Ugly Sweaters for a Good Cause

In downtown Toronto, homelessness can sometimes be very visible. People sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures; people sitting on the sidewalk asking for your spare change; people lining up in long queues to seek shelter or a warm meal.

These scenes of despair can be heartbreaking, but can also inspire heart-felt responses.

sharin-shaziaLast year, during the holiday season, Shirin and Shazia turned a social gathering into an opportunity to help others and share the spirit of giving with folks who seem to have less. They held a party with the popular “Ugly Christmas Sweater” theme, and asked invited guests to donate $5/person which they would donate to a good cause. Helping Street Health respond to the effects of winter chill for people who are homeless was the cause that they chose! Shazia and Shirin contacted us to identify what items our clients needed most, purchased them and delivered them to our offices. Personal hygiene items, warm winter clothes and feminine hygiene supplies can all add dignity and reduce harms associated with life on the street. Our clients benefit directly from thoughtful in-kind donations such as this.

Many thanks for another tangible way of providing support; these contributions are distributed daily to clients who need supplies. Street Health sees more than 100 clients each day; this support means we have the items people require at the time when they need them most.



30 Donor Stories – I Have Been Able to Build My Life…

Street Health relies on, and remains grateful to, all of our donors and supporters. Some learn about us through friends or colleagues, some through newspapers or social media. Some are motivated by their faith, by their families, or by a loved-one who has passed away. Whether donors give once a year, once a month or prefer to remain anonymous – their support creates options and choices for real people who are struggling with homelessness. In 2015/16 these donors helped Street Health support 55,672 client visits.

For us, your support directly translates into a continuum of care. We begin by addressing a client’s most immediate needs, with compassion and without judgement. From there, we work to build trusting relationships, supporting clients to meet goals that they’ve set for themselves. It is rewarding to see clients move forward and into empowered, self-directed choices. Sometimes this process comes full circle: a client comes to us and receives support, then goes on to help others. One such client, whose story we would like to share to cap off this series, is Sammy*.

“There have been many times in my life when everything I did was ruled by my addiction. I was often just a few steps away from being homeless. I was overwhelmingly tired and constantly hungry because nothing mattered as much as the drugs. I didn’t like the person I was, but I didn’t see any way to change my life. That is…until I found Street Health. My very first contact was a referral to a drop-in that provided a weekly meal. This drop-in also offered the support of a Street Health Community Mental Health worker who shared information on harm reduction and treated everyone with respect. She saw something in me back then that even I couldn’t see in myself, and she referred me to a Peer Worker training program at Street Health. Looking back, I can see that this initial contact was the start of being able to raise my self-confidence.”

“As I continued to come to Street Health, I received healthcare and completed the CUP Program, a program which educates and supports those with drug addictions. From that experience, I gained information and began to have the strength to continue forward. Street Health also assisted me when I was about to lose my housing which helped me gain more stability. This led to a work opportunity which was a real turning point for me. Before that, I could not have imagined I would ever be employable again, and that the experiences and skills I contribute are valuable and can help others.


“A few years ago I attended college and that has brought me to where I am now – working as a Relief Support Worker in the same neighbourhood as Street Health. I have been able to build my life thanks to a handful of people at a small, but important organization called Street Health. They helped me realize that I’m not defined by the trap of addiction. Street Health was there to treat me without stigma, to realize I’m an individual with potential and dreams.”

We thank all of our donors for supporting us so we can be here for people like Sammy. Your donations are turned into warm clothes and personal hygiene supplies, health care, harm reduction, mental health support, trusting relationships and changed lives. Not every client’s story turns out as well as Sammy’s but we work hard every day, believing that they can.

 *Client’s name has been changed to maintain his privacy.

30 Donor Stories – Giving Tuesday – November 29, 2016

Donors may have a specific time of year or donation amount that they contribute to the charities they support. In recent years, the concept of an official day of giving – GivingTuesday – has been promoted in more than 70 countries. It is a movement to encourage people to give in their local community, rally for favourite causes and think about others.

Many people are familiar with days that focus on retail sales around the American Thanksgiving – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These days are followed by GivingTuesday, the last Tuesday of November, as a way to encourage people to look at the ways they can make a gift for a wider community benefit.


 “We have two days that are good for the economy. Now we have a day that is good for the community too.”

“The individuals that Street Health serves are visible; they are often living and sleeping on the streets,” comments Cathy Callaghan, Fundraising Manager. “Often donors are motivated to make a gift because of an individual’s situation they see day after day in their commute to work, or from their volunteer work. For a community-based agency like Street Health, GivingTuesday, is another opportunity to help make people aware of the need for their empathy and support.”

A gift on GivingTuesday or anytime during the year will make a difference to the individuals Street Health supports.

To make a donation to Street Health and learn more about what we do, please visit –

30 Donor Stories – Giving At the Community Level



Board Member, Mary (back row, third from right)

Three years ago Mary joined Street Health’s Board of Directors. As a Registered Nurse her clinical experience has included medical surgical units, the emergency department, renal dialysis and renal transplant units before transitioning into management. She now oversees the Women’s and Children’s Program, part of St. Michael’s Hospital Inner City Health Program.

“St. Mike’s has a diverse patient population serving patients who cross all the socioeconomic spectrums,” notes Mary. After several years working in the hospital environment, Mary welcomed the opportunity to utilize her experience and knowledge at the community level. “Hospitals play an important role in treating illness and injury in order to return people to optimum health but now more than ever the continuity and long term support is provided at the community level. That is why  organizations like Street Health are so important and deserve the support each of us is able to offer.”

“Shortly after I joined the Board, Street Health began its strategic planning process which brought the Board and staff together for a full day of planning. At that time, and it certainly continues, I was impressed by the level of staff commitment in order to meet he needs of clients. Their dedication and passion for the work they do is really inspirational. I’m honored to be part of Street Health’s Board and pleased to provide a regular support the organization, its programs and the community they serve.”

Thanks to the volunteer and financial support for Street Health supporters, we are able to provide the range of services to promote health and well-being. “We know building a strong community requires a team effort,” Mary observes. “Sharing knowledge, ideas and resources promotes the optimal health and well-being for all members.”


30 Donor Stories – Inspired Student Becomes an Inspiring Teacher

We noticed while gathering this series of 30 donor stories that many Street Health supporters were inspired to start contributing from an early age.

Dianne is one such donor who looks back on her experience in high school as a time that continues to guide her actions. “Each week, a group of students from my school had the opportunity to help at a local community shelter, serving a warm meal to those in need,” Dianne remembers. “Later in the year, the teacher who coordinated the program, was always able to encourage more students to volunteer by showing them photos from our days of service, set to the song  He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”




Now a teacher herself, Dianne has been a Street Health donor for more than 10 years. “I’m aware that many people who live on the street or lack secure housing need both physical and mental health support. Street Health serves those who face so many barriers and too often have no other means of support.”

“At my school, we have the opportunity each year to take our students to a local youth center which supports homeless teens. Our students get to connect with young people who have lived on the streets and are now volunteers, staff and supporters of that organization. It is always a thought provoking and significant learning opportunity for our students to realize that change happens because there is someone out there who cares. It helps our students to know that the cycle that created homelessness can be broken.”

Dianne still volunteers one night a month at her local community kitchen, as a way of maintaining her awareness and hands-on support for issues that stem from poverty and inequality. “I want my students and my daughter to know that volunteering and making donations are fulfilling activities everyone can get involved in.”

It is thanks to the commitment and inspiration of donors and advocates like Dianne that Street Health was able to support 13,968 nursing and community mental health client visits last year. Together we are all making Street Health’s work possible!

30 Donor Stories – Creating Opportunity with My Giving

Many Street Health donors want their donations to help in creating a more just society.

“I want to help those who haven’t had the same advantages or have been overlooked and need help,” states Tom, a Street Health donor from Oakville who has been giving for over seven years. “I remember some time ago reading about people who live in really marginal conditions – in a shelter or rooming house, and didn’t even have a secure location to receive their mail. My support is influenced, not by guilt, but by the desire to be just and create greater opportunity.”

“Through my contributions,” Tom continues, “I get to direct money to the causes that are important to me. “When we pay taxes, that money goes toward whatever the government deems important. By making significant charitable contributions, I’m ensuring my concerns and priorities receive funding. At the same time I’m gaining significant tax relief.” Street Health is a registered charity and can provide a charitable tax receipt for donations. To learn more on how charitable giving can provide you with a tax credit, please visit Canada Revenue Agency –


“When we appreciate the situations other people face, we develop empathy – and this is one of the greatest powers to create a more equal society,” Tom believes. “It is the responsibility of each of us to make our views known. For an individual like myself, I could easily spend several hundred dollars hosting a nice family meal at a local restaurant. I also need to think about what it must be like to have only that same amount of money available each month to pay for everything you need (including rent, transportation, food, and personal supplies). When we understand other peoples’ situations our donations and giving will support community-based organizations like Street Health to ensure that no individual is turned away from the support and referrals they need.”

30 Donor Stories – Health Without Barriers; Care Without Borders

In November 2014, Street Health got a call from a curious and passionate Toronto Star reporter named Carol Goar. We weren’t sure how Carol became interested in Street Health or the population we serve, but we did recognize a kindred spirit. She came for a visit, met some of our staff and clients, learned about our services and the urgent need for them, then went on to publish an article titled, “Non-judgmental health care for the homeless”.


Goar’s article was an eye-opener for many Torontonians who were unaware of the scale and urgency of homelessness in Toronto. Many of her readers were also unaware that Street Health has been working for 30 years to meet the needs of these often-neglected members of our community. James is one of our donors, touched by Carol Goar’s article, who has been supporting our efforts ever since.

“As much as I am a private person, I do want to help you, so will agree to participate in your 30th anniversary piece. I was not aware of Street Health at all until I read Carol Goar’s column in the Toronto Star. Goar’s passionate description of Street Health’s mission led me to investigate your website to get more information. I was very impressed by the work you do for the homeless and that you concentrate your work in the neighbourhoods where the situation is most dire.

Several factors convinced me to become a monthly contributor. These include your attention to both physical and mental health issues; the on-site nursing programmes; and the emphasis on advocacy for social change to address such issues as poverty and access to primary health care. I have another guiding rule to determine which organizations I give to (which also includes Doctors Without Borders). Most of the money must be spent on activities and not on administration and high salaries for CEOs. Certainly, I would want every worker to make a decent living salary, but I give only to organizations who can demonstrate that high-paid administrators are not taking a chunk of the budget. Street Health certainly fulfills that criterion. Perhaps it is a sop to those of us who are more fortunate and feel helpless to do anything about the homeless, but giving to Street Health makes me feel that I am contributing to a wonderful, compassionate, and, alas, increasingly necessary organization.

Last year, I increased my donation by 50% and would now like to increase it again to mark Street Health’s 30th anniversary.”





30 Donor Stories – Caring For Those in Need

A commitment to social justice is a driving force for many people. For Cathy, a desire to do good for others is among her earliest memories.

Her support for Street Health began while working as a film editor on a documentary about homelessness and youth. Realizing that homelessness can impact individuals who are any age, orientation or background, she wanted to do more. “I kept asking myself – how do people fall between the cracks and become someone who lacks the security of housing? At that time the Ontario government was making massive cuts to social programs and the impact was obvious to anyone who wanted to acknowledge the situation. How could a province where many people have so much extraordinary privilege care so little for those in need?”15b-visual-social-justice

Cathy now finds inspiration in the words of social and political thinkers like Naomi Klein who challenge us to recognize how systemic issues compound issues like climate change and homelessness. “Many of us could be just one illness or life catastrophe away from becoming homeless. I support Street Health because they offer services that are – nonjudgmental, caring, friendly, approachable and respectful – these are the qualities and vision that I live by and want to support.”

Through donation and advocacy Street Health’s supporters make important ongoing contributions to the work we do – thank you for making a difference!

30 Donor Stories – Better to Give Than To Receive

Barb Craig worked as a Registered Nurse here at Street health for over a decade, retiring in 2007. That year, a Toronto Star profile described her well, “A lot of her clients call her “Mom” because she gives them special attention and help. She takes them to doctor’s appointments, or visits them at their homes, in rooming houses, subsidized apartments or ravines.” Barbs work with the homeless inspired her colleagues and many of her friends.

It was through their friendship with Barb Craig that Thelma and Arthur first learned of the work that Street Health does. “Barb was a compassionate nurse who worked at Street Health for 12 years providing unconditional support to hundreds of homeless individuals,” recalls Thelma. “I was an occupational therapist in the community, but when Barb would tell me about her efforts, I realized that her work focused on an essential part of healthcare that wasn’t on anyone’s radar at that time. It makes me annoyed that the government still doesn’t do more to help prevent and support people who are homeless.”



While Thelma and Arthur’s donations to Street Health were triggered by this connection, the pressing need for Street Health’s services became more apparent when they moved into the downtown core. “We’ve lived downtown for 13 years now and we still see people everyday who are suffering and don’t even know where they are. They need help that goes beyond receiving some change for their next meal. We’re so glad that Street Health combines the nursing and mental health components. This is the support that is needed so desperately.”

“We were raised in families that lived by the philosophy that it is better to give than to receive. We still believe this, so we are pleased to provide ongoing support to Street Health and to a downtown-area school. It is reassuring for individuals to know that there is someone out there who cares.”

Caring donors make a difference in the lives of many. Thank you to Thelma, Arthur and all Street Health donors.

30 Donor Stories – Always in My Heart and Mind

For some Street Health donors, their motivation to give a gift is connected to their religious beliefs.

Street Health receives contributions from a variety of faith organizations and also from specific segments of religious communities. These donations often come with hand-written notes and highlight how caring for those in need is truly a universal belief.


Pastor Jim has been a Street Health donor since 2003 and, for a number of years, has also encouraged the Chinese Fellowship at his church to raise funds for important community efforts, including regular donations to Street Health. “I must admit that helping the homeless is always in my heart and mind,” states Pastor Jim. “Many of the teachings we share in our weekly service refer to caring for those who are in need. We try to do this in ways that have the most impact: volunteering, providing warm clothing and sleeping bags, and being donors.”

“In our Chinese fellowship, we are all immigrants of one type or another. We are fortunate to have shelter, food and clothing. Like many Canadians, we are both privileged and blessed to have advantages, which many other countries lack.”

Recognizing the stress and pressure that homelessness and a lack of stable housing can put on individuals and families, Pastor Jim understands exactly why Street Health provides both physical and mental health support, “Here in Canada it is much too cold in the winter months to be homeless, yet every year there are individuals in this situation. It results in such extreme stress that these men and women need more than just physical healthcare to feel like a vibrant member of our community.”

“Donors like Pastor Jim and the Chinese Fellowship recognize how important it is to provide services which are client centred,” says Joyce Rankin, Clinical Manager. “Through Street Health’s nursing and community mental health teams, we are able to address a range of client needs. Providing support for the whole person, starting with their most immediate needs, is part of what makes Street Health’s services unique. We are thankful that so many individuals and religious groups understand why this is necessary and make continuing contributions to Street Health’s work.”