A Source of Hope, Purpose and Pride
A client of Haven Toronto, Joseph spent most days inside the cozy library at the downtown drop-in centre. An avid reader and lover of literature, Joseph volunteered at Haven Toronto as Librarian, sorting through book donations, organizing the growing collection, and keeping track of the loans and returns.
Joseph encouraged those around him to read more, he recommended his favourite novels, and worked with volunteers in the community to establish Haven Toronto’s first ever Book Club.
It was a role Joseph took great pride in.
Though he was homeless and living a rough life on the streets, Joseph began each day with a sense of purpose when he walked through Haven Toronto’s doors.
Surrounded by friends and those facing similar hardships, Joseph described the drop-in centre as a sanctuary, a place where clients were made to feel welcome – without judgement – a place to belong. In return, Joseph dedicated his time to making it a better place for others – clients, staff, volunteers and visitors alike.
Almost a year ago now, with Haven Toronto’s nurse by his side, Joseph learned that he had cancer. He began treatment immediately while returning nightly to the cold streets. It was around this time when another significant event took place in his life.
After several failed attempts to contact him, Joseph’s sister traveled to Toronto to visit. Independent and proud, Joseph had not reached out to his family for support during his struggles.
During the first of what would be many visits, Joseph proudly shared with his sister Haven Toronto’s long history, taking her on a tour of the facility, introducing her to friends, and showing her his achievements in the library.
In a note to Haven Toronto, Joseph’s sister said, “I learned that Haven gave him a sense of purpose. It gave him a community, including people who became his close friends. Haven also helped meet basic needs such as food and clothing."
“At a time in Joseph’s life, when the turmoils of life were most fierce, when his independence and pride kept him from turning to family, Haven was there for him.”
For elder men experiencing homelessness, it can be difficult to reach out to family for support and to share their struggles. “Sometimes, despite the presence of love,” wrote Joseph’s sister, “family members cannot directly help other family members.”
“So, for whatever reason, when clients of Haven Toronto cannot turn to family, they can turn to Haven Toronto. We can trust that others are providing the care that we cannot. Haven lifts people up when they are most down.”
When Joseph lost his battle with cancer, he was not alone. His sister was lovingly by his side, and by her side was Haven Toronto.