Emergency Shelter and Homelessness Service Worker Appreciation Week: Karlene

After an eight hour shift, many people would want to get home, unwind, and forget about their work day. 

Karlene, a front-line staff at the Willowdale Welcome Centre, was heading home after 11 p.m. on a stormy night earlier this week when she noticed an older woman sitting hunched over on the bench in the subway station. Despite the wind and rain, the woman was wearing slippers. When Karlene realized that the woman was a resident at Willowdale, she jumped into action.

She approached the resident, smiled and said hello. When she asked the resident if she realized it was after 11 p.m., the resident looked up at her and asked, “Day or night?”

Karlene realized the resident was disorientated and not feeling well, and that she had to do something.

“I knew I could never leave her there.”

Karlene called the Willowdale Welcome Centre and after speaking to staff on site, decided she would walk the resident back to the site. She asked the resident if she could help her back to the site. The look on the resident’s face was one of instant gratitude and she took Karlene’s arm, and went back to Willowdale with her.

Thinking back on the night’s events, Karlene is glad she stopped to help the resident. Despite having been off-site and off-shift, Karlene felt the health and safety of the resident was too important to ignore.

For Karlene, working with the residents at Willowdale brings her great joy, and she loves learning their stories and building trust with them, so that she can assist them as they rebuild their lives in Canada.

“She’s always doing little things for the residents, and going above and beyond,” says Willowdale supervisor Malia.

Affectionately called Ms. K by many residents, Karlene says she feels “so loved” by staff and residents alike.

Thank you Karlene, for going above and beyond the call of duty to help a resident!

Spread the love

Housing first is part of the solution to ending chronic homelessness.

Homes First Administration Office, 90 Shuter Street, Suite 206, Toronto, ON M5B 2K6
Phone: 416-214-1870 Fax: 416-214-1873

Registered Canadian Charitable Registration No. 118962182 RR 0001


Homes First is committed to ensuring equal access and participation for people with disabilities. Find out more about our Accessibility Policy and Plans.