Many of us have felt the incredible power that comes from time spent outdoors. Being surrounded by trees and hearing only the call of birds and our own footsteps on the trail can have a profound impact on our physical and mental health. For many living in poverty and marginalized communities across Toronto, the opportunities to escape the challenges of city life are rare, even for a day.
Street to Trail works to bring people together, people facing real challenges with housing, substance use, mental health, and income inequality, and give them the chance to spend time outside of the city, surrounded by nature. Through partnerships with shelters, drop-in centers, housing agencies, and community organizations, Street to Trail is able to give more people from diverse communities across the city the chance to experience to build relationships and self-confidence, while receiving the physical and mental health benefits of being in nature.
Participants with extensive trauma histories involving men have approached me to say they feel safe with Bretton (S2T Program Manager), which is an enormous and often very difficult space to create for the most veteran workers.
A participant’s story:
Chris lives on the streets of Toronto. Most of his days are spent walking through a concrete landscape from drop-in centres to church provided meals. The place where he has set up a simple shelter to sleep in will soon be destroyed and replaced by yet another towering condominium. Some days are cold and lonely, but Chris is one of the most resilient people you could meet. He exudes a playful spirit seemingly in spite of his material circumstances.
Once a month Chris looks forward to his hike with Street to Trail. Through our partnership with West Neighbourhood House, we have been going out on hikes together for almost a year. Chris rarely misses one. He has a keen eye for nature’s small treasures and often returns to the city with a beautiful stone or unique branch that he finds along the trail. On our camping trips, Chris is the first to offer to cook for the group and tend to the fire. His generosity is remarkable.
Chris is one of thousands of individuals who are experiencing homelessness or precarious housing, living with mental health and/or substance use challenges, or accessing services from one of the city’s social service providers for other reasons. Street to Trail is able to give more people from diverse communities across the city the chance to build relationships and self-confidence, while receiving the physical and mental health benefits of being in nature.
As a non-profit organization Street to Trail relies on donations from community members like you, who see value in our mission, and understand the unique benefits of a day spent in the woods. Visit our website to learn more about ways to give. Help us continue to break down the barriers that prevent some from accessing the great outdoors.
It’s not just going camping. It’s getting out. It’s getting out of here. Getting to where the smell of the piney woods replaces the smell of men in shelter in the city.