“This has been a powerful, life-changing experience,” said Kim Steven, the operations “lead” for the city’s three respite centres. An employee for 26 years, and a one-time figure skating coach, she had been a mostly desk-bound project officer when she volunteered for other duties in April.
“It has been so eye-opening and rewarding. I feel so grateful, this sense of purpose, especially in this crazy time. Perspective, a connection, just basic humanity.”
Steven said there were 15 clients on the first day. Then more services began to assemble: food, nursing care, housing help, even yoga. Pretty soon, it was 150 daily. Born in COVID, rigorous cleaning became routine, as did personal protective equipment.
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McNabb had taught them much, said Steven, and two of the staff became leads at the new centres. (Among the instant social workers, she added, were a booking clerk and a museum curator.)
At Tom Brown, meanwhile, the community overcame some initial skepticism over safety issues. St. Luke’s Table now supplies 100 hot meals a day, five days a week. A clothing depot accepted donations. Companies like Giant Tiger chipped in with always-needed socks and underwear. Little things like colouring books were supplied, and pet food. Anyone could charge their cellphone.
In a clamped-down world where even libraries are closed, Tom Brown offers warmth, quiet, a measure of comfort.
“It’s been amazing,” said Steven. ”The community is rallying around the centre right now.”
Because an arena is so big — and so underused during the pandemic — it is the ideal space to house and feed people in a physically distant way. So the ice pad can accommodate a large serving station in the centre but also dozens of cots and tables spread out end to end.
Tom Brown will accept overnights at least until the shelters end the no-admission status. But the lessons learned may extend beyond that.
“It’s a really interesting way of delivering services to this vulnerable population.”
To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-291-6265 or email [email protected]
The word from Tom Brown Arena patrons:
“It’s so well set up. This is a saviour for me. I can lie down and sleep during the day, if I have to, because I’m kept up many times at night.I can have a hot meal. It’s a safe, friendly atmosphere.”
This content was originally published here.