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Walk A Mile Or Ten In Their Shoes

If you count steps while you go about your day, and millions of people world-wide do, the manufacturer of Fitbit fitness technology encourages a daily target of ten thousand steps or the equivalent of five miles (8 km).

Now consider that the Fitbit goal is only half of the number of daily steps that elder homeless men in Toronto take to access supports and programs vital to their health and wellbeing.

Through research, a Toronto drop-in centre dedicated to elder men who are homeless has determined that men in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s walk 15 kilometres a day, on average, or approximately 20 thousand steps. That includes thousands of steps to appointments like doctor visits, to pick up a hot meal or emergency clothing, to get their mail – no home means no home delivery – and to see about housing.

Transit could make life easier for these men. The $3.25 fare doesn’t seem like much, until you have nothing. Any money that an elder homeless man has is better used elsewhere, hence all the steps.

Haven Toronto, the only drop-in centre in Canada dedicated to men age 50-plus, reduces the number of steps elder homeless men take by reducing barriers to health care, housing and food security. These supports are available onsite at the downtown centre.

Open every day, all year, clients of Haven Toronto can drop-in for a hot, healthy meal and, while they are there, they can access the centre’s full-time nurse, crisis and housing counsellors, and support care workers.

“Meals are a gateway to other supports,” says Lauro Monteiro, Executive Director of Haven Toronto. “Clients come for food, a healthy meal,” Monteiro continues, “and while they are here they can see our nurse or counsellors. No appointment necessary. We are low barrier. Vulnerable elder men can feel safe here and be a welcome part of a community.”

How can our community help their community? When asked, Lauro Monteiro replied, “We have been fortunate these past 18 months. People have stepped up to help during the pandemic. But with the city opening back up, we see that support slowing down. That’s why we are inviting everyone to Walktober, our annual virtual event.”