Unlocking Home: Navigating the Journey from Shelter to Stability for Our Clients

Unlocking Home: Navigating the Journey from Shelter to Stability for Our Clients

In the busy city of Toronto, where tall buildings reach the sky and dreams are chased, there’s a quieter side that often gets missed—the struggle of people without homes. Meet Marieka Weathered, a caring Housing Help Worker at the Delta Hotel Shelter Program, who helps those looking for a stable place to live. In our chat with Marieka, she tells us about the tough parts, the good moments, and the big challenges faced by her and her clients as they try to find a home in Toronto.

Pictured: Marieka Weathered, Housing Help Worker

Please tell us about yourself.
I am Marieka Weathered, a Housing Help Worker working in the Delta Hotel Shelter Program. My pronouns are she/her. I am Canadian Caribbean.

What pressing issues do you face when supporting clients?
I serve the homeless population of Scarborough. This population mostly includes fixed-income clients who are recipients of Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Old Age Security, Canadian Pension Plan, and Canada Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel. This demographic faces a lot of discrimination, which presents a barrier to exiting homelessness.

What preparation do you observe the clients need to have in order to face their fears or limitations during their housing search process?
Some clients are fiercely fearless when discussions of exiting homelessness arise. The clients who benefit the most are the ones who utilize the community resources available, particularly the food banks, community meal programs, furniture bank, clothing bank, thrift shops, libraries, resume-building programs, etc. Adjusting from having the shelter serve you three free meals a day, toiletries, linens, and hotel room service takes effort. Buying a portable heater for basement living or your own plunger, bath mat, and light bulbs requires a budget plan.

What preparation work or strategies do you and your team have to accompany the clients once housed (follow-up supports)?
Our moderate to high needs clients are referred to the City of Toronto Coordinated Access Follow-up Support Program. Housing Help Workers work with the assigned follow-up workers, our Enhanced Services Team, and the clients to provide support in the area needed. Each client is case-specific, and our efforts are coordinated to secure the client’s settlement. Clients outside of the GTA are the most vulnerable because the Coordinated Access Follow-up Program is not accessible outside of the GTA. Due to the housing-first model and the Canada Ontario Housing Benefit program initiatives, the Enhanced Services Team stays connected and researches resources available per municipality to refer clients to their appropriate supports.

What challenges do you face when supporting a client? What community partnerships are the most useful to you? What advice do you give to other housing workers? What best practices can you share agency-wide?
The biggest challenge for clients once they are housed is budgeting. The client is usually not able to sustain a healthy diet, job searching, home maintenance, personal medical/dental self-care, religious, and community engagement on the fixed income they receive. Community partnerships that host daily hot meal programs, computer labs, medical clinics, and seasonal clothing donations are the most valuable resources for clients’ daily survival. My advice to Housing Help Workers would be to negotiate utilities and internet to be included in the rental price so that clients don’t have out-of-pocket expenses that would strain their fixed income budget. Additionally, connect with landlords that own multiple properties as they are a great housing resource to build a relationship with.

What systemic barriers do you have to overcome to house a client?
The greatest systemic barrier to exiting homelessness is funding from the city. I have the supply (landlords) and the demand (clients), but I need more funding. It’s heartbreaking to have connected 7 to 10 landlords and clients per month but only be able to house 2 due to funding allocations. Disappointing clients who are trying to exit homelessness is tragically unacceptable.

Marieka Weathered’s dedication to her clients and her hard work to tackle homelessness in Toronto show us that even in tough times, there’s hope. As she continues to advocate for increased funding and support for those experiencing homelessness, her dedication serves as a reminder that with empathy, perseverance, and collective action, we can build a future where everyone has a place to call home.

In 2023 Homes First supported over 530 people into permanent housing, that is over one person a day.

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