“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord and will be repaid in full.” (Proverbs 19:17)
Steps away from one of Toronto’s largest malls is a small 173-year-old church surrounded by skyscrapers and buildings that were built in the 1970s. With its walls of pale-yellow bricks standing in stark contrast to the metallic Eaton Centre, this is a warm and safe place for those experiencing homelessness and food insecurity in Toronto.
It is here, at Holy Trinity, that Unity Kitchen was born. Unity Kitchen is a community kitchen that operates out of the Trinity Square Café located within the church. It provides those who are facing homelessness with fresh food, hot meals and resources such as tents, jackets and sleeping bags.
It was through Unity Kitchen and due to the COVID-19 pandemic that Holy Trinity and Hospice Toronto re-connected when the two organizations discovered that, together, they had programs that aligned and benefited the community.
Hospice Toronto has its roots in Holy Trinity. In 1988, Hospice Toronto, then Trinity Home Hospice, began as a grassroots mobilization centred around the desire expressed by people in the community to receive support in their own homes, whether they had cancer, HIV/AIDS or simply a desire to die in peace in familiar surroundings
Trinity Home Hospice supported Margaret Fraser, a friend and member of the church community, when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and wanted to die at home. More than 60 parishioners, friends and acquaintances organized themselves into a care team. They formed round-the-clock schedules, cooked meals, told stories and faced their own fears of death. In 1991, Trinity Home Hospice incorporated as a registered charity to continue supporting community members in their journey towards death.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that every organization in the downtown core was going to close. The decision at Unity Kitchen was to remain open to take care of the most basic needs of people, most of whom are dependent on community and social services. Holy Trinity was the only service open in downtown Toronto for the first eight to nine months after the pandemic began. During this time, Holy Trinity worked with the wider community and healthy meals were prepared on site by volunteers.
During the height of the pandemic, when Unity Kitchen was serving approximately 300 people each day, Holy Trinity and Hospice Toronto formed a partnership to support Holy Trinity’s hot meals program. Today, almost two years after the pandemic began, Unity Kitchen continues to prepare and serve hot meals for people living in low-income settings, on the street, in isolation or with life-threatening illness, as well as seniors.
Holy Trinity and Hospice Toronto have created, through our joint food security program, a program that includes community services. This program plans to engage practitioners who can support those in need, such as doctors and harm reduction workers. The program includes two hospice outreach workers, who focus on the needs of those who are aging on the street and are in need of hospice care. Together Holy Trinity and Hospice Toronto work on supporting their most basic needs. Cancer, age-related disabilities and cognitive decline are some of the health areas that rapidly reduce life expectancy on the street.
Most recently, we have begun providing a palliative day program. This program has many elements where peer support workers build bridges to social services. We will be engaging a palliative nurse to attend the day program and provide ongoing care for folks on the street, which means that when people come to our program they can receive a nutritious meal and medical attention, along with social and emotional support.
To donate to the Church of the Holy Trinity and Hospice Toronto’s hot meals program visit www.hospicetoronto.ca.