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oneROOF: How I got involved, and how you can too!

I would like to take this opportunity that has been offered to me, to share how I got involved with oneROOF and how it has changed my perception on our population that is experiencing homelessness.
oneROOF logo

As some of my mobile massage clients are already aware, I offer ongoing discounts on in-home massage therapy services when a donation is made to oneROOF Youth Services. When you make a donation from oneROOF’s wish list, I will discount your in-home massage therapy treatment by $5. For the month of January, I am offering the following for my mobile massage clients: make a monetary donation to oneROOF via their website, show me the receipt and I will discount your massage for the same amount (up to a maximum of $45). While we are experiencing the current pandemic, monetary donations to oneROOF are preferred.

I would like to take this opportunity that has been offered to me, to share how I got involved with oneROOF and how it has changed my perception on our population that is experiencing homelessness.

It’s not really an exciting story to be honest. I guess it started back in my early 20’s. I was looking to volunteer somewhere and, in my search, I came across oneROOF (ROOF at the time) and the services they offer. I quickly realized that with my work schedule I wasn’t going to be able to volunteer really anywhere. I just didn’t have enough time to make the commitment needed. At that time, I was an aesthetician and working many hours just to be able to pay my bills and eat. Estheticians don’t make fantastic money so I wasn’t even able to make consistent monetary donations to any organization. This is pretty much where my search ended for about 20 years. Fast forward to present day, I am a Registered Massage Therapist, in a different financial position and have more time. Older and wiser too of course 😉

About a year ago when I was working as an RMT in uptown Waterloo, I had to park a short distance from work so I didn’t get stuck paying $120+ for monthly parking (the joys of working in Uptown Waterloo!). It usually took me about 13 minutes to walk to work which is not a lot but I really wasn’t a fan. One cold winter afternoon I was particularly miserable about having to do this walk. The weather was awful. It was blowing snow; it was grey and I was grumpy about it! Then, as I was approaching the building where I worked, I saw a man sitting huddled up in a corner of the building trying to stay warm. I felt like a jerk. I had a 13-minute walk to work. 13 minutes is all it took for me to walk to a place where I would eventually be warm and here is a man just trying to stay out of the wind and not freeze. 

After this I started to Google stats on the Region of Waterloo’s homeless population and before I knew it, I had landed back on oneROOF’s website. I had no idea they were still around. I remember hearing about a fire at one of their buildings and honestly thought that was the end of the organization. But to my happy surprise they were still around. That’s pretty much how it all started. 20 years later I was finally able to donate to this organization.

I would like to encourage everyone reading this to remember that people do not grow up aspiring to become homeless or have addictions, etc. There is usually a lot of pain and/or trauma in someone’s past that has led them down this path and I can’t imagine what it takes to change your life when in this situation. I also encourage you to commit to learning more about homelessness in your region and how you can help in whatever you can, even if it’s just sharing this information. It does not take a huge gesture to make a difference in someone’s life. In addition to the above being offered via my mobile massage business, I am also a monthly donor. I can’t afford to donate much per month but I can afford a small amount and I know that any amount will help.

Below are some of the services offered at oneROOF and some 2019 stats. Information has been taken from oneROOF’s website.

oneROOF Youth Services provides safety and support to youth between the ages of 12 & 25 who are experiencing homelessness or who are at-risk of homelessness. oneROOF, originally ROOF (Reaching Our Outdoor Friends), was officially started in 1989 by Kate Miller after a friend donated office space to her on Hell’s Lane in Kitchener. Since then, it has moved locations a few times and is now located on Sheldon Ave. in Kitchener.

Some of the services offered at oneROOF include:

  • Outreach
  • Social enterprise programs
  • Drop-in (one-to-one meetings, essential needs (see below), evening programming (therapeutic craft/art sessions, life skills training, substance abuse and prevention etc.)
  • Essential services such as meals, laundry, showers, storage lockers, hygiene products, one-on-one time with staff (social support, problem solving, goal setting etc.), access to computer lab, health care services, mental health services
  • Food hampers
  • Emergency shelter
  • Housing supports
  • Intensive case management

In 2019 oneROOF made the following impact (taken from oneROOF’s website):

  • 525 youth were served
  • 194 youth accessed oneROOF services for the first time
  • 19.4 was the average age of youth who accessed oneROOF
  • 66,017 total units of service were provided for youth
  • 5,626 beds were occupied in 2019
  • 50 youth were housed in 2019
  • 28,040 meals were provided = average 76.82 meals per day
  • 1,307 food hampers were distributed


To find out more about oneROOF’s services, their history or how you can donate or volunteer, head over to their website www.oneroof.org

Stay healthy, safe and kind to each other. 

Kim McLellan

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