Twenty-six Years at Centre 507

February 10, 2010

FROM COFFEE AND CONVERSATION TO OUTREACH AND SOCIAL SERVICES

Centre 507 got its start when some astute members of the McLeod-Stewarton United Church – now Centretown United Church – noticed people lingering after their visit to the food bank. They would stand around chatting. Rather than ask them to move on, these first volunteers brought in a couple of couches, put the coffee pot on and joined the conversation.

Centre 507 was born.

This summer, Margaret Johnson, Centre 507’s life skills worker, addressed a joint service of the Centretown and Dominion Chalmers United Church congregations. Some of the people in attendance were there at the birth of Centre 507; others were learning about it for the first time. Everyone was impressed by Johnson’s recounting of how the centre has grown over the years.

From a few couches, a coffee pot and some dedicated volunteers, the centre now relies on a staff of social workers and an army of volunteers. Our in-centre support staff help our participants with everything from searching for housing or employment opportunities to accessing social services and seeing them through crisis situations. Participants can also join our life skills program and put together a concrete plan to grow and improve their lot in life.

And the centre doesn’t end at its front door.

Our outreach team is on the street six days a week seeking out men and women who live in alleys, doorways, stairways, under bridges – wherever they can find shelter. The outreach team covered a large area on foot and on bikes this year, carrying huge backpacks filled with snack packs and other supplies.

Our rooming house outreach worker and her partner from The Well, a drop-in centre for women, have a caseload of 45 people who have been successful in keeping their housing through an entire year.

“Yes, we still help people feed themselves, find housing and prepare to find work, and we help them to connect with education and training opportunities,” Margaret says. “But then we have to go beyond the basics and look at the whole person and the direction they’re headed in. That is essential if we truly want our participants to move toward a more fulfilling, constructive and satisfying life”.

Centre 507 is still all about coffee and conversation, but it is also about so much more.

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