There is always hope is the message of The Salvation Army Gateway. Based out of Toronto, the shelter and its programs are a guiding light to men and women in need.
Housing 120 beds for men, the facility serves over 350 meals a day while offering outreach programs in their community to help transform the lives of homeless men and women. “We’re there for people who need a safe place of refuge, for anyone experiencing homelessness this is critical,” says Jake Aikenhead, Director at The Salvation Army Gateway.
“We communicate to each person that they have gifts, there is hope, and we care about them. For people who haven't been told that or have been institutionalized somewhere along the way, this is a message they desperately need to hear,” Aikenhead added.
Outside of their own shelter and case management, the Gateway team works alongside the City of Toronto to support individuals who are not comfortable accessing the shelter, working with them on a housing plan. They also operate an employment retraining program called Gateway Linens and Disposal services hiring persons with barriers to employment, helping them to regain valued job experience.
“Our slogan is ‘the hand of God in the heart of the city,’ and we strive to be that for everyone who comes through our doors. There have been so many amazing stories of transformation,” Aikenhead said. “One that stuck out to me was witnessing the incredible change in a community member suffering from severe mental illness. At first this person would visit the shelter regularly, yelling at all of the staff. They wouldn't accept help and they refused to stay inside. Over time we were able to build trust and rapport with them, and although there were many ups and downs along the way, we eventually helped them get into a treatment program. The change in this person is nothing short of a miracle.”
The Gateway’s community members have benefitted from The Salvation Army Thrift Store National Recycling Operation (NRO) voucher program helping those in need with clothing and household items. For the last ten years NRO has also provided space in the Distribution and Recycling Centre in Oakville for their team to pack and store housing kits that is distributed to individuals leaving the shelter and moving into permanent housing. “With the scale of the project this is something we just wouldn't be able to do on our own, and it's an incredible support to the people that receive the kits as they're full of all the things you need when first moving into an apartment,” Aikenhead said.