Imagine for a moment that you are new to Canada and have a newborn child to care for, or you are a senior who lives alone. During the pandemic, income has been sparser and visits from loved ones are farther and fewer between. It is more challenging than ever to make sure the fridge and cabinets are stocked with the goods you or your family need to live safely at home.
During home visits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, community support workers at VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) observed challenges like these firsthand. The team took action by launching Good Neighbours Enroute, a service that connects vulnerable, low income and marginalized clients with a VHA volunteer to shop for and deliver essential food and other items in the City of Toronto and the Region of Peel.
“Having someone check in on me made me feel not so alone and a little less scared during these dark times,” said one senior client receiving deliveries through Good Neighbours Enroute.
Another client, who is a recent immigrant to Canada and caring for newborn triplets, shared that in addition to receiving essential deliveries including formula, diapers and baby wipes, being connected with a volunteer helped with ongoing emotional support.
Good Neighbours Enroute was made possible by the United Way Greater Toronto’s Emergency Fund for COVID-19. In Summer 2021, VHA’s Community Support team, led by Manager Lenore Cabral, applied for funding to launch this program. VHA was awarded $10,000, an amount substantial enough to provide support to over 100 families until March 2022.
“During this pandemic, community support staff have witnessed empty fridges, empty cupboards, expired food, infant formula being diluted and no hygiene products. In addition to providing their regular services, they have become advocates for their clients to ensure their basic needs are being met,” said Lenore.
In addition to cost barriers, added Lenore, getting out to a store is not always an option for some, particularly in the past 18 months with the additional risk of community spread COVID-19 infection and when many stores have had longer than usual line-ups.
“Traditional delivery services are often delayed in our current pandemic state or may have a fee, and essential items are often needed more urgently. We needed to find a way to help,” she said.
In just under two months since the launch of the program, 25 families have received support.
To be eligible for Good Neighbours Enroute, individuals must be VHA clients who are likely low income, vulnerable, marginalized families/individuals.
Examples of the types of items that can be provided through this program are:
• Food items such as milk, bread, rice, salt, sugar, eggs, butter, cooking oil, etc
• Baby supplies including diapers, wipes, formula, baby clothing, bottles, etc
• Senior care items such as adult diapers, formula, etc
Individuals can be connected to the program through a referral to Community Support from their VHA care provider. If you are a client in need of assistance with essential goods and believe you may be eligible, please have a conversation with your VHA provider or email program support assistant Tanzina Akbor at email@example.com with more details about your specific situation. If you are interested in becoming a Good Neighbours Enroute volunteer, please apply at vha.ca/volunteer.