Kitchener, Waterloo & Cambridge Area

29 Young Street East
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2L4 (Google Map)
Telephone: 519-603-0223
Fax: 519-888-6422

Wellington, Dufferin & Guelph Area

176 Wyndham Street North
Guelph, Ontario N1H 8N9 (Google Map)
Telephone: 877-351-9857
Fax: 519-888-6422


We Won!

On February 11th, Violet, our Manager of Outreach, spoke to the KW Awesome Foundation in the hopes of winning a $1,000 grant. The foundation members voted – and we won!

Here’s what Violet said:

My name is Violet Umanetz and I am here, tonight, to ask you to help fund the Sanguen Community Health Van.

Sanguen Health Centre works with people in our community to maintain, or improve, their health in very specific ways. Our clients include people who live with addictions, mental illnesses, and are experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, youth who are considered “street involved”, and many other marginalized and vulnerable groups.

All of our clients say that good health is really important to them. But while doing our work, we saw those clients split into two very different groups.

One group of people were really engaged and getting or staying healthier in all different ways. And the other group were really struggling, not engaging much, not getting healthier, and they often dropped off our radar for long periods of time.

When we asked people why they were struggling, we learned one really important fact: people can’t focus on their health if they have other, bigger, more important needs. Needs like food, safe housing, warm clothing..

We also discovered that nearly all of the people who were getting healthier had a lot of great support in our community – beyond what we can offer at Sanguen. Most of the people struggling did not have those supports.

So, we did what seemed right – we referred struggling clients to all of the amazing services that had worked for other people in our community. There are a LOT of great agencies and groups doing amazing work in KW, so this was easy-peasy!

Except that it wasn’t. People didn’t book appointments. Or they didn’t show up for them.

And when we asked why, many people told us that accessing those services is next to impossible because of some pretty big barriers – like not being able to afford transportation, business hours that don’t fit some people’s day, lack of childcare, mental illnesses, addictions, and other physical health problems..

People who lived outside of the downtown area of Kitchener told us that they found it particularly difficult to get the services they needed.

In a lot of cases, people just gave up. We lost them.

It isn’t the fault of the agencies. It isn’t the fault of the clients. But it is a big problem – because everyone should have access to the supports and services that they need in order to be healthy and to be a part of our community.

We realized that we needed to expand the work that we do.

Sanguen’s Community Health Van hit the road in December with the goal of knocking down some barriers. We started by serving mugs of hot chocolate, and having conversations with people, and asking what they needed.

Soon, we were loading up the van with winter coats, small packages of food, and harm reduction supplies. Things like tampons. Q-tips. Warm socks. A sleeping bag.

Nearly every item that someone requested, we were able to obtain just by asking around. Because, as I said, KW has a lot of great services and people who really care.

Every Thursday night since December, from 6pm to 10pm, The Van has been out on the road – and after that first week, we’ve always had people waiting for us. Waiting outside hotels and motels, parks, and on the streets downtown. Youth have even texted us to find out where they can meet us.

By the end of January – 2 months after we started, and using almost exclusively word of mouth and flyers – we had over 350 contacts with people and we did something for, or with, every single one of them.

On the van, we do a lot of different things – too many to list – but I’ll tell you a few: blood work, nursing services, helping people complete forms and paperwork, reminding people about appointments. We’ve handed out housing lists, bus tickets, hygiene kits, hooked people up with support services, given referrals for addiction treatment, explained how to use condoms, and heard so many amazing stories. We’ve done overdose prevention more than 15 times. We’ve handed out information about meal programs that run during the week.

We’ve been thanked by our community members so many times that we’ve lost count.

As one of our supporters recently described it – we’re bringing the drop-in centre to people who can’t make it to the drop-in centre. With each passing week, and each small need that’s met, people’s lives are improving. Barriers are shifting. We’re seeing the change happen! It’s so cool.

That hot chocolate that I mentioned? We’re still making it. We welcome everyone who approaches the van by offering them a drink and a snack. It seems like such a small thing when compared to helping someone with health care needs or housing or warm clothing.

But on the other hand, it’s one of the most important things that we do. Non-judgmental. It keeps people around us long enough for conversations to start. It’s an easy way for people to check us out, get to know us, learn what we do, and not feel pressured to engage until they’re ready.

So, why do we want you to help us? How would we use $1,000?

We’re expanding our services to 2 nights per week in March and 3 nights per week in April. This means visiting more places in KW and we’ll finally be able to make to Cambridge. This is super exciting, but will stretch our small budget in a major way.

If we’re successful tonight, we’ll use the $1,000 to help purchase the supplies we need as we triple our service – we’re conservatively anticipating nearly 600 contacts per month in the near future, and that’s a little overwhelming to consider.

We really want to make KW AWESOME by helping everyone to be a part of the awesomeness that already exists. We’re committed to levelling the playing field so that everyone in our community can access services that they need.

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