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The Good Shepherd Family Centre houses displaced families during COVID-19

“We’re committed to helping families find housing, we are just learning to do that in different ways.”
The Good Shepherd Family Centre has housed 9 displaced families during COVID-19

The Family Centre is Hamilton’s only emergency shelter for homeless families. The Centre keeps families together during crisis and helps them through their journey to find safe and affordable housing.

Stephanie has been a program manager at the Good Shepherd Family Centre since 2018.

Stephanie says that she and her coworkers have had to change their processes during this crisis and have found it challenging to eliminate face to face meetings.

“We’re such a close-knit team and we thrive off of the interaction with our clients,” says Stephanie. “We have been finding ways to provide the same level of service while physically distanced.”

Family Centre staff help families with housing searches, take them to apartment viewings and guide them through the process of signing leases and legal documents. During the pandemic they have had to transition the work to phone meetings, virtual tours and electronic signing.

“The virus has definitely created barriers to getting clients housed and has made life more challenging for our families,” says Stephanie.

The children’s common playroom has been closed to families during the crisis and the regular activities for the kids have been replaced with individual activity kits that staff have put together for each family. The homework room is available to students but it must be signed out in advance and the staff have been meticulous about cleaning everything before and after it is used.

“We’ve been able to accommodate everyone’s homework needs so far and we’re prepared to set up another workspace if needed,” says Stephanie.

Good Shepherd’s Rapid Rehousing Team has been securing hotel rooms for people to stay in when the shelters are full. They have seen an increased need during the pandemic with people experiencing relationship breakdowns and unsafe living situations. Another crucial issue they are experiencing is a lack of understanding landlord/tenant rights.

“Ontario has stopped all evictions during the crisis but there are many reasons why people could become homeless right now,” says Stephanie. “If a landlord verbally tells their tenant that they need to leave, some don’t know their rights and will leave and become homeless.”

Despite all the challenges they’ve experienced during this time, Stephanie is proud that they have housed nine families over the last month.

“We’re committed to helping families find housing, we are just learning to do that in different ways.”

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Yusuf Klalaf is a single father of four girls between the ages of 8 and 11. He left his job in Calgary working on a cattle farm when he suffered a debilitating injury. He has had multiple surgeries and a full knee reconstruction as a result of the accident. Yusuf became a single father after his wife passed away last year from a drug overdose.

“She couldn’t stay away from the drugs and alcohol,” says Yusuf. “She’s been in and out of the girls lives and I have been their one constant.”

Yusuf and his daughters lived in a large family home in Calgary but after the accident and his wife’s passing, he had major financial struggles. He decided to move to Hamilton where he had family that could help him raise his daughters.

His brother offered to let him stay in the basement of his family’s home but Yusuf didn’t feel it was an appropriate place for his daughters to live.

“I had an image of a homeless shelter in my head that scared me,” he says. “But I knew the people there would help me find a safe place to raise my kids.”

Yusuf was pleasantly surprised by the accommodations at the Family Centre and his family quickly settled into a routine.

“The staff checks in on us all the time to ask how we are feeling,” he says. “Before we came here I couldn’t sleep at all, now when the staff asks I tell them I am comfortable and I am happy, and that is because of you.”

Soon after they arrived at the Centre, schools closed due to COVID-19 and life changed again. Yusuf jokes that the pandemic has been making him lose his hair after being home with four young girls who can’t get out to see their friends.

“I’m really proud of how the girls are handling all of this,” he says. “I’m just happy that they are healthy and safe.”

Working with the Family Centre staff, Yusuf was able to find an apartment in a building right next door to where some of his family lives. He’s excited to move in and get his girls back on track with their online schooling.

“I didn’t think it would be possible to find a place so close to my family but they did it,” he says. “The people who work here really care about us.”

© 2020 Good Shepherd Centers