Fostering Social Connectedness in a time of Social Distancing

The featured image on this page shows The Storefront Staff team in Fall 2019. While we cannot be this close right now, we can still collaborate with each other and with you, and everyone in the community to foster community connectedness.

March 19, 2020
Nadia Heyd
Storefront Donor Relations Coordinator and Communications Committee Member

During this time of collective response to limit the spread of COVID-19, we would like to share some of the ways The Storefront is working to support the community. In this time of “social distancing” we continue to do what we always do: foster social connection.

Our facilities have been closed since Monday, March 16th. We are scheduled to reopen on April 6, and that date will depend entirely on Public Health directives at that time. We appreciate everyone’s patience, and your feedback as we all adjust to this new way of working with our community – by phone, email and online. 

Currently, all staff are working from their homes, supporting people to find the resources and opportunities that will help them in their day-to-day lives, and in their community building efforts. What, exactly, does this look like?

We are reaching out to community members including residents, local employers and our community partners. We’re still tallying the numbers, but it seems like we are making at least 100 contacts every day. We want to maintain human contact with people, make sure people are informed about COVID-19, and make sure that everyone knows that although though our building is physically closed, we are still working to support people and build community. 

We’re starting our check-in conversations with community members asking how they are feeling and whether they need something. As always, we do our best to help directly, but if someone needs something we can’t offer, we make every effort to find it elsewhere in the community and help people access it. We even offer to look into something if we don’t know the answer right away and call the person back when we know more. 

We know that we work with a diverse, committed and energetic group of residents who want to build a strong community and help their neighbours and community through these challenging times. We are asking residents about their ideas for how they want to respond to this crisis and when they share their thoughts, we consider how we can best support their community building efforts.

We are keeping track of what people are asking for. We are looking for patterns and momentum. When we start to see that multiple people are looking for the same thing(s) – whether that’s a desire to get support or a desire to give support – this is the time for us to figure out how we can best respond to foster a healthy, strong and connected community.

Our team is facilitating community-wide communication. We’re compiling lists of what’s open, what’s closed, and what’s happening around our community, and sharing this information with our community. We’re also sharing relevant resources from others in the community like our agency partners and staff at the City. 

Here are some examples from three of our teams:

  1. Our Grassroots Leadership team – led by Margaret, and including Siona, Mash, and Desrene –  are connecting by phone and email with local residents who participate in programs and initiatives that normally take place at The Storefront or that are facilitated by The Storefront and take place in other places in the neighbourhood. We’re checking in with folks involved in Hanging at the Hub, Youth Zone, Sport for Change and ACEY (The Association for Committed and Engaged Youth), and with residents who are otherwise active in neighbourhood activities.
  2. Our Employment team – Led by Sabina, and including Yalini, Parm, and Philip – support people who are seeking work and/or attend computer class. These team members are checking in with people about where they are in terms of their job search and are sharing information regarding jobs.  Also, they’re checking on what digital access people have at home so that we can start planning to provide online workshops and training resources. Also on the Employment team, Victoria is connecting with employers to stay as up-to-date as possible with job opportunities.
  3. Our Community Resource Connections team – led by Shane, and including Marion, Pravena and Parm  – are the team who answer phone calls to our main telephone number, 416-208-9889 and emails sent to info@thestorefront.org. We encourage people who are calling us that if you get our voice mail, please leave a message. We will call you back!  This team, along with Maddy, our Community Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator are checking in with all our community partners (fellow agencies/grassroots groups in the neighbourhood, City staff, etc. to see how we can all work better together to support community at this time.

We invite anyone who works with any or our staff directly (staff from these or any other teams) to contact them directly. Staff are monitoring both their email and voicemail for messages, and responding as promptly as we can. Our Staff Directory is available at https://thestorefront.org/who/staff/

Everyone who connects with The Storefront is also invited to complete our survey to let us know how things are going for you, and what supports The Storefront can provide to help you get through COVID-19. 

We’re paying very close attention to announcements from governments about what supports and financial aid they will be providing to help individuals, families, and businesses. We’re primed to learn about eligibility for these supports, and the process people need to follow to access them. This is already happening, and we are disseminating information on our website and social media channels. You can find our latest summary of the March 18th Federal Government Economic Aid announcement here

Please subscribe to our e-updates and/or social media channels (we are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), or visit our dedicated Storefront COVID-19 webpage for the latest news.

We hope this provides a window on the ways our “frontline” teams continue to build community during this challenging time. We’ve got some “behind the scenes” staff supporting the frontline teams and the community in other ways. I’ll think about sharing their work another time. 

We’d love to have your thoughts and feedback, and hear about ways you are building community from where you are!

Keep safe, and keep building community with us. We can foster social connection from a distance, together!

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