it seems because it demands a lot of funds in a short period of time.
Therefore, in order to help the homeless and to learn more about the issue and the solutions, I decided to be proactive about the issue and to volunteer for an organization devoted to helping itinerants. When researching for an organization, I quickly found out about the Old Brewery Mission in Montreal. As I have already mentioned in another article, this organization is one of the most renowned in Montreal. In fact, they have been helping the homeless of the city for over a hundred years now and provide many services to itinerants that need it. That is why I chose to volunteer with them for one evening.
When asking about the volunteer opportunities, I was invited to come and help during supper hours at the Webster Pavilion (915 Clark Street, Montreal) for only an hour. Although having only a short time, I determined that this experience would still be very beneficial for me to understand better the social issue. One interesting fact is that I ended up volunteering with my sister and cousin. In fact, when I informed them that I was going to volunteer for the cause of homelessness, they both were very enthusiastic about it and immediately asked me if they could join too. I think this is significant because it shows that sometimes it only takes one person to take action in order for others to also be proactive in their community.
As this was a first experience for all three of us, we did not know really what to expect at first. However, when we arrived there, we understood that our jobs would be rather straightforward. As we were in charge of the tables where the itinerants would eat, we simply had to set them so they could eat their meal and then take away their plates when they were done. On that particular day, there were not a lot of people that came in, which meant that we did not have too much work to do. However, the experience made me understand an important thing.
In fact, during the volunteering, I had the chance to speak to a few people that would help out regularly at the Old Brewery Mission. Many of them told me that they would sometimes receive up to 600 people during some suppers and that the cafeteria was completely packed. This confirmed to me the idea that there are plenty of homeless people in Montreal. Therefore, if we think about affordable housing as a solution to end homelessness as described earlier, it is important not to forget that there are many itinerants in the city and that all of them must be considered when building affordable housing infrastructures. Also, as there are so many homeless people, it made me understand that if we really want to end this social issue, perhaps it could take more time then the 10 years the CAEH suggests to fund and build housing opportunities for every single itinerant of the country.
In conclusion, volunteering at he Old Brewery Mission was a positive experience that allowed me to truly learn more about homelessness. It made me understand the complexity of the problem and the solution. The fact that I incited two people to volunteer with me made me realize that there is a certain interest in volunteering among people, and that it only takes a spark to make them actually take action.
Here is a small presentation that summurizes how my experience to volunteer at the Old Brewery Mission: http://prezi.com/lc9-cld8jum_/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0...