With the goal of building community capacity and dignifying neighbours, Stone Soup is a unique approach to helping the homeless in Mission.
“We wanted to take a public role in homelessness prevention,” said Kirsten Hargreaves, District of Mission manager of social development.
Founded in 2014, the Stone Soup initiative is a collaboration of organizations, professionals and individuals working together to address homelessness.
The made-in-Mission strategy began as a list of 35 recommendations that Hargreaves and another leadership team member, Paul Horn, presented to Mission council.
The concept aims to address homelessness using community development (building strong social networks) and case management (building strong support networks).
One of their initial recommendations was to create a community mentor program where people with previous experience as homeless individuals were linked with people currently at risk or homeless.
Called Engaged Community Guides, participants work in downtown Mission and Mission Hills cleaning up garbage and needles as well as breaking down barriers.
“Our Engaged Community Guides are helping develop the program,” said Jennifer Ortman, District of Mission social development coordinator. “They’re the heartbeat of Mission.”
The program is council-funded for now while the group seeks augmented funding.
Other recommendations were around developing sustainable housing and landlord development.
The landlord program teaches skills for supporting at-risk tenants, informing them about how to protect their rights and providing them with support. The aim is for landlords to be more open and willing to provide housing to marginalized individuals.
“We want to cultivate landlords’ understanding of how to be effective and provide support,” Hargreaves said. “We also want to teach people how to be good renters.”
In September, a new mentorship program is launching and is intended to help people understand how poverty works and give them the tools to transition out of poverty. Referrals are now being accepted for participants.
Called “investigators,” participants will meet three hours weekly throughout the program, which is a collaboration of Mission Community Services Society, Hope Central and the District of Mission.
The aims of the program are to develop participants into leaders, create cyclical relationships, reduce poverty and build resilience.
“Everyone wants a healthy and safe community,” Hargreaves said.
Stone Soup approaches their projects as the work of a huge network with many individuals and agencies taking small pieces and running with them, which speaks to the collective’s name.
It’s inspired by a folk story in which a hungry vagabond encourages the townsfolk to share a small portion of their food with him. He cooks a meal for everyone as a result.
The leadership team behind Stone Soup believes if everyone contributes a little, they can create a community that serves everyone.
“The traveller is the catalyst for community in this story,” Horn said. “Mission generally has a positive discourse to people in need – people want to help rather than keep it out of their neighbourhood.”
Anyone who wants to get involved or has questions or an idea is encouraged to get in touch with the leadership team at Stone Soup.
To connect with Stone Soup, visit Facebook.com/MissionStoneSoup, follow on Twitter @StoneSoupMiss or email email@example.com.