Archives for posts with tag: Advocacy

When I pause to reflect on the last year at The Dale, it’s the seemingly little moments that keep popping into my head. In work like ours, it is easy to want to share the big successes: this person was living outside and now is housed; we served x amount of meals over the course of twelve months, and so on. While such stories are amazing and obvious evidence of the validity of this work, there is much beauty in the everyday grind of being a community. 

“Tom” is one of the quietest people I know. When he speaks it is usually to ask for a coffee, or to say a quick hello. There is something very meek about Tom: he tends to keep his head down, his small stature hidden with a too-large coat. At a recent drop-in, he was sitting at the end of the table listening, but not engaging with the chatter around him, until something struck him as funny. Hearing Tom laugh (for the first time in the many years I have known him) made my heart swell. At the end of the gathering, he followed me, Joanna and Meagan outside. As I hugged my colleagues good-bye, Tom held open his arms and cautiously moved toward me: “Erinn, hug”- another first. 

“Clare” came in to our Monday Drop-In while we were just about finished with clean-up. Newer to The Dale, she was encouraged to come, mostly because everything she owned was drenched and needed something dry to wear before returning to her shelter bed. Our clothing supply fluctuates, but on this particular day someone had dropped off a huge amount of women’s clothing which still lay in a heap. Clare proceeded to fold every piece of clothing, carefully choosing a few things for herself, but not before handing me things that she was sure “would fit and look great on so and so”. She managed to take care of herself, our clothing room AND others in less than twenty-five minutes. 

He walked in to the Sunday service already upset, nearly poised for a fight. The first person to greet him unwittingly managed to trigger the anger further. I felt a lump in my throat at the prospect of a service that might feel on edge. I encouraged the two to honour each other’s space and proceeded to busy myself with set-up. After a few opening songs I invited everyone to stand for the passing of the peace, an opportunity to greet one another with either a handshake, a wave, a hug or even an elbow-bump (whatever is best for each person). I watched in amazement as the two people, so angry and sad at the beginning, apologized to one another and embraced. The tension that had been so thick suddenly dissipated and we continued with another song. 

There are so many stories I want to tell you about, like: the two street-weary men who call themselves uncles to my Cate and love to give her gifts, especially chocolate bars; the look of glee on our friend’s face when we managed to find a mobility scooter for him, replacing a terribly unsafe, wobbly walker; the woman who comes and shares her tears generously with us, and the man who quietly notices and finds Kleenex to dry them; the friend who is discovering that no matter how many times he falls off the wagon, he is loved by us, not shunned; the privilege we feel when someone allows us into their home to help ready it for an inspection by the landlord; what it feels like to have a community that allows me to share my own struggles. 

In 2018 at The Dale we have said goodbye to friends and grieved their absence, protested injustice and advocated for our community, walked Queen Street West countless times, partnered with numerous organizations, fought with and forgiven one another (or are working on it), made and eaten a LOT of meals together, and sought to create spaces that are safe and respectful. We are slowly, bit by bit, learning what it means to love God and love our neighbor. It is hard, messy, and wonderful. 

There is joy in this journey. 

Breakfast and Art Drop-In at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre


Service of Ordination at ESM 


Second Harvest Agency Cookbook, featuring Souad Sharabani’s recipe and The Dale

 
Part of The Dale’s Ride for Refuge Team

 
Baptism in Lake Ontario


Monday Drop-In at BPC


Our summer interns, Ahmeda (centre) and Olivia (right)


The Dale Fall Retreat, Camp Koinonia


Carolling in Parkdale


The “Dale Girls”


New freedom!



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My mother, Elaine Grant has lived in what is now called Michael Garron Hospital (formerly Toronto East General Hospital) for eight years. The Complex Continuing Care Unit, or “J5” is her home. Approximately two weeks ago everyone on J5 was informed that the unit is to be closed. In other words, all of its residents have to move. We are devastated. My Mom has described the feeling as “living in a nightmare”. I want the hospital’s upper management and the Ministry of Health to hear our story because their decision, which at least appears to be rooted in saving dollars, impacts real people with very complex needs.

My daughter does not remember her Gran being able to walk. She is turning fourteen. This is because in 2004 my Mom had a benign tumour removed from the base of her brainstem. We were warned that this surgery threatened to do what the tumour might if left alone. With time we could see how this warning proved true: Mom lost her gag reflex and so is tube fed, has a tracheotomy so that her lungs can be routinely suctioned, and is paralyzed. Over the years, including as recent as this spring, she has struggled with infection that leads to the need for intensive care and ventilator intervention.

In the letter that we received from the hospital and at a recent family meeting, we were encouraged to consider moving our loved one “into the community”, meaning a home situation supported by CCAC. Hear me when I say, had home care ever been a feasible option, we would have pursued it. However, my Mom’s level of acuity is such that a hospital setting is her only option. Even nursing homes do not offer the care that she requires. And just so you know, my husband’s Multiple Sclerosis is forcing us to equip our house in such a way that will enable us to stay in it for as long as possible. We believe in the value of CCAC.

The move to J5 eight years ago came after a long wait. After two years we were told the waiting list was to be scrapped. This resulted in a letter to our MPP and weekly phone calls to the hospital social worker. At the time we understood the need to close a waiting list. What we could not comprehend was cutting off those who had been patiently and exclusively waiting for a bed at Michael Garron Hospital. You see, my brother and I, along with our families, live around the corner from the hospital. In many ways moving to J5 was a move “into the community” and very much for the mental health of our Mom. And so, we actively chose to fight in a kind and persistent way. With this new situation, we plan to do the same.

Michael Garron Hospital is currently moving a number of fully ventilated patients onto J5 from Sunnybrook Hospital. So in that sense, it is not really closing. There is ample medical evidence that my mother is a patient whose needs match the requirements for hospital care. We know there are facilities across Ontario that provide Complex Continuing Care, but we need to be near her.

Elaine Grant is a woman of compassion and grace. Despite her massive chart, she is an exceptional patient. If she has concerns about her care, she addresses the issues carefully and in writing. I would completely understand if she were to complain about the weight of her challenges, and yet she never does. I am inspired by her. This might not be surprising given that I am her daughter, but if you would like to hear similar sentiments from people maybe more removed, I could provide a very long list of references. The truth is this: my mother is not a nameless, faceless statistic. Elaine Grant is a person with real health vulnerabilities who should not be displaced. She has suffered tremendous loss, but losing her home should not be added to that list.

 

 

 

This has been an especially intense, difficult week.

I find myself considering the words of Nouwen: “Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.”

As an advocate in the middle of a very difficult and complex situation I have been simultaneously full of the awareness that there is no speedy fix at the same time as longing for one. I am touching pain that is beyond what I have known myself. I have participated in conversations that, leading up to them,  I was sure I had no words for. Finding the strength to compassionately respond has hurt, not because I don’t want to, but because the nature of the problem is that sad.

I am also reminded of The Beatitudes: that it is precisely in the poorness of spirit, the grief and sorrow that blessedness can be found, for there we can do nothing except turn to God. It is in this turning that I find hope. Hope is coming in the form of a whole host of people willing to help those hurting, meals showing up, friends checking in and gifts being thoughtfully given. My prayer is that those at the core of the crisis will discover that this hope is intended for them, and that while there is no immediate cure, help is on the way.