Mission’s Stone Soup launches new homeless program

Engaged Community Guides (ECG) will be out on Mission’s streets as ambassadors

If you watch any episode of a medical drama, you soon find out the importance of an ECG. The ECG is the device that literally measures the heartbeat of the patient.

Now Mission is putting ECGs on its main arteries thanks to Stone Soup.

In this case, ECGs are Engaged Community Guides, a group of men and women who will be out on Mission’s streets as guides and ambassadors.

What makes the program innovative is the fact that the ECGs have all had direct experience with homelessness and the many factors that can cause it. The ECG program is an opportunity for them to build skills and give back to the community that has supported them to wellness. As people with lived experience, they are in a unique position to relate to people living with challenges, but they are able to connect with the entire community at the same time.

“These volunteers are here to help everyone, from customers to visitors to people in need of shelter,” explains Stone Soup’s Paul Horn.

Horn has been involved in the ECG program as a developer and trainer, and he reports that the process has been unexpectedly rewarding.

“These seven people have made a real connection with me, and I know they will do so in our neighbourhoods.”

Each ECG has gone through a month-long training program and is fully prepared to be of service. Each of them will be outfitted with maps, supplies, first aid supplies, materials for picking up refuse or for calling in the city for larger messes.

“They’re our eyes and ears, watching out for our neighbourhoods. They know when to call the police, the clean-up crews and the outreach team,” said Kirsten Hargreaves, manager of social development for Mission.

“They will be keeping notes and reporting out at the end of the six-week pilot program and, if the program is successful, the aim is to see it continue into the new year, if funding can be secured.”

The ECGs will be supervised by Mission Community Services staff.

“The opportunity to be involved in a program like the ECGs is very exciting,” said MCSS executive director, Sanjay Gulati, “because it’s a terrific example of how Mission is willing to take leadership in solving the problem of homelessness. Other communities are missing a resource that we’re recognizing here.”

The ECG program was funded through fundraising draws involving Lanka Jewels and local artists, and anyone who wants to see such programs continue is urged to support Stone Soup by buying a raffle ticket at Lanka Jewels or at out upcoming dinner.

The ECGs hit the streets earlier this week (Dec. 4) and will be active through Christmas and January. Watch for them in their distinctive Olympic blue jackets.

If you want to participate in their graduation, join Stone Soup for a dinner at Copper Hall (33129 Railway Ave. on Wednesday, Dec. 6. Dinner will be served at 5 p.m. but you can come earlier to help prepare the meal, buy a Stone Soup raffle ticket or make a donation. The ECG graduation will occur at about 6:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Horn at bootstrapconsulting@shaw.ca or call 604-897-0239. You can also contact Gulati at Mission Community Services at sanjay.gulati@missioncommunityservices.com or call 604-826-3634.

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