Homeless Connect: Providing Holistic Care to Marginalized members of downtown Toronto / by IMAGINE Clinic

By: Farhat Hossain

How do we cater to those truly in need? Many of us as volunteers, and future health care providers, are united by our goal in making a meaningful difference in their lives. It is through this experience of assisting others do we come to understand the struggles that members in our community face and that we want to alleviate those hardships troubling them. However, we need to constantly assess whether our organization and care is enough on its own to improve their quality of life, and how we can better connect individual services to create a network that best serves our patients.

The IMAGINE clinic advocacy committee recently attended Homeless Connect, an event in downtown Toronto that brings together essential resources for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness. The event brought to us a unique insight into the diversity of low barrier services available to marginalized populations in the Toronto area. The services presented at the event gave us an awareness of the many challenges these individuals have to face. Some of the services offered included providing temporary housing/shelter, on the spot access to health care services and information about clinics, legal advice and consultation, social support, employment support, and food and nutrition services. Several services also focus on specific groups within the homeless population including women, veterans, youth, new immigrants and refugees.

An interesting aspect of these services is that the organizations work in collaboration with one another. For example, the organization Sistering advocates for marginalized women by providing temporary shelter, access to meals, clothing and sanitation needs. However, they also provide referrals and navigation to other organizations that are providing health care and social support demonstrating the importance of organizations working with one another and being informed of the various resources offered by other organizations.

Homeless Connect did not only provide a resource to members of the homeless population but also provided an important networking opportunity among the different organizations. The focus of these programs are to provide for immediate short term needs as well as to assist them in developing long term goals such as improving social skills, preparing for the workforce and engaging in preventative healthcare. The various organizations provide hope and empowerment to the marginalized members of our community to help them achieve their full potential.

The IMAGINE clinic plays an influential role in addressing the needs of the homeless population and integrates smoothly into this framework of services in providing a low barrier health service. Homeless Connect provided an opportunity to work with other organizations to bring awareness to the free interdisciplinary health care services the clinic provides to underserved populations. In building these valuable partnerships with these other support services, the organizations are able to better connect with one another in hopes of better addressing needs of marginalized members of the homeless population.