2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

I haven’t added anything new, but still had 7,100 visitors. Guess I better get back to it. But very busy over at phoneworthy.blogspot.com and near to launching speedmobile.ca

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

People Say the Nicest Things Department

If you have been following over on Twitter [ and you should! at  http://twitter.com/canayjun ] – then you know that I am in the middle of a job search – primarily in the non-profit industry, organizations making an impact on helping people who are experiencing homelessness, poverty, marginalization or recovering from disasters.

I’ve been fine tuning my LinkedIn profile and received quite a few recommendations from former colleagues. Here’s one of my favorites so far:

Andy successfully inspired broad spectrum community participation as the street outreach Community Development Coordinator at Project417 – Ekklesia.  Andy’s writing, public speaking, scheduling and community liaison skills in addition to his commitment and dedication to the “Sandwich Run” program of Ekklesia Inner City Ministries were instrumental in developing a strong and dedicated army of volunteers and team of volunteer leaders. Many of the leaders and volunteers that became involved with the Project 417 program under Andy’s leadership remain in place today. I am one of them. His guidance was always heartfelt and trusted and his compassion for the plight of those less fortunate provided inspiration that resonates with volunteer groups and leaders to this day” June 9, 2011

Darlene W., V.P. Operations, JLG Asset Management Group Inc.
reported to Andy at Project417 – Ekklesia

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Red River Flood Watch – Latest Update May 1 – Flooding south of Winnipeg like a 2,000 sq km lake

Extensive flooding south of Winnipeg:

The last update at the Canada News blog was 10 days ago and conditions for our friends in Manitoba have not improved much. This post is a mirror of the canayjun post…

The flooding south of Winnipeg, although it has dropped today by about a foot, is still extensive and looks more like a 2,000 square kilometer lake than the Red River. Communities to the south are still behind ring dikes with homes stranded behind sandbags or small islands of higher ground. According to WFP many in these stranded south Manitoba communities are laying the blame on the City of Winnipeg Floodway, saying that the flood gates are not low enough and that more of the floodwaters should be admitted into the Floodway diversion to ease water levels to the south. The slowly receding waters will make life difficult for residents, hundreds of whom were evacuated with many still getting around in small boats and other water craft.

photo - CBC

photo -CBC

North of Winnipeg, where several communities declared emergencies due to serious flooding caused by the ice jams, evacuated residents are now returning to survey their flood and ice damaged homes. In the Regional Municipalities of St. Clements and St. Andrews, the Manitoba provincial government has announced it will buy out owners of properties in high-risk areas (like Breezy point) that have suffered flood damage several times in the last few years.

Evacuated members of three flood-affected Manitoba First Nations are receiving flood clean up kits from the Red Cross for their damaged homes. The Peguis, Fisher River and Roseau River First Nations are returning to their homes after several weeks of being evacu­ated.

Even in Winnipeg itself, though flood concerns are low there is still risk of damage as the city’s sewer system is operating at reduced capacity due to higher river levels and runoff. High river levels means a bigger strain on the city sewer system, and heavy rainfall in the forecast the next few days means there’s a greater chance of basement flooding. Winnipeggers can get more information at EmergWeb or by calling 311.

Also from Winnipeg, effective Sunday, May 3, 2009 at 6:00 p.m., the Flood Evacuee Reception Centre in Winnipeg, located at the Century Arena, will be closing. The Reception Centre opened on April 15, 2009, for people requiring emergency support services as a result of having to leave their homes due to flooding. To date, the Reception Centre has assisted 273 families, or a total of 724 individuals. Starting Monday, May 4, 2009, evacuees continuing to require emergency assistance will be able to access these services at the River Heights Health and Social Services Centre, 677 Stafford Street at Pembina Highway (located next to Price Choppers). The office will be open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Project417 volunteers were not asked to head out to Winnipeg to help, the local emergency and disaster crews along with numerous willing volunteers, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross have handled the flood response admirably. What Project417 will do is canvass for individual property owners and homeowners who would benefit from a volunteer team willing to help with re-building, renovation and clean-up for a week or two, perhaps among the First Nations communities. I’ll keep you updated here. Right now we’re on watch for any increase in the flu pandemic level in the GTA. As a matter of fact we’re helping with the National Emergency Preparedness Week (May 3-9) event to be held at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday at noon and expect to be serving more than 500 attendees a BBQ lunch from the Salvation Army’s mobile canteens and community response vehicles ( I’ll post some photos Tuesday).

[sources – Winnipeg Free Press , CBC Manitoba , Winnipeg.ca EmergWeb ]

Homeless prefer grassroots Out of the Cold program versus city run shelters

It’s spring right? I mean it’s getting warmer right?  Well, I don’t know about where you live, but here in Toronto there has been a dearth of fine spring weather. We’ve had more than our share it seems of unseasonably cold weather, especially cold, blustery winds and the perennial April showers. Most of us, we live with it, it’s an annual thing – how soon will it warm up – and doesn’t seem to affect our daily routine more than getting the car out of the garage and walking from the parking lot to work or other destinations. To our homeless friends on the street however, it is much more than an inconvenience.

Out of the Cold: for the homeless

Out of the Cold: for the homeless

Toronto’s Out of the Cold program has wrapped up again for another season. What this means for the few hundred homeless people who attend the Out of the Cold programs is that they are once again “Out on the Streets”. I was out with a small volunteer group a couple of weeks ago with the regular Project417 Sandwich Run outreach to the homeless on a Monday night. The streets have been particularly quieter this winter as far as the presence of the homeless (more on this later) but most of our route was busier that night and as we arrived at Nathan Phillips Square at the Toronto City Hall, there was a marked increase in our homeless friends that I haven’t seen since last fall.

Five years ago
, it was very different at city hall. Then Mayor Mel Lastman had unofficially condoned the homeless sleeping outside city hall all around Nathan Phillips Square “if they had no other shelter”. It was a year round phenomenon with upwards of two hundred people sleeping in a cardboard jungle right next to the front doors of city hall or just bundled up in sleeping bags on every available bench and corner protected from the wind and elements. That whole period in Toronto’s homelessness saga deserves a more detailed analysis. There had been a marked population boom when Home Depot and the city shut down Tent City down by the harbour, but suffice to say that upon the ascension to power of Mayor David Miller, the official policy changed, Streets to Homes was born, the 100 plus bed Edwards street shelter opened (now closed and slated for “affordable” housing) and city security quickly turfed the homeless residents of Nathan Phillips Square. This prompted one homeless bard to pen a lilting country tune, “How do You Sleep”, dedicated to Mayor Miller. One woman, who had slept on the Square for a few years, simply moved down a couple blocks onto a hot air ventilating grate across from a major hotel, where we see her every night we are on the street – yes, that’s right, she has slept in that exposed sidewalk location every night for the last five years. Again, Mayor Miller has demonstrated that he is not unfeeling when it comes to homelessness and more independent study is required of the touted success of the Streets to Homes program he championed, but this blog is about our friends still sleeping outside at City Hall.

Homeless on Queen Street W., Toronto

Homeless on Queen Street W., Toronto

During the winter months, Nathan Phillips Square is one of the stops on our Project417 Sandwich Run that has several routes spanning the downtown core from about Bathurst out to Parliament and from Bloor down to the Gardiner Expressway (with a van route that reaches more outlying areas). This winter – we go out on sandwich runs even during cold weather alerts of which there were many this year in temperatures below minus twenty – there has generally been only two or three homeless men and women sleeping at city hall. There has almost always been at least one – our dear friend Randy*, a double amputee, who sleeps there sitting upright in his wheelchair with his sleeping bag upside down over his head. During the recent celebrated Earth Hour on Nathan Phillips Square (I’ve never encountered such bright lights and high powered amplified music during any other “blackout”), we spent almost three quarters of an hour talking to Randy and looking on at the eco-revellers from Randy’s dark, hidden alcove just steps from the celebration. Randy practices “lights out” 365 days a year, except for the daily charge his wheelchair battery receives at a friend’s close by. Streets to Homes outreach workers are in constant contact with anyone, including Randy, who sleeps at city hall, but so far have been ineffective in convincing many chronically homeless men and women like him to choose the severely limited housing options available. [*Randy is not his real name]

Now during the spring, summer and fall
, the number of our homeless friends sleeping on Nathan Phillips still rises to more than a dozen, sometimes double that. On the recent Monday night, we had no sooner approached Randy than I noticed there were several more homeless in view under the walkway. As soon as they noticed us, they literally ran over, happy to see us, recognizing the tell tale bag lunches out team carries. “Hey Andy, we’re back”, a couple shouted. I’ve known many of them for almost ten years going back to the first time I ventured out on the streets to help the homeless with Project417 (Our director, Joe Elkerton has been performing outreach to the street homeless almost twenty years in Toronto). “Hey, I’m glad to see you!”,  I answered back, but in truth,  I was disturbed and profoundly saddened to see their familiar faces. Yes, they’re my friends and yes I missed them over the winter, but I had hoped that some had found a place to call home in the last four months.

The reason they are back out on the streets at night is, as I mentioned at the start, the end of the Out of the Cold Program until next November. For those of you who don’t know, or who may have been misinformed, Out of the Cold is not a City of Toronto or other level of government program. What it is,  is a grassroots success story – a faith based program started by Sister Susan Moran and her St. Michael’s School students back in 1987 and a coalition of  local downtown Christian church communities. Indeed it has developed into a multi-faith initiative with representation at 23 facilities from different faith and organizations taking part now. Very simply, the model is:  local downtown churches open their doors one night a week to provide a hot meal and a place to sleep “out of the cold”. In Toronto, more than three thousand volunteers help every winter to feed and provide shelter to about five hundred of our homeless friends. The majority of the food, materials, supplies, shelter and other costs are funded by the local church members. (Note – The city does fund the program peripherally – a local non-profit social service agency -currently Dixon Hall- has an annual contract to send one or two safety and security personnel to some sites, some transportation of guests and the supply/ laundering of a limited number of blankets and sleeping mats. They also provide counselling, housing worker and referral services to the guests. A separate community health care provider offers a registered nurse at each location) Only 16 of the churches fully opt in to these city services with several preferring the freedom and intimacy of program delivery funded and guided by their own community resources and principals. This model has spread nationwide and Sister Susan was recognized with the Order of Canada in 2006 for her contribution.

Why the streets see a surge of the over five hundred homeless when Out of the Cold ends is because the majority of them would not step foot in a city run shelter. They just plain like the Out of the Cold program sites and the volunteers who run them. They tell me the food is better by far – the people are friendlier – the rules less stringent – the atmosphere more inviting and they enjoy the other programs run concurrent to the Out of the Cold like, music nights, sports, foodbanks, clothing banks, crafts and personal hygiene care services. The sleeping arrangements are often more primitive than city run shelters, usually just thin mats on the floor placed in open areas like church gyms, but still our homeless friends praise the program and bemoan the fact that it runs only November to April.

There are over three thousand city run emergency shelter beds at numerous locations from small 20 to 30 bed operations to the 600 bed monster on George Street – Seaton House, (affectionately dubbed Satan House by it’s inhabitants) and this number has dropped due to budget cuts and the questionable recommendations of the infamous city sponsored “homeless count census” – a limited, one day snapshot of street populations. The Out of the Cold program has remained stable or grown over the same period. Our homeless friends eagerly attend Out of the Cold shelters, many making the trek across the city several nights a week to the next church location that is open that night. There is one Out of the Cold program that operates more than one night a week.  University Settlement House, an independent non-profit, United Way partner agency and City of Toronto supported community center next to the Grange Park,  runs an Out of the Cold Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the winter and Saturdays, Sundays only in the summer. It is one of the best liked shelters amongst our street friends, and they all miss Fridays now that spring has come.

Love on the street

Love on the street

It’s time the city reviewed their emergency shelter programs and borrowed a page from the Out of the Cold program’s success story. The city shelters are efficiently run, relatively clean and safe to a certain degree – but they are still shunned by many of the homeless. Many lack the humanity and compassion shown to them by Out of the Cold volunteer efforts. Our friends are homeless – not just house-less. What is the distinction? What makes a house a home? – LOVE – A commodity in short supply evidently when payed for by tax dollars and delivered by bureaucrats. Thank God, Toronto’s faith community has a surfeit of love and compassion – I only wish, for the five hundred more men and women we’ll be serving now out on the streets with the Project417 sandwich runs,  that communities could see that people need to come in out of the cold year round.

If you’re interested in volunteering with or donating to one of the local Toronto Out of the Cold sites, the best way is to contact them directly.  There is no formal or central  “Out of the Cold” foundation to receive donations, each location is self-supporting through their local congregations – and the OOTC schedule link above is maintained by Dixon Hall, a separate non-profit. So I’ve taken the time to compile this list of the 2008/2009  Out of the Cold locations:

Knox Presbyterian Youth Dinner & Foodbank

630 Spadina Ave (no overnight program)

University Settlement House

23 Grange Rd. Year round Out of the Cold program

St. Patrick’s Church

141 McCaul Street at Dundas

St. Margaret’s Church

156 – 6th Street (Islington and Birmingham)

Evangel Hall

552 Adelaide,   E. of Bathurst

York Region Mosaic Interfaith community

Yorkminister Park Baptist

1585 Yonge Street,  N. of St. Clair

Holy Blossom Temple

1950 Bathurst at Eglinton

Eastminster  United

310 Danforth Ave. at Chester

Blythwood Road Baptist

80 Blythwood Road
N of Yonge/Eglington

St. Matthew’s /  Our Lady Peace

3962 BloorSt W

St. Brigid’s

Woodbine & Danforth

Beth Sholom / Beth Tzedec
1445 Eglinton Ave W

First Interfaith at St. Matthew’s

729 St. Clair Ave. W

All Saints Kingsway Anglican

2850 Bloor W

Beth Emeth Bais Yehudah Synagogue

100 Elder St

Chinese Gospel Church

450 Dundas W

Knox United

Agincourt

St. Aidan’s

70 Silver Birch Ave

St. Michaels Cathedral

66 Bond Street (St. Mike’s parish)

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship 1307 Bloor St. W;
(Overnight tba Community dinner only, year round)

To volunteer for a Project417 Sandwich Run to the homeless visit Project417.com and check our online volunteer calendar and read about other volunteers’ stories. More than two thousand people helped us last year – come on out and see!

Red River Flood Watch – Thursday April 16 Winnipeg Declares State of Emergency

Latest Update Monday April 20, 2009 – Canada News – aerial photo of flooding Red River looks more like the Red Sea…

Thursday April 16, 2009 – The City of Winnipeg officially declared a state of emergency just after 11:00am this morning due to the rising flood waters of the Red River. The crest is expected to flow through the city between today and tomorrow. Residents of low lying areas affected by the flood are being told to cooperate with emergency personnel … more [including video of flooding in St. Agathe]

Red River Flood Watch – Latest Update April 9 – Winnipeg Manitoba

Flood Watch Updates mirrored at Canada News Blog

Red River Flood Watch – April 2009 – Updates including Winnipeg, Manitoba area and Fargo, North Dakota

Alerts – Thursday April 9

  • Red River Floodway has been opened.
  • Highway 75 will be temporarily closed from Winnipeg to approximately 20 kilometres south of Morris starting Tuesday at noon. It will reopen when the flood threat has passed.

EmergWeb Updates – City of Winnipeg – Local calling area, call 311

At-risk property owners advised to raise dikes due to ice and rising river levels: Temporary evacuation of specific areas recommended based on river conditions – The City of Winnipeg is advising at-risk property owners on Kingston Row and Kingston Crescent to raise their dikes an additional foot. This is required due to the risk of additional ice jams in the Kingston Row area. More…

Ice Jams still greatest threat
The Winnipeg Floodway has been opened diverting huge volumes of rising Red River water around the city to the north. The greatest risk continues to be the unpredictable nature of the ice jams – there have been instances of jams dislodging, and waters receding, only to rise dramatically again in a few hours when the ice jams at a new location only short distances down the river. ( The Red River flows south to north in the Winnipeg area). Areas at the greatest risk of flooding, with many properties being flooded already are north of Winnipeg, concentrated for now in Selkirk, although there has been some flooding to the south as well. At the Manitoba U.S border area Highway 75 has been closed for a few days.

In some unsettling reports – a new flood fighting method tried out by the city and province is proving to be unreliable. Water is getting past some “tube dike” deployments in Winnipeg. The province purchased more than 60 of the tube dikes – long rubber tubes then filled with water – less than two weeks ago, as they were supposed to be faster than sandbag dikes to deploy.

It is also difficult to say what the impact will be of the water diverted through the Floodway on ice jams to the north. Because ice is flowing through the Floodway, when it exits the northern outlet, all the ice will then meet existing ice jams near Selkirk and other communities if they have not dislodged by then.

I’ll continue posting the updates both at the Canada News blog as well as here at the MissionLog on WordPress.com and will post volunteer opportunities for Toronto area folks wishing to get involved at the Project417 website  – project417.com

Red River Flood Watch: Weekend Update, April 4-2009, Winnipeg Volunteers Answer Call

Winnipeg prepares for Red River Flooding – Weekend Update – April 4, 2009

Hundreds of volunteers answer the call

Sandbagging efforts stepped up today with hundreds of volunteers turning out north of the city of Winnipeg in St. Andrews, West St. Paul and Selkirk, and within city limits on Kingston Row, Christie Road and Scotia Street. Local residents willing to volunteer, seeking to volunteer, or for information on where to get sandbags for their property are asked to call the city’s 311 information service or visit the EmergWeb online service.

Young volunteer in Winnipeg - Photo: Winnipeg Free Press

Young volunteer in Winnipeg - Photo: Winnipeg Free Press

The danger’s of extensive flooding have been downgraded slightly today, with cresting expected anytime from Tuesday onwards. Accurate forecasting is difficult due to the extent of widespread ice jams up and down the Red River system in Manitoba.  North Dakota escaped the worst of expected flooding with the river cresting last week at less than forecast levels. River crest levels are also projected by Manitoba flood officials to be below historic levels encountered in ’96 and ’79 – but they are all stressing the unpredictability caused by the ice jams, which are causing localized flooding.

Latest reports are that the Red River Floodway will be pressed into action by Wednesday even if the ice that has been preventing its operation hasn’t melted. The Floodway, built to divert rising river water around Winnipeg, is not most effective until major ice pans and ice jams have cleared because the ice could actually result in blockages of the floodway within city limits. Officials however have determined it may be necessary to reduce rapidly rising levels north of the city overall.

Flooding has closed some CPR rail lines south in Emerson,  Manitoba and as well CPR has said they will utilize boxcars loaded with rocks as ballast on some rail bridge crossings of the Red River in the area.

By far the most encouraging news coming out of Manitoba is that of volunteers stepping up to help with the critical task of sandbagging, without which many homes would be overcome by the rising Red River. With the unpredictability of the ice jam conditions, the volunteers are helping add to sandbag dikes built up earlier this week as added protection. Project417 volunteers in Toronto remain on call to travel west to help our neighbors should conditions worsen.

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