North House provides food, housing during crisis

FaithWorks

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This is an update on the work of North House, a ministry supported by FaithWorks, the diocese’s annual outreach appeal. This article first appeared in Faithlines, the FaithWorks newsletter.

North House is a not-for-profit charitable organization that supports the North Durham townships of Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge through its mission of providing housing support to those who are at risk or in crisis. Established in 2004, North House has been assisting low-income residents of the community and those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

A woman in a mask stands in front of bags.
Jess, a member of North House’s outreach team, prepares food boxes for delivery to vulnerable people in North Durham.

In March, the world was turned upside down when 2.6 billion people went into self-isolation. The impact on us has been immeasurable and involves the loss of many things. COVID-19 has affected the day-to-day lives of people in our community, but more specifically, the most vulnerable are facing greater barriers. As we continue to maneuver through the daily changes during this pandemic, we worry about our seniors and our homeless. We are all trying to do what we can to keep them safe and free from the feeling of desperate isolation.

North House has always focused on housing, but in response to COVID-19, we felt the need to make a slight shift to help meet the needs of our community. Our outreach staff prioritized both their senior and homeless clients, past and present, to ensure their safety and to help to alleviate anxiety and isolation. Completing more than 133 wellness check-in calls during March, staff identified the gaps in services in Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge townships.

Clients said that food insecurity was their biggest concern. Access to food has been an obstacle for many due to transportation restrictions, health risks, lack of funds and mobility concerns. Accessing a food bank has been a challenge, as many people who have restricted mobility or those with chronic illnesses are at greater risk if they access a public space during the pandemic.

As a result, North House has been delivering boxes of healthy food every week to those seniors who need it. On Fridays, the North House outreach team travels throughout North Durham delivering food, checking in and staying connected to residents.

North House has worked with several people who were either unsheltered or living in inadequate conditions; we helped them apply to, and move into, a new building in Cannington. Some of these individuals have been unsheltered for years and have had no place to call their own in a very long time.

Once the apartments were secured, North House, through its Community Share initiative, put out a call for gently used items to help fill the apartments. The community came together in true “North Durham” style, donating several items such as beds, couches, dressers and tables. With the support of partnerships with local Lions clubs and churches, people volunteered to help pick up and move the items into the building. With the help of this great community, our newly housed neighbours have somewhere to call home.

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