Hockey Helps HHUG
By Lynn Macaulay, HHUG Initiatives Coordinator
Sadly, people are experiencing homelessness in Waterloo Region. Of the 3,219 people in Kitchener-Waterloo who used emergency shelters in 2015, 1,741 were children and youth.
As homelessness becomes an increasing challenge in our community, local homeless charities including Lutherwood and the Homelessness and Housing Umbrella Group (HHUG – a network sponsored by Lutherwood) are fortunate to have the tremendous support of the fundraising organization, Hockey Helps the Homeless who have raised an amazing $180,000 to support homelessness in our community.
At the tournaments, local residents shared the powerful story of their journey into and out of homelessness. They each shared the raw and simple truth that homelessness not only has a devastating effect on people’s bodies (taking up to 30 years off the average lifespan) but it can grind down people’s spirits until they feel hopeless and less than human.
While our local shelter services can respond by providing a place to eat and rest, this is not enough to mend their shattered self-worth. In reality, none of the 3,219 people who used shelter services were homeless because of poor life decisions; they became homeless because they did not have access to systems that prevent homelessness such as income support programs, mental health services and a child welfare system.
Although we can respond to homelessness, we need to improve our systems to prevent it. The speakers at the tournament were fortunate to have found service providers who believed they were worthy and stuck by their side through the highs and lows of their recovery. Not everyone has been as fortunate in finding supports like this and as a result, many homeless do not recover.
The goal of HHUG is to provide those at risk access to the appropriate housing and support that is needed to prevent homelessness at its core. Thanks to the support of Hockey Helps the Homeless, HHUG is able to mobilize the community to impact these challenges.