Event for Edmonton’s homeless connects people in need with basic services of daily life

Both Penny Whitford and Asia Sauve were shocked when they found out they were pregnant.

Even now, months after giving birth, the 18-year-olds haven’t quite wrapped their heads around the fact that they’re moms.

With the sleepless nights, crying babies and poopy diapers, both say being a young mother is tough. That’s why they attended Homeless Connect at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton on Sunday.

Penny Whitford, left, and Asia Sauve say the resources at Homeless Connect are helpful for young moms like themselves. (CBC)

The event provides free services to homeless people or those at risk of being homeless. Attendees had access to haircuts, eye exams, dental care, and financial and mental health professionals.

Whitford isn’t homeless, but said she and her partner, who is on Employment Insurance, struggle with their finances. She got her eyes checked at Sunday’s event, and picked up some supplies for her seven-month-old daughter Noel.

“There’s lots of resources for everything — like anything you need, they have a stand for it here,” Whitford said. “Being a young mom, any resources we can get access to is really helpful.”

Penny Whitford picked up some supplies for her baby at Sunday’s event. (CBC)

Sauve is in a similar place as Whitford, but doesn’t have a partner to help support her four-month-old son, Ashton. She lives with Whitford’s family in a two-bedroom home, and is glad to have their help.

“It makes me feel less crazy when I’m freaking out for no reason,” she said, looking at her friend.

But on Sunday, she had the support of 350 volunteers and 70 service providers.

Susan McGee is the CEO of Homeward Trust Edmonton, which has been organizing the twice yearly event since 2008. She said the primary goal is to help people transition out of homelessness.

“I’m very confident we can end homelessness in Edmonton,” she said. “We’ve ended homelessness for many people in our community that were experiencing chronic homelessness and with complex needs. And they are now doing really well in their homes.”

About 350 people volunteered at Homeless Connect on Sunday. (CBC)

McGee has seen homeless people who used to attend the event become volunteers.

But she said changes like that don’t happen in one day, and Homeless Connect is part of a much larger strategy for ending homelessness.

“This event by itself is part of a much bigger effort,” she said. “And we have a lot more work to do.”

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