Joan, Participant and volunteer, at My Sisters’ Place and London Coffee House

Before, I might see people down on their luck and think, ‘get a job,’ but now I understand. You need empathy and respect for
every single person because everyone has a different story.”

Joan, participant and volunteer at My Sisters’ Place and London Coffee House

Joan’s morning routine is as familiar as it is rewarding: eat breakfast, drink a cup of tea (black, no sugar) and then head out to meet friends at My Sisters’ Place or the London Coffee House.

“Most times, it’s fun, enjoyable, comradeship. It’s invigorating,” she says, then throws her head back in a laugh. “When I’m with the girls – oh, we laugh ourselves silly.”

Her description is different from how you might imagine My Sisters’ Place and the Coffee House, where women and men who experience homelessness or are at risk of homelessness can find support, basic needs and friendship.

When things fall apart

Not so long ago, Joan would have thought differently about the drop-in sites too, if she’d even thought about them at all.

That was when she had a job she loved, an apartment and good health.

Then things came apart. She fell and broke her hip, spent 2-1/2 months
in hospital, lost her job and lost her apartment.

Joan lived in her car for three months before connecting with local agencies, transitional housing and, more recently, the seniors’ apartment where she lives. It has been a long haul.

“That fall totally changed my life. Before, I might see people down on their luck and think, ‘get a job,’ but now I understand. You need empathy and respect for every single person because everyone has a different story.”

United Way is here, with neighbours like Joan

Through our partner agencies, United Way helps stories take a turn for the better:
• the isolated rural senior who gets a ride to a medical appointment;
• the marginalized kid whose time at summer camp builds belonging
and leadership;
• the person who receives wrap-around support to move from
homelessness to housing;
• the family getting a basket of fresh produce when the month’s
expenses stretch beyond their meagre means.

Because of donors like you, United Way Elgin Middlesex can invest $4.2 million this year to help 44 local programs work with neighbours-in-need to provide poverty relief, housing stability and belonging.

They include My Sisters’ Place and London Coffee House, both programs of CMHA – Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services.

Having received help from My Sisters’ Place during her toughest times, Joan now finds joy in walking with others through their struggles and successes. She laughs and cries with her friends. She helps make meals. She listens.

“With all the people I know and love now, why wouldn’t I give back?” she says. “I think, ‘yes, Joan, you are blessed.’ I wouldn’t think twice about helping someone.”

Opportunities and partnerships

From the kitchen of the Coffee House, where she is preparing chili for 100 people, agency nutritionist Cheryl overhears the conversation and interjects: “Joan is love, to the power of 11-cubed.”

Joan insists there are many like her all across the region: People who need help. People who help. Opportunities everywhere.

“It’s not all about me and it’s not all about you. It’s about all of us together,” says Joan. “We can make sure all the supports are there when people need them. We can make things better.”

We’re focused on funding programs and services that improve lives and help folks meet their most immediate and pressing needs. That means investing in local people through local organizations that do great work. Together, we’re building a community where everyone has a fair shot at a good life.

Participant getting a coffee from the window at London Coffee House

Where we invest:

United Way is the region’s largest non-government funder of social services, for an all-local investment of $6 million this year.*

That amount includes a Community Fund investment of $4.2 million to:

Move people from poverty to possibility
Includes housing supports, basic needs and social connection at neighbourhood resource centres.

Build a strong community with resilient and healthy people
Includes counselling for low-income families, newcomer services, supports for women survivors of violence, programs with Indigenous people and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and a buddy program for adults with developmental disabilities.

Help kids be all they can be
Includes one-on-one mentoring, support for kids with learning disabilities, overnight summer camp for at-risk children, educational and employment resources for youth.

*United Way is also a funder of the 2-1-1 information service to help people navigate through a network of government and community programs; the New Beginnings Loan Fund helping families flee violence in the home; Ontario Living Wage allocations; and non-partisan advocacy with and on behalf of neighbours-in-need.

Dakota HalfpennyJoan