Shaking the Foundation – Home Suite Hope (HSH) was founded 10 years ago by a small group of locals who recognized the hidden but very real problem of homelessness in Halton.They also realized that too many people were stuck in the emergency shelter system without any real solution to enable them to move into long term housing. “The notion of having people rebuild their lives within 30 to 90 days is not practical,” explains Michelle Pommells, Executive Director. “We see that there is a growing need for affordable housing in Halton, as shown by the growing number of people that are using food banks, or even the growing number of referrals that have come to our organization,” says Pommells. A little over a year ago, Pommells says 9 referrals a month would come across their desk, but a year later the number has more than doubled with 21 referrals a month coming through. “The stress these families are under is hard to put into words,” she says.
Avid Awareness – Many people think poverty doesn’t exist here. “I was at a function wherewe were discussing homelessness in Burlington and a reporter commented, ‘Really – is there really poverty here in Burlington?’ Yes, absolutely,” says Pommells. HSH has helped to raise awareness about poverty in the local community and the kinds of solutions that are available, and that has resultedin more people wanting to get engaged and help. “When you share the stories of families who have made amazing gains and in fact left poverty behind them, it’s really truly inspiring.”
Invisible Homelessness – HSH cautions that “invisible homelessness” is also a concern. Neighbours could be struggling to pay the bills, sometimes choosing between paying the electricity bill versus putting a meal on the table. “And so it’s hidden in the sense you may be in the lineup at the grocery store and not know that the person behind you is actually living in a car or has just moved to a new shelter,” says Pommells.
Empty Bowls – One of HSH’s major annual fundraising initiatives is Empty Bowls, a fun family event which will be held this year on October 19 at St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School. “This event is organized by a team of incredibly dedicated volunteers and brings the entire community together. Thanks to the generosity of community groups such as The Oakville Art Society or The Trafalgar Lodge residents, and businesses like The Taylor Group, RBC, Longo’s and Whole Foods we are able to maximize the funds raised for the event to go to the families who need it most,” notes Pommells. The soup bowls are donated and painted at Crack Pot Studio in Oakville. At the event, guests choose a unique pottery bowl painted by someone who donated their time in the community, and then taste up to 16 gourmet soups prepared by local top chefs. The bowl is yours to keep “as a reminder of the renewed hope you have given to Halton’s homeless,” explains Pommells. Tickets are $60 for adults, children ages five -12 are $30, and children under five are free (bowls are not included for children under five). Tickets can be purchased online at homesuitehope.org. Progress requires productivity and HSH relies heavily on volunteers and is always looking for help. “You can help us by spreading the word, being an ambassador for HSH and the amazing work that we do. We are a small organization but we do a mighty powerful service for the families that are in our program.”