Homelessness. It’s a word that brings up many different emotions in people. We all know it’s an issue; we see it every day. Walk over to Tim Horton’s across from Building 9, and you will likely see a cart filled with someone’s worldly possessions. Many of us know about places like the Hope Mission and the Mustard Seed, among many others, which serve hot meals and provide warm places to sleep. But what about the everyday services we take for granted, like going to get a haircut?
Homeless Connect is a bi-annual event that provides these basic services, including mental health assessments, immunizations, dental care, laundry, employment and training services, and more. Along with these offerings, MacEwan nursing students are available to link people to services for foot care and nutrition, and to provide information on fevers and taking temperatures.
“This event brings all of the necessary services under one roof,” said Kristin Penner, one of the team leads of this community initiative. “There is healthcare, employment opportunities, housing, nail [and] hair care, clothing donations, social services, etc. It gives people an opportunity to seek help if they want it, or to have a warm meal.”
Through this initiative, nursing students are able to connect with homeless people to learn more about this vulnerable population and to gain experience in connecting with community members.
“Volunteering as a nursing student allows you to build trusting relationships with people in the community — not only with the homeless population, but with other service providers,” Penner said.
“There is a lot of stigma associated with people who are homeless, and volunteering for this event raises awareness as to the complex needs of people who are experiencing homelessness. We have the privilege of meeting numerous people from various backgrounds, all with different stories to share. It is a great opportunity for us to learn about our own community.”