‘We all measure success differently’
Transportation is just one of many challenges in smaller communities, where poverty and homelessness can often be less visible, but equally complex. With 40 emergency beds, The Inn in St. Thomas also offers on-site support services that include hot meals, weekly medical clinics, mental health and employment counseling, and housing services.
Supported in part with a $75,000 United Way investment in basic needs and advocacy, staff help clients and residents figure out their next steps. Last year The Inn provided 10,000 meals to 244 different people and helped 50 people move from homelessness to housing
“We do get to celebrate successes with people who do find housing, or maybe they’ve kicked an addiction or started a new job,” says executive director Brian Elliot.
“We all measure success differently. But we always want the long-term outcome to be housing-focused.
“That’s when they get to be independent and contribute the way they were always meant to.”
At The Inn, it’s about helping people make homelessness the shortest chapter in their story, says executive director Brian Elliot. How often someone stumbles isn’t as important as how we help them recover.
‘Homelessness is just one chapter’
Supporting people who are struggling can mean setbacks and “multiple” do-overs, Elliot says, “but it is always worth the investment.”
“Everybody that comes into our building has a different story,” he says. “Homelessness is just one chapter.”
Not every resident of The Inn struggles with addiction and mental health. Some have full-time jobs, but escalating costs mean they can’t afford rent and groceries, says program manager Ray Fangrad.
“All it takes is one job loss or an experience where your mental health breaks down. It could be a relationship breakdown or problems with your landlord,” Fangrad says. “There are so many things that can happen.”
Home is security, comfort, a place to call your own – ‘a great feeling after being homeless,’ said Aaron, who now has a place of his own, thanks to The Inn of St. Thomas, a United Way-supported agency.
‘I was the same person, just going through a rough patch’
Initially, Aaron Owl felt “uncertain,” about staying at The Inn.
“I’m not really one for going into situations where I don’t know what to expect,” he says. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”
But he was going through a difficult time after moving to the city for work. He was unemployed and couch-surfing, and it was all taking a toll on his mental health. He needed a fresh start.
Now in his own place, a place he calls home, he wants people to know something about people who The Inn helps – folks like him, who need a bit of support to emerge from tough times.
“I’m a good person, I’ve got a good heart,” he says. “Six months ago, I was still the same person. I was just going through a rough patch in my life.”