Kendra is a volunteer with Fix the 6ix’s Humanize Homelessness program. Humanize Homelessness is a street outreach program where Fix the 6ix volunteers interviews individuals with lived experience to elevate their voices and destigmatize this community. Kendra has been volunteering with Fix the 6ix since 2020.
FT6: Tell me what your job is, where you work and what you do?
Kendra: Basically my job is I’m a youth relief worker at two different housing programs in Toronto. One is an emergency shelter and the second one is a transitional housing program. Basically I’m just providing that day to day support – whether it’s with meals, doing intakes, informal counseling, formal counseling and anything that comes up.
FT6: What’s the typical client population at your place of work?
Kendra: At the emergency shelter it’s youth males aged 16-24. The transitional housing program is for LGBTQ youth aged 16-24.
FT6: In what ways have you seen people from the homeless community contribute positively to the community?
Kendra: There’s a lot of people who think people in shelters sit around all day and don’t do anything, but there’s a lot of people who are working, or going to school or volunteering and doing anything they can to get out of their situation. For some people it’s a lot deeper than just going to school or getting a job and some people can’t do that, but they have ambitions and goals, and given the chance they would have done really great things but for lack of a better word they are in a really unfortunate situation.
FT6: What is an example of a moment that makes you feel grateful for being at your job?
Kendra: Seeing people leave. I mean you don’t want to see them leave selfishly because you build a relationship with them but seeing anybody move out or get a new job or even smaller than that like getting their ID or joining an English class, just anything like that makes me happy. It doesn’t have to be a super big thing, but seeing clients accomplish the little things that we do everyday that they never have done before is really special.
FT6: How did you get into the work that you are doing?
Kendra: I was at University of Guelph and I graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice, Public Policy and Political Science. For one thing, it was really hard to get a job. I was doing security and many part-time jobs at the same time. Then when covid hit, I got laid off. I was thinking about what I wanted to do and what I was interested in. Everything I seemed to come across was social work related, and I felt that was what resonated with me the most so I decided to go back to school for the social service worker program at Seneca College.
FT6: What about social work and working with the homeless population resonates with you?
Kendra: Especially with Criminal Justice and Political Science it was very much about enforcing rules and telling people what to do, and that was not what I felt I was meant to do. When I started thinking about what I actually wanted to do it was the complete opposite. I want to go to work and feel like I am doing something beneficial for other people, not just beneficial for me.
FT6: What do you think is the biggest misconception about people experiencing homelessness?
Kendra: I’d say it’s that “They don’t want to get better” or “They don’t want to get a job” or “They don’t want to find housing”. At least most of the people I work with – nobody wants to be there. There are so many different things that [the homeless] don’t have any control over, especially in Toronto. Rent is crazy, and you need a credit report and references – most people don’t have those, let alone someone who is 18 or 19 and homeless. People seem to think that it’s so easy to say “I don’t want to be homeless any more, I’m going to get a job” but how are you going to write a resume when you don’t have any experience? How are you even going to print out a resume and use the internet? There are so many things that people don’t think about.