For those of us fortunate to have a steady income, access to food, and a roof over our head, allows us to live in a fairly comfortable manner. But for over 200,000 homeless persons across Canada, this sense of security is not available to them. Thankfully there are people willing to help.
Salvation Army’s Niagara Mobile Outreach Program (NMOP), founded in 2004, has been making stops on St. Catharines streets to directly assist those in need. In 2011 the program was expanded through funding by the Niagara Region, enabling the program to help those that are homeless (or at risk of homelessness) across the Niagara Region.
Six nights a week their team makes scheduled stops in their truck, giving their clients a definite time and place to receive basic necessities such as a warm meal and drink. Although the program did serve 18,000 meals last year, the truck acts as entry point to the wide reaching system that the Salvation Army offers.
“We have a paid worker on the truck who has a degree in the social services field, and they engage the clients to find out what their issues are, why they’re homeless, or at risk of homelessness,” said Major Tony Kennedy, the pastor of the Salvation Army on Niagara Street.
Kennedy went on to say that through these interactions with their clients the social worker is able to assess their needs and direct them to other services they offer, such as their food bank, clothing through their thrift store, anger management classes and assisting them to find affordable permanent housing.
In a discussion with Carrie McComb, Community and Family Services Manager for St. Catharines and Welland, she highlighted that the program’s success is directly a result of its volunteers’ contributions.
“Volunteers are a huge part of our organization and what we do. Without volunteers, for any of our programs, it would be difficult to run those programs as well as we’re running them, and in the capacity that we’re running them,” said McComb.
Volunteers assisting the NMOP play an important role through their preparation or serving of food from the truck. But their involvement also serves another important purpose, as it allows the social-worker to step away from the vehicle and build relationships with clients who use the Salvation Army’s services.
The Salvation Army is always appreciative of any new volunteers interested in assisting the Niagara Mobile Outreach Program. Please visit nmop.ca for more information and to access their contact page for volunteer opportunities.