Many Individualized Supports Available in Hamilton to Meet Specific Client Needs

by chrismcgregor
Categories: Divisional News

Individuals and families across Ontario are struggling with inflation, high cost of housing and the rising price of food. Hamilton, like many large cities, food insecurity is prevalent, particularly for those on a fixed income.

Each month in the city, some 8,000 food bank recipients are at a level of extreme risk of homelessness based on what they spend monthly on other household bills.

In response, The Salvation Army provides a range of services in the city, including housing and emergency shelter supports, employment assistance, food banks, support for people with developmental disabilities and resources for pregnant youth and young parents.

During the pandemic however, the number of people accessing Salvation Army food banks in Hamilton declined as people tapped into other government funding sources, like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This drop doesn’t mean there still isn’t a demand for services from The Salvation Army from low income or vulnerable people and families in the city.

Hamilton Food Share’s Hunger Count for March 2021 indicates that 84 per cent of households accessing food banks and who pay market value rent are using more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities.

“Anything over 30 per cent puts households at risk of homelessness,” says Shirley Molloy, Executive Director of The Salvation Army Community and Family Services in Hamilton. “Over the past number of years, we have seen household rents increase and the cost of living, food, clothing, healthcare all increased, but nothing much has changed in the way of household income, especially for those who are on fixed income.”

The Salvation Army Community and Family Services in Hamilton supported approximately 1,200 households. In Hamilton in 2021, there was a 30 per cent increase in seniors receiving assistance from food banks. On a typical day, at least 45 seniors will use a food bank in Hamilton, Shirley says.

In February of 2019, The Salvation Army Community and Family Services in Hamilton supported 1,271 households, but by February 2021 that number had dropped to 1,038, a decrease of 27 per cent. This is largely due to government supports for low-income families during COVID-19.

“Prior to COVID-19, we were seeing an increase of over 20 per cent in overall food bank usage. Since the start of the pandemic, numbers have gone down and In February 2022 we saw 925 households served,” Shirley explains. “We do anticipate those numbers to increase as a result of government supports no longer being available, and the increase in inflation and cost of living.”

The Salvation Army Community and Family Services in Hamilton runs several community supports programs, though many of these were put on hold during the pandemic. These programs and services include two food banks; an innovative partnership with an agency in Dundas to deliver a ‘Good Food Box’ containing fresh fruit and vegetables every month; the Christmas hamper program to provide food over the holidays; and the Pathway of Hope case management program, which helps clients set goals and overcome personal challenges to break the cycle of poverty.

“Although the pandemic put some of our programming on hiatus, we are currently looking to expand food bank services to two other locations in the city. This will allow individuals and families who have trouble accessing our service in the downtown core the opportunity to use a food bank closer to their home,” Shirley says.

At the two food banks in Hamilton, The Salvation Army Community and Family Services  annually supports 15,000 households, made up of 20,400 adults and 13,200 children. Each year, the Salvation Army in Hamilton sends 85 children to summer camp at Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe or Newport Adventure Camp near Huntsville, Ontario.

“We hope our other programs such as Baby Song, Café 55 for seniors, support groups like Verge, and other new initiatives can resume in the next little while and we can see people face-to-face and have better opportunities to serve our community’s most vulnerable,” Shirley says.

To support The Salvation Army in Hamilton, monetary donations stretch the furthest to allow Community and Family Services to purchase food in bulk at a reduced rate. Volunteers are also needed to sort and bag food for clients at the food bank. Learn more at