'Help The Homeless' Advent Calendar

The advent calendar - it's a holiday tradition. So is helping those less fortunate. As you count down the days in December using Haven Toronto's 2017 Advent Calendar, we will identify simple ways to help elder homeless, marginally housed and socially isolated men.


December 24 - They Are Human: Sticks and stones will break their bones – and words really do hurt them. Like everyone else, the elder homeless men we support have feelings. It hurts them to hear strangers yell out insults like, “Get a job” or “Take a shower”. As human beings, please remember to 'Treat others the way you wish to be treated' and Be Kind.

December 23 - They Want To Feel Valued: What could a person experiencing homelessness possibly have to give back? Many of our clients give back through volunteering – every day. And they don’t ask for recognition or awards. They help prepare meals, sweep the floors and organize the library. Giving back one’s time is a selfless act and for our elder homeless men, one that involves great pride. Remember, we all have value and deserve to feel valued.

December 22 - They Care: In 2011, when a catastrophic earthquake hit Japan, many of those with the means to donate money or supplies did so. Even some with limited means pitched in – in particular, elder homeless men at Haven Toronto. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to have deep pockets to show that you care. Just as every dollar donated towards our services counts, so too does every penny collected to help those facing a natural disaster. Our hearts all bleed the same.

December 21 - They Are Isolated: Socialization is a basic human need – one that is difficult to attain when you have limited resources. For those on limited or no income, social activities like going to the movies, watching sports and attending cultural events are often out of reach. Remember, places like Haven Toronto exist to provide programming for elder homeless men to escape social isolation.

December 20 - They Are Alone: ‘Home Alone’ is a beloved Christmas comedy about a child accidentally being left by himself for the holiday. But being alone at Christmas is no joke – particularly for those whose family and friends may be far away or gone altogether. This holiday season, remember that many elder homeless men are alone and need place like Haven Toronto to go on Christmas Day and every other day of the year.

December 19 - Get Together: The holiday season is the perfect time to get together with coworkers, friends and family... And donate as a group. Set aside carefully used clothing. Collect new socks around the office. Donate ‘Casual Friday’ funds. And get companies to match your donation. A little bit from everyone makes a big impact.

December 18 - Every Dollar Helps: People are sometimes unsure where the money they donate to a charity goes. At Haven Toronto, every dollar counts. One dollar pays for a warm, nutritious meal for an elder man in need. Your spare change can change the life of our clients who are experiencing homelessness and social isolation. Click here to donate today.

December 17 - Donate Money: It is not uncommon for us to hear, “I’d like to help. What do you need?” As a drop-in centre for thousands of elder homeless, marginally housed and socially isolated men, the need varies from person to person. Therefore, the simple answer is, “Money.” This way we can use the funds for varying immediate needs. Click here to donate today.

December 16 - Donate Items: Imagine only having one pair of underwear to your name – how long do you think it would last? Underwear is the least donated, but most needed item for those experiencing homelessness. When you donate underwear – or socks, shoes, soap, etc. – you are helping to provide our elder homeless men with the dignity they so greatly deserve.

December 15 - Bonding: When you volunteer at Haven Toronto as part of work, you can use the opportunity to bond with co-workers and with elder homeless men. One of the benefits is the first-hand experience of gratitude on the part of those less fortunate for whom you are helping. Volunteering puts a smile on their face… and yours.

December 14 - Be Selfish: It is a scientific fact that volunteering makes the volunteer feel better. Better about themselves and better about those they support. The more you volunteer, the better you feel. So be selfish. Volunteer more often and feel great more often. You will be glad you did, and so will those you are helping.

December 13 - Be Generous: Specifically, be generous with your time. When you volunteer, you gain new perspective and witness the gratitude of those less fortunate. Last year we provided over 47000 meals and over 9600 articles of clothing. This would not have been possible if not for people who are generous, including volunteers who prepared and served meals and helped in our clothing room.

December 12 - Bitter Cold Days Ahead: It’s safe to say we can expect bitter cold long before sunny and warm. We're talking about people not weather. That’s just a reality of where we live, on the streets of Toronto. When you pass a homeless person, you have a choice - to be cold and bitter or sunny and warm. Sunny and warm makes every day better.

December 11 - Be Respectful: If you wouldn’t say it to a spouse, partner, parent or child, you probably shouldn’t say it to anyone else. The fact that the homeless are easy targets doesn’t make it right. It’s one thing for an elder homeless man to be exposed to harsh elements and foul weather. It’s another to be exposed to verbal and physical abuse from another human being.

December 10 - Common Ground: Elder homeless men are proud. Especially of their city. When Toronto wins the MLS Cup, and the Grey Cup two weeks earlier, like the rest of the city, Toronto's homeless celebrate. If you are a Leafs, Raptors, TFC or Argos fan, you have something in common with Toronto's elder homeless men. The city you call home, they too call home, even if they live homeless on streets and in shelters. BTW, Congratulations TFC!

December 9 - Don't Judge: When you see a homeless person collecting items to sell, do you ever wonder. 'What they are going to do with the cash?' A client of ours collects scrap metal in a shopping cart and at Christmas he donates the proceeds to SickKids in memory of his sister who died in her youth without access to specialized emergency care.

December 8 - BOGO: Giving gift cards during the holidays is popular. This is the final weekend to BOGO - Buy One / Give One in support of elder homeless men. When you buy $40 in gift cards for Tim Horton’s, Subway and McDonald’s exclusively through ShopHavenToronto.ca, you will receive $20 in cards and a tax receipt for $20 and we will share $20 in cards with elder homeless men. Click to Shop

December 7 - Perspective: Spilled coffee. Broken heel. Stuck in traffic going to work or, worse, going home. It’s inconvenient. Yesterday an elder homeless man had his only jacket stolen. True story. Also true, without it, living on the streets in winter means he’s that much closer to freezing to death. We helped him with a jacket. We can’t help the weather.

December 6 - Empathy: When you understand the causes and the impact, you will have more empathy for those who are homeless. 75% of our clients do not have a home. At the end of the day today, 1 in 9 elder men at Haven Toronto will leave with no where to go but the cold and cruel streets of Toronto.

December 5 - Understand: It is important to understand the impact of homelessness and the toll it takes on relationships, self-worth and mental and physical health. The lifespan of someone homeless is cut in half. Their body ages faster. A 55 year old homeless man has the health of a 70 year old.

December 4 - Understand: Specifically, understand what causes homelessness. Over 70% of homelessness is the result of loss of employment, workplace injury and other health and mental health issues, poverty, and changes in family status including divorce and death

December 3 - Say Hello: Say hello, good morning and have a good day. They are some of the most basic greetings for acquaintances and strangers alike. But when you're used to no greeting at all, or worse, insults and abuse, a simple 'good morning' will take you by surprise, will leave you thinking, it's going to be a good morning after all.

December 2 - Share A Smile: If Day One was 'Make Eye Contact', it's not much of a stretch on Day Two to add, 'Share A Smile'. If going unnoticed is the norm for someone who is homeless, imagine the impact (on both of you) of eye contact and a gentle, caring smile.

December 1 - Make Eye Contact: Poverty and homelessness are there whether you choose to see it or not. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. When you see someone who is homeless, see to it that you make a difference in their day by looking them in the eyes and showing empathy and respect for another human being.

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