As you approach the corner of 106 Ave, and 99 St. if you look to your left, you will see the tall glittering skyscrapers of downtown, a short distance away. As you look to your right, you will find Hope Mission, standing three stories, with its cream and brown brick, and its entrance beautifully and invitingly curving to the street corner.
Hope Mission started many years ago in 1929, at the onset of the depression era. Reverend Harold Edwardson began serving soup to the many impoverished individuals and families impacted at this time.
Today Hope Mission hosts the largest shelter and meal program in Edmonton, and also provides addictions and spiritual care, as well as other transitional and permanent housing programs. This location provides 52 emergency shelter beds, as well as approximately 1200 meals every day.
Often you can see brightly coloured tents, and tarps lined against the fences, and walls of buildings in this area. Do you see any now? Temporary homes, for those unable to get one of the shelter beds. While there are a number of other shelter programs in Edmonton, it is not enough, and many end up ‘sleeping rough’, carving spaces to rest out of the elements.
Sometimes this means being huddled in a doorway, or along a wall, or perhaps among the shade and protection of some trees or bushes. Finding warm and safe spaces becomes especially challenging during Edmonton’s harsh winters. Shelters programs are an important part of providing critical, short term accommodation for individuals experiencing homelessness, however there are many reasons individuals may not want to use shelters.
Some of these reasons include the lack of privacy while sleeping, noise disturbances from others shelter users, or fears over safety for themselves or their belongings. Though, shelters can also act as a doorway to additional supports including connecting with health care, wellness advocates, or housing outreach workers who can help individuals explore the next steps to permanent housing.
Did you know that when an individual stays at a shelter, due to space they are often only permitted to have one bag of items, which will be stored while they are there? Many have nowhere else to safely store their belongings and must learn how to carry all the items they need in a bag such a backpack.
As you continue your walk, take a moment to reflect – what items from your home could you fit in a backpack? What items would you pick to take along? Would it be some soap, and a toothbrush? How many underwear and socks would you fit in? Would some water and cans make it too heavy? What about your favorite blanket or hoodie? Would you find space for a picture of a loved one, or another special item?
Continue west along 106th street and then turn south down 1010 to 105 Ave. We’re on the west side of the street, to your right, you’ll find some vibrant murals.
What images just popped out for you? And how does this art make you feel? What do you think it adds to the downtown area? Reflect on these pieces as we go to our next stop at Boyle Street Community Services.