Street Outreach Program In Edmonton Helps Vulnerable Women

Women's Outreach volunteers, Carol and Giselle.
by Alberta

Four female volunteers stock a van with clothes, blankets, water, and bag lunches as they get ready to head out for a shift with The Salvation Army Crossroads Community Church Women’s Outreach program. From 9:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. they’ll drive the van along a route in Edmonton’s inner city watching for women out on the streets who flag them down needing food, clothing, or just a safe place to warm up and talk. On this unusually mild January night, many ask for help finding housing and other resources to help get them off the streets.

The program is designed to help vulnerable women, many of whom are involved in prostitution or are homeless – or both. Volunteers inquire about their situations and specific needs. The women are unexpectedly up front and forthright about their struggles, and the list from one night alone includes drug use, cancer treatments, abortions, evictions, bad break-ups, hospital stays, childcare issues, incarcerations, and fear for their future. Many tears fall as they tell their stories, and the volunteers listen, help navigate the various services they need, and offer to pray with them. One woman asked for prayers to find a home, another just asked that the program’s volunteers be safe that night. Two friends asked for some clothing and prayers as they both struggle to find housing and get their lives back on track; they hugged each other and sobbed during the prayer, in one of those moments that make the impact of this program very real.

“Mostly they just need some basics, like warm clothes and a sandwich,” says Kathy Brown, Women’s Outreach Leader. “And others, it’s a ride to a safe place or help getting treatment. We’re here to help where we can with all of it.” She knows some of them by name and asks if they have a safe place to stay that night, and one takes up the offer to be dropped off at a women’s shelter.

Like all Salvation Army programs, help is available to all until the supplies run out. No one is turned away, but the stock depletes quickly and the volunteers can no longer fill the demand for gloves and scarves. They started the night with all they had; 3 pairs of gloves and 2 scarves. Kathy mentions they’d like to start a morning shift at some point, and also offer something similar for the men they encounter on the streets, if the supplies and funding can be found.

If you are interested in helping this front line program continue to Give Hope Today and reach our most vulnerable women, donations of clothing, backpacks, blankets, jackets, underwear, socks, bottled water, or monetary donations are always welcome. Please contact Kathy at 780-474-4324.

photo caption: Women's Outreach volunteers Carol and Giselle.