The Mustard Seed’s emergency shelter is not meant to be a permanent home, which is why we refer to the men and women who stay there as guests. Our hope is for them to move on toward a future of improved health and independence.
We serve approximately 5,000 guests a year. Some of the men and women who arrive at the shelter are only there for one night, others stay for several months. The average stay is two weeks.
But the shelter is “not just a bed and a warm meal; we are providing a pathway out of homelessness,” says Brandon Waardenburg, Director of Basic Services.
“It’s important to focus on the barriers to finding stable housing, rather than how long guests stay at the shelter.”
With that in mind, The Mustard Seed is making sure all of our guests have access to services that will help them make sustainable changes in their lives. The Employment, Housing and Advocacy programs have staff downtown during the day and at the shelter in the late afternoon and early evening. The extended hours are “recognition of how many guests are working, or trying to find work, during the day,” says Waardenburg. Up to 45 per cent of shelter guests are employed, but can’t make ends meet, let alone afford a place of their own.
Kate, the Housing Support Caseworker at the shelter, says her goal is to help people move into long-term housing. “Anybody who is interested in these services can walk through my door; it’s not as if they have to be on a waiting list.”
Each month, 30 to 35 people move out of the shelter and into safe affordable housing. The integrated services The Mustard Seed offers at the shelter offer guests options and hope for the future.