Helping the Homeless at Christmas

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a homeless person sleeps on a snowy street

Our company, Furnishr, is a furnishing company. We and our clients have the privilege of being housed and warm. This holiday season, too many people are unhoused or struggling to pay rent. It is indeed a luxury to even have a house to furnish! 

So we have put together a list of organizations in Canada. They all focus on helping the homeless and advocating for affordable housing.

Because if you’re like us, as the holiday season comes around, you feel a desire to give back in some way. After all, we’ve all had the experience of buying something and walking right past someone less fortunate.

So if you have a safe and warm place to celebrate the holidays, we hope you’ll consider donating. Helping the homeless is easier than you think.

It must be said that a one-time donation is nice, but it doesn’t really impact long-term outcomes. You could get involved with a community housing initiative near you. Or get involved with advocating for tenant rights and affordable housing. Talk to your local lawmakers about their policies. Ask them how they are helping the homeless and managing the housing crisis. Keep in mind that the temporary influx of well-meaning volunteers around the holidays can actually be really challenging.

Want to work at a soup kitchen for a single day during the holidays? Sounds good at first, but that means that someone has to teach you how to do it. They have to give you a volunteer orientation, and work to your schedule. And all this for the payoff of just a few hours’ work. If that’s all you can offer, great. But otherwise, a more impactful way to help is to become a more long-term volunteer.

At a minimum, smile and engage with the homeless folks you see! Carry gift cards to places like Tim Horton’s, or TTC tokens to give away. The winter holidays are an especially hard time to be unhoused. This is true because of the cold and also cultural expectations around family and joy. 

This holiday season, far too many shelters are at full capacity. But no matter where you are, we can make an impact!

Here are the four housing organizations we recommend most.

  1. FURNITURE BANK TORONTO
    This is a registered charity and social enterprise which redistributes gently-used furniture and housewares. Donors in the community give items, and families and individuals experiencing furniture poverty receive them. Their clients include women and children leaving shelters, the formerly homeless, and newcomers and refugees to Canada. Revenues are generated through their furniture removal service, which is run as a social enterprise. This funds their charitable activities as they work to end furniture poverty “one sofa and one family at a time.” Their vision is a world in which everyone has access to a furnished home.
  2. WIGWAMEN
    Founded in 1972, Wigwamen Incorporated, a non-profit and charitable organization, is Ontario’s oldest and largest urban Aboriginal housing provider. Wigwamen is committed to providing decent, safe and affordable housing to thousands of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families, singles and seniors. It shouldn’t be the case that settlers on native land are housed whereas native peoples are not. 
  3. FIFE HOUSE
    This organization proudly provides secure and affordable supportive housing and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Toronto Area. Fife House recognizes that access to secure and affordable housing is a key determinant for the health and well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS. They offer supportive and transitional housing as well as homeless outreach. They accept donations, and they also host many drag events to raise money for housing.
  4. OUT OF THE COLD
    This is an interfaith program that strives to respond in a meaningful way to the basic physical needs of shelter, food and warm clothing for the less fortunate members of our society. It also responds to the deeply human needs of compassion, dignity and feelings of self-worth. Out of The Cold Foundation supports the Out of the Cold participating agencies. These include churches, synagogues and other groups that provide safe havens for the poor and homeless of our society. You can support them with cash donations or with warm clothing for the homeless.

Below are other organizations throughout Canada which focus on affordable housing, furnishing, or sheltering people from violence.

Furnishing

ReStore via Habitat for Humanity
Niagara Furniture Bank

Affordable Housing and Low-Income Housing

ONTARIO

All-Together Affordable Housing in Belleville
Bethlehem Housing and Support Services
Blue Door Shelters
Cambridge Shelter Corporation
Homeless Connect Toronto
House of Friendship in Kitchener
Houselink Community Homes 
Inn from the Cold 
Mainstay Housing
Matthew House Ottawa for refugees
Multifaith Housing Initiative in Ottawa
Out of the Cold Foundation
Parkdale Neighborhood Land Trust
Performing Arts Lodge for sheltering artists who have low income, age or disability
Redwood Park Communities in Barrie
Romero House for refugees in Toronto
St. Vincent Place Men’s Shelter in Sault Ste. Marie
The Inn of the Good Shepherd in Sarnia 
Toronto Community Hostel
Wigwamen Incorporated
Windsor Homes Coalition Inc.
Yonge Street Mission
Youth Without Shelter

ALBERTA

Bishop O’Byrne Housing Association
Horizon Housing Society 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Bowser Seniors Housing Society
Journey Home Community for refugee claimant families
Kaslo Housing Society 
Lookout Housing + Health Society
Lumby & District Senior Citizens Housing Society 
M’akola Housing Society on Vancouver Island
Neighborhood Housing Society in Vancouver
Pacifica Housing
Port Alberni Shelter Society
Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby
Squamish Helping Hands 
Tivka Housing Society 

MANITOBA

The WestEnd Commons in Winnipeg
Today House in Steinbach 

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

Habitat for Humanity NWT

* You may notice that Salvation Army isn’t anywhere on our list. Their organization has a history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and we feel there are better, more local choices to support with your cash and your time.

Shelters

Women who are escaping domestic violence are especially vulnerable to becoming homeless during the wintertime. But by donating to a women’s shelter, you can help women and children find a safe place to spend the holiday.

ALBERTA

Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society
Odyssey House Women’s Shelter 
Rowan House 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Amata Transition House Society
Campbell River & North Island Transition Society
Greater Victoria Women’s Shelter Society

ONTARIO

The exterior of an Anduhyaun building. The word means “our home” in Ojibwe.

Anduhyaun Inc. in Toronto
Bethesda House in Durham 
Cornerstone Housing for Women in Ottawa
Couchiching Jubilee House in Orillia
Dawn House in Kingston 
Leeds and Grenville Interval House
SafeHope Home in Ajax
Sakeenah Homes for Muslim women and children
The Women’s Center Grey Bruce Inc. in Owen Sound 
Women’s Habitat in Toronto
Wyndham House for youth in Guelph
YES Shelter for Youth and Families

NEW BRUNSWICK

Women in Transition House in Fredericton

NOVA SCOTIA

Adsum for Women and Children
Juniper House
Third Place Transition House

QUEBEC

Assistance aux femmes in Montreal
La Sortie / The Way Out 
Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal
West Island Women’s Shelter

Organizations which are helping the homeless who are affected by alcohol and drug dependencies, or who experience mental health challenges or a disability

Alpha House Society in Calgary 
Alternative Residences Alternatives in New Brunswick 
Main Street Project in Winnipeg
Cape Breton Community Housing Association in Nova Scotia 
Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society in BC 
Home on the Hill Supportive Housing in Ontario
House of Compassion in Toronto 
Accessible Housing Calgary
Safe Families Canada

Hospital home-away-from-home housing

Mark Preece Family House

For people affected by disasters

ShelterBox Canada 

As you can see, this is quite a long list. It is sad to realize that these organizations formed in response to the needs of millions of people who find themselves vulnerable to homelessness.

Our hope is that we reach a time when shelters are no longer necessary. We imagine a world where everyone has access to a safe, warm home. And the organizations listed above are helping to build that world by helping the homeless.

Whatever your reason for giving this season, we wish you peace and joy.

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