Working Upstream for Positive Change
Prevention of illness is an integral part of nursing. But prevention is difficult when people lack the basic necessities for a healthy lifestyle. Street Health nurses advocate for healthy public policies and adequate resources to promote health within the homeless and poor communities of Toronto.
Street Health Advocacy Engagements
Sleeping Bag Distribution:
Street Health distributes hundreds of sleeping bags each year to our homeless and under-housed clients. Bags are taken on outreach visits as well as available at our reception desk.
The Tuberculosis Coalition: This group monitors and assesses the incidence of TB in Toronto and the GTA. It also identifies treatment barriers faced by recent immigrants and those who are homeless. The coalition is currently in the process of developing a number of support groups for individuals with tuberculosis.
Hot Weather Response Committee: Organized by the City of Toronto, Department of Public Health, this group is made up of City employees and community service providers. The Committ
ee engages in preparing an adequate response to Hot Weather and Extreme Hot Weather Alerts as called by the City. The emphasis is on those citizens who are socially marginalized such as isolated, frail seniors, and those who are homeless. Plans are put in place during these alerts that include water distribution on the downtown streets and in the parks, establishment of cooling centers in large indoor public spaces, and transportation support to shelters. Committee members debrief at the end of each summer to evaluate the effectiveness of the planned responses and plan for the upcoming year accordingly.
Hunger Inquiry Coalition: As a response to the lack of sufficient food, especially food that provides a balanced diet, a Coalition made up of social service agencies from across the City as well as concerned individuals, organized a "Hunger Inquiry”, which took place in November 2011. A panel of prominent citizens heard stories told by researchers, direct service providers and those with lived experience with poverty about the impact of hunger in our community. Based on the evidence heard, the panel formulated recommendations for policy change, and a report was created. This report received widespread media attention, which highlighted the need for food security among marginalized people across Ontario. The report was also presented at the Community Health Nursing Conference in 2011.
The Homelessness & Palliative Care Committee: Together since 2004, this is a multi agency, multi professional community with the mandate to improve the provision of palliative care to homeless and marginalized persons in Toronto. This is done through interagency collaboration, education, advocacy and research.
The Community Justice Coalition: Working together since 2010, this Coalition is a grassroots response to the federal government's current "law and order" agenda. The Coalition consists of approximately 100 people from various walks of life who are advocating to address human rights violations at every level of the system, by both individual and systemic actions.
Health Providers Against Poverty: This group is comprised of health care professionals working towards decreasing the barriers to accessing health care that are routinely faced by marginalized and low income members of the community. These barriers include stigma and lack of knowledge from mainstream health care providers.
Education: Nurses from Street Health work with other organizations as well as teams within Street Health to teach other health professionals about how we work with marginalized clients. This enables us to share our knowledge, as well as gain helpful hints from other organizations as to how they may be working with clients. We also work with people with lived experience of homelessness and marginalization to teach them things such as self care. This in turn empowers peers to have more tools to make decisions when they are faced with barriers.
Community Advisory Panels: Street Health Staff sit on a number of Community Advisory Panels for both St. Michael's Hospital and Sherbourne Health Centre. These are two larger agencies that serve similar client bases, but offer different services than Street Health. We offer our opinions and insights as to what is happening in the community, and how we can work with these agencies to advocate for client needs.
Asset Mapping Research Project: Street Health sits on the Local Advisory Committee for the Asset Mapping Research Project. This project provides persons with the opportunity to build their skills and abilities by educating them to become researchers.