Restaurant at the End of the Internet

New Blog Features Healthy Home Cookin’ Recipes –
Supports homeless outreach and community dinners in Toronto

I launched this new blog [javabistro.blogspot.com] about a month ago for a couple of reasons – I love cooking and I wanted to share some great recipes. I also wanted to have a fun way to raise awareness about homelessness in a way that paralled one of the issues we deal with at Project417 – hunger. We have delivered over fifty thousand meals out on the streets of Toronto with our volunteers. Also over the years we have run many meal programs, both large and small and have amassed quite a lot of great recipes. Right now, we are running a community dinner every Wednesday night in partnership with Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship serving about 70 guests every week.

The Restaurant at the End of the Internet blog uses Google’s Blogger platform and is integrated with Google Adsense allowing us to generate some income to fund more programs to help the homeless – or just buy more food for the sandwich runs and meal programs.  So visit our advertisers and put their revenue to good use. Besides the blog listed above, which is a landing page that plays on the theme of  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Restaurant at the End of the Universe from author, Douglas Adams, the actual recipes reside on

restaurantattheendoftheinternet.blogspot.com

Canayjun cookin'

Canayjun cookin'

All the recipes will be “Canayjun Tested”. (That would be me – you can tweet me on twitter @canayjun). That’s my favorite part!  Tonite for example I tried out a recipe for homemade Crusty French Bread – baguette style with healthy whole wheat and sprinkled with poppy and sesame seeds. Tried it warm out of the oven with butter and jam… Yum! My co-tester claims it is scrumptious with PB&J (Thank’s for the plug April!)

Anyway, visit the blog now and check it out. If you want you can even submit your own favorite recipes and trackbacks to your own cooking blog pages. Bookmark the site, share it and tweet it up, or sign up for the RSS feed to get updated as soon as new recipes are posted.

GeoCities closing – the original Mission_log site moves here to WordPress

Sad but true, Geocities is closing –

I created one of my first websites there – called it the Mission_log, it was located at http://ca.geocities.com/mission_log/ (it’s still there until Yahoo! pulls the plug on all the sites later this summer) I’ve been referring web visitors here to the new WordPress Mission Log since September of 2007, but back in the day that little GeoCities site really helped get the news out about the homeless and my work with Project417.

The older logo of mission_log project417

One of the logos of mission_log project417

What was Geocities? How soon they forget.  Geocities grew out of a small internet start-up called BHI – Beverly Hills Internet back in 1994, changed names to the current one in 1995 and quickly grew to one of the busiest sites on the web, by 1999 it was the 3rd most visited website behind AOL and Yahoo!  Before the dotcom bubble burst, Yahoo purchased Geocities for billions, but it never reached its former popularity as Yahoo!Geocities (which was where I joined in) It had grown to popularity by offering ordinary users a free place to host their personal website – and offered a strong array of tools to help design the sites. Yahoo added to those – but as you can see if you visit the old site, the pages always managed to look a little clunky, and to get any kind of custom look I had to try my hand at raw HTML editing, which can be daunting. But it was a learning experience, and I found several open source WYSIWYG applications like NVu to help edit the html.

The first missionlog logo

The first missionlog logo

squeegee

squeegee

My first post there was in 2004 (actually, ported over from an earlier Sympatico home page, which continued to show up in search engine cached results for many years after it was taken down – the internet has ghosts).  It was when I first left my job at Meteor Telecommunications to work for Project417 fulltime helping the homeless in Toronto. I used it as a kind of newsletter (blogs were not so popular back then) to let folks know what was going on in my life, to appeal for donations to Project417, and to tell stories about the homeless people I met out on the streets of Toronto. Often the content matched the hardcopy newsletters I was producing on an old blue bondi  iMac computer (which I still have, disassembled in storage)

Using a work-around here on wordpress that actually is for future scheduling of posts, I can change the date field back to the original dates of the original mission_log articles – so I’ll be importing them and they’ll show up in the archives like Back to the Future…

The first is the Toronto Sun Letter of the Day from 2005.

To be continued…

Homeless in Mississauga

Where would you go?

I was challenged by an encounter with a homeless man on Saturday night in Mississauga. I work with the homeless in Toronto out on the street with Project417, but in the past, around 2004, had done outreach in Brampton and Mississauga. Lack of funding and general lack of awareness and sensitivity to the homelessness problem in Peel Region, lead to the cancellation of that program – sad but we had to go where people would support the work to help the homeless, that was Toronto.

On Saturday evening I was attending a Missions conference at Mississauga Chinese Baptist Church on Creekbank Road near the Dixie and 401 area. I’d had a small booth/table set up to show the programs Project417 operates in downtown Toronto to help our homeless friends. MCBC sponsors me for my work with Project417.

While taking a coffee break at the Tim Horton’s on Dixie Rd. at Aimco, primarily a commercial and industrial area, I saw a man coming out of the bushes at the edge of the parking lot displaying the tell-tale signs of being homeless and living outside. Out of all the cars in the parking lot, he seemed to be making a bee-line for mine – well, as straight as anyone with too much alcohol in them can walk anyway, that wavering but determined half-stride, half-stumble that still manages to cover a lot of ground. As he got closer, I could see the grimy and disheveled clothes he was wearing and, sure enough, he walked right up to my car and stood a couple feet away from me peering in the driver’s side window at me. He was sunburned and his right eye and the side of his face showed he’d recently been on the short end of a beating, bruised and bloody.  He had a stocky build and looked to be in his forties.

He was wavering on his feet as he stood there and I didn’t roll down the window immediately (it was open a few inches only) because I prefer to take stock of the people I encounter in my work who have obviously had too much to drink. Their behavior and responses are erratic and often violent. I suppose I took too long to say hello because his crooked grin disappeared and he shouted in the window, “Don’t you f**king speak?”. It was sad, because he had walked up to probably one of the only people in the parking lot who understood his ordeal and might have offered to help him out. Instead I just kept quiet and waited to see what he would ask next.

He started to unload on his quiet,captive audience – “Yeah, I’m drunk, and I’m living in the bush over there. I don’t care boy, but my friends are gone, cops got ’em … all in the can now”. I could tell he was from the east coast from his twang. He went on,  leaning closer, swaying and staggering,  ” I don’t give a f**k!,  I get by”. At this point I was really debating whether to get out of the car and have a chat or roll down the window, but he seemed too close to the edge, with that threat of physical violence just simmering beneath the surface.  I hate what alcohol does to people. It’s a plague on our whole society.

“I just need some f**kin’ money for smokes and coffee boy, what’s so bad about that?”, he shouted.  I slowly rolled down the window, while he started grinning again in anticipation, I guess, of receiving a couple of bucks. But I’m not in the habit of giving money to any of our homeless friends when they’re under the influence. I had in the back of my mind that I’d offer to go in a get him something at Timmie’s, but I wanted to chat a minute first to try and calm him down, before I got out of the car. I have to admit, I was angry too – I don’t respond well to surly drunks – but I recognize that in myself and find that just some non-threatening, quiet conversation can often defuse a situation, so I tried – ” I hear you man, I work downtown with guys out on the street, I usually have food to hand out, but I don’t have any right now… “.  He cut me off, waving his hands in the air, the smile gone again, yelling again, ” I don’t give a f**k about them. That doesn’t do me any f**kin good now does it? I just need some f**king money for smokes”, and before I could say anything else and voice my offer of help, he stumbled away in the direction of the Timmie’s drive-thru. I didn’t get out of the car and follow – he was trouble waiting to happen.

I drove back to the conference and couldn’t get him out of my mind for the rest of the night as I fielded questions from people who stopped by my table and asked me,  “How do people end up homeless?”.  By the end of the night I was convinced I don’t know the answer to that question – at least not the answer people expect to hear.

There some things I do know –

  • The City of Toronto, with a population of 2.5 million people has over three thousand emergency shelter beds
  • Peel Region with a population of over 1 million (Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon) has just over one hundred emergency shelter beds.
  • Mississauga, as part of the Peel shelter program used to have a location on Mavis with another hundred or so beds, but it closed last year due to budget restraints.
  • There are over a thousand homeless men, women and youth absolutely without shelter who live outside in Toronto. This is a very visible population.
  • There is reason to believe, based on population density alone, that there are hundreds of homeless living outside in Mississauga and Brampton. They are almost invisible. (With Project417, Joe Elkerton used to regularly visit the homeless living in the ravines in downtown Brampton).
  • Alcohol abuse does not cause homelessness – roughly 4% of the population in Peel Region can be classified as “alcoholics” – that’s over 40,000 people. Not all of them end up homeless

The questions that come to mind are –

What is the common denominator amongst the homeless population, that could be the root cause of their homelessness?

How prevalent is alcohol (and substance) abuse amongst the homeless, and what special measures, if any, need to be taken when dealing with them?

Why do cities like Mississauga and Brampton devote so much less space to housing the homeless compared to Toronto?

As an outreach worker – how do I respond when the person I want to help is agressive and drunk? If  I turn away, am I not part of the problem?

One of our friends, Bob Buckley, on his blog Pathway of Hope says –

Our society in it’s desire to help the brokenhearted, is part of the problem. We provide enough care to maintain a level of survival that I would call the living dead.

How do we become part of the solution?

||Continued – read What do you think is the root cause of homelessness?||

::

Project417 Online Newsletter – June 2009

StreetLife – Project417 – June 2009 Vol 6 Issue 8

Chuck - I'd rather die than be homeless another winter


Our friend Chuck – his portrait at the ROM exhibition June 2009

Dear Friends,

Thanks for reading the online version of the Project417 newsletter. This will give you the latest updates on Project417’s ongoing mission to the homeless. We’d like you to be able to read more, but frankly, without continuing financial support from great people just like you, Project417 is unable to provide additional web content for the newsletter at this time.

Our financial needs for support right now are critical. Without your donations Project417 will not be able to continue to provide essential services in 2009. These services include:

Sandwich Runs to the Homeless

– more than fifty thousand meals delivered to date
– on average, we deliver a nutritious bag luunch to around 500 homeless street people every month
– more than two thousand church and school volunteers visit Project417 every year to help
– your donations provide for expenses to traansport volunteers visiting the homeless, salaries for staff to provide volunteer safety and additional food, water, sleeping bags, and clothing during severe weather alerts

Project417 Urban Adventures

Short Term Missions – an urban, inner city experience – Project 417 has been hosting urban missions teams to the inner city in Toronto since the 1980’s but is now growing this ministry through Project417 Urban Adventures (UA). Urban Adventures will provide teams with the opportunity to come to Toronto and participate in a variety of urban outreach experiences. The goals of this program are to effectively serve the at-risk, low income communities we reach out to, to impact the worldviews and opinions of students toward a more Christ-like view of the urban reality. UA provides missions opportunities to Youth (and other group) leaders that will be easy to plan and allow them to experience the trip alongside youth – providing discipleship along the way. UA is a partnership with Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship.

Bloor Lansdowne Community Dinner

– A Partnership program with the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, a church that has been located here in Toronto since the 1930’s
– runs every Wednesday evening from 6PM to 8PM
– provides a free, home-cooked meal for anyone in the community. So far we are serving about sixty to one hundred guests including street homeless, residents of neighbouring shelters and transitional women’s housing, needy families and other local church neighbours
– Live musical entertainment every week
– volunteers are needed, and donations to purchase the fresh food every week, clothing bank donations are also accepted

The STEP Program Sex Trade Exit Program

STEP strives to help sexually exploited people in Toronto, Canada. The core of our work is to express the gospel in both word and deed and to engage in discipleship with our community. We do our best to address the suffering of those who are currently involved in prostitution and provide opportunities for change for those interested in exiting the sex trade. Project417 welcomes the addition of Tara McPherson, our newest faith-based missionary, to run the STEP program. For the past few months, in partnership with BLCF, STEP has run a late evening drop-in for women on Bloor Street every Thursday night from 9:30pm to 3:00am called Serenity Cafe.

Out of the Cold Program for Street Youth (November – April)

– established in the fall of 1996, by Rev. Joe Elkerton, in conjunction with Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto, now known as Knox Youth Dinner & Foodbank
– this emergency shelter program was thhe first Out of the Cold program specially for street youth from 16 to 25 years of age
– currently the program has expanded to proovide meals, a food bank, clothing depot, service referrals, and counselling; overnight sleeping accomodation can no longer be provided
– serves more than one hundred youth every week
– several of Project417’s staff and volunteers are on site at Knox every week to provide mentoring to street youth, and assist Knox coordinate volunteers

Counselling Services

– Under the direction of Rev. Joe Elkerton, Project417 provides counselling services to the homeless
– clients include homeless men, women aand youth, street involved youth and at risk families living in poverty
– counselling includes healthy lifestyles reeinforcement, addiction counselling, anger management, and family counselling
– in addition Project417 staff have been trained and certified in Critical Incident Stress Management to be involved in emergency response services and disaster relief
– CISM components include: Group and Individual Crisis Interventions; Trauma & Addictions; Pastoral Crisis Intervention; School Crises

Street Outreach to the Homeless

– the staff and missionaries at Project417 conduct regular outreach to the homeless street population and at-risk inner city residents
– the Project417 model is not a traditional shelter based approach, rather it takes place out on the street where the homeless live
– the outreach comprises both individual one on one interaction and group settings
– in conjunction with the sandwich run ministry, it is the most relational of Project417’s programs
– outreach includes: social program referrals; crisis intervention; personal friendship evangelism; discipleship; fellowship; faith community referrals

Short Term Missions

Hurricane Disaster Recovery – Gulf Coast – Hurricane Katrina – Hurricane Ike

– In September, 2005, the first short term mission teams from Project417, visited New Orleans for one, two and three week terms
– fifty volunteers in seven teams have gone on Project417 short term missions to New Orleans, Louisiana and Galveston, Texas
– Andy and a team of fifteen volunteers from Georgia State University visited San Leon, Galveston County, Texas to help with Hurricane Ike relief in the renovation of a storm damaged home belonging to a Vietnamese – American family
– there is currently no funding available for the next short term mission, but plans are to visit the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2009 and team with Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Housing Institute
– On TV –  “The Old Man and the Storm, a PBS FrontLine documentary by June Cross describing the rebuilding efforts of Mr. Herbert Gettridge and his family in the Lower Ninth Ward, aided by volunteers (including Project417); the documentary aired Jan. 2009 and can be watched online at PBS

Thanks for reading this far. We hope you have a better understanding of the essential services Project417 provides to the homeless, both here in Toronto and where disaster strikes elswhere. We need to continue. We need your support. Over 500 street homeless and 6,000 shelter housed men and women benefit from Project417’s core ministries. Thousands in New Orleans and Texas are still waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.

A donation of $10 – $20 will help pay for our team leaders’ expenses to support the volunteers for one evening’s sandwich run. A donation of $50 will buy a Tim Horton’s coupon book and give a panhandler a meal instead of small change in his cup. $500 =  sandwich run van for one month. $1000 would pay for the travel of one short term mission team to New Orleans or fund two weeks of inner city street outreach. Partner with us today. Follow the links below to make your donation, online, or in the mail. Join with us to bring the love of Christ to those forgotten by society.
Sincerely,

Rev. Joe Elkerton
Executive Director
Ekklesia Inner City Ministries
Project417

Toronto Helps – More volunteers help with sandwich runs to the homeless

Numbers of new volunteers increase at Project417 grassroots program for Toronto’s homeless – Thanks to Social Networking , Blogging and Search Engine Optimization:

2009 has been an exciting year here at Project417. We’ve seen a marked increase in the number of local Toronto volunteers willing to come out and help us on our sandwich runs to the homeless

A sandwich run is simply volunteers delivering nutritious bag lunches to homeless street people by walking well traveled routes in the downtown Toronto area where street involved people live. It is a relational outreach – a grassroots community building activity – in addition to delivering a meal to a hungry person, hopefully friendly conversations take place and bridges of trust strengthened.

Volunteers handing out bag lunches

Volunteers handing out bag lunches

Project417’s volunteer ranks have been swelled this year by caring people from all walks of life, from young teens to working adults – bank executives, health care professionals, singles clubs like Meet Market Adventures, whole families and even the cast of Toronto’s smash hit “We Will Rock You”. This past year we have hosted more than two thousand volunteers. Most of these new volunteers found out about us through search engines like Google. If you follow that Google link you’ll see that Project417’s sandwich runs are ranked first and three other results relate to our sandwich runs to the homeless.  Even Microsoft’s brand new offering Bing -which replaces their MSN Live search – ranks the MissionLog right here first and five or six other Project417 results including volunteer videos on Facebook.

I’ve worked hard over the last few years to improve our search results so that Project417 can more easily connect with volunteers, because, in the end, the beneficiaries are Toronto’s homeless and under-housed. We can’t afford professional SEO services or IT  Web 2.0 and 3.0 consulting, so all of this sucess has been home grown sweat equity. By far the biggest success has been WordPress.com – where you’re reading this blog right now – the MissionLog or missionlog.wordpress.com – WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms. It’s free and the blogs don’t carry any advertising. It is easy to use and set up your own blog, but has powerful options like tagging, gadgets, video and topical categories that really help  optimize your search engine ranking. There are a host of other online tools I’ve used to promote this blog and the Project417 official website and I’ve listed some of them at the end of this post.

Here at Project417, we’ve been facilitating sandwich runs for almost twenty years – our Director, Joe Elkerton first started going out to visit the homeless in the late eighties with a handful of college friends when reports of deaths among the homeless outside on the streets first surfaced in the news. This was before government sponsored programs like StreetHelp and Streets to Homes. The main focus of the program is not simply delivering food to hungry street people. The key factor is communication through conversations with our friends on the street. We don’t try to be experts or counselors, rather we try to help our volunteers – ordinary people – engage with the homeless. This is true community demonstrated by the caring act of delivering a meal.

Anyone can volunteer with us by invitation by emailing volunteer@project417.com – After taking part in our orientation presented by experienced team leaders the night of the sandwich run we head out on the streets for two or three hours. Find out how truly liberating this volunteer experience can be – to step outside your personal comfort zone and meet our homeless friends on their own grounds.

You can help get the word out online – visit any of the following links and share them in your blog or on facebook, or post them on Digg or Reddit. There’s lots of photos and even video of our volunteer experience.

Project417 Sandwich Run to the Homeless

TOStreets – another blog on Windows Live Spaces

TOstreets on MySpace – the MySpace page

Project417 – The Facebook page – become a fan

Canada News Blog – a more general blog by Canayjun (moi)

Hogtown Prophets – Listening to prophetic voices from the street

And some of these great link sharing sites –

Twine.com – visit Homeless on twine

Technorati – Homeless blog search by Outreach417

Twitter – follow @canayjun on Twitter

Delicious.com – Outreach417’s bookmarks – hundreds!

[I’ll post more here soon]

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