An unexpected flash downpour didn't put a damper on the celebration for Up Your Life Day and the official launch of York Support Services Network's (YSSN) campaign to bring public awareness to its website uphub.ca.
An official proclamation issued by the Town of Aurora designated Sept. 10 as Up Your Life Day and a flag-raising ceremony took place at Aurora Town Hall at noon.
Mayor Tom Mrakas raised the flag with the help of MPPs Christine Elliott and Michael Parsa and Kimberly Thorn, executive director of YSSN. Thorn was also presented with a certificate to commemorate the important contributions of the Up Hub project for the community.
“Up Hub and the supports that sprouted from it were inspired by and created in partnership with peers or people with lived experience with mental health and addictions,” said Thorn.
“On Up Your Life Day, we celebrate connecting people in York Region with the tools and services they need to move forward on their wellness journey, and we’re filled with gratitude for the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Grow grant that allowed us to breathe life into this project.”
The Up Hub guide — which has been around in different incarnations for more than 27 years — is designed to help vulnerable people in York Region access community services.
It includes a directory of more than 400 community resources with listings for food banks, emergency shelters and housing, gently used clothing and furniture and more.
The website is a platform where people with mental health and addiction lived experience can share their personal stories through videos and blogs to help others.
"The website, it's a living document," said volunteer peer advisory member Irene Nightingale.
"Everyone is unique and their experiences are unique. When someone leaves hospital they're leaving a chemical atmosphere and coming into the community — some have family support, some don't — and when they go to the website, they can see what is out there. It's empowering where 'wow, I can do this myself.' People like me who for decades didn't have anything now have something."
Up Hub has several volunteer peer advisory committee members who have lived experiences. These volunteers provide invaluable insight to YSSN and offer input about which services should be included in the guide and what changes they feel are necessary.
"As peers we want to be able to support others and give them resources, access to resources to empower them and build up their own lives. Once you empower a peer to get the resources on their own, it makes them feel like their recovery is possible," said Randee Korman, a volunteer member of the peer advisory committee.
Korman said that when she left hospital "there was nothing out there. Nobody did anything; I was just left out in the cold. I didn't know who to turn to or where to go. When you're in a clinical setting for weeks, you lose a part of yourself."
The guide has been updated to include sections for youth, newcomers, abuse survivors, seniors, 2SLGBTQ+, new mothers, First Nations, Métis, Inuit and other vulnerable groups and reflects changes to services due to the pandemic.
Over 12,760 printed copies of the guide were distributed to individuals and partner agencies, including York Regional Police, hospitals and non-profit organizations last year, and with the website, even more people will have free access to the information it provides, said communications specialist Jumol Royes
“In the two years since the first Up Your Life Day, we have seen the incredible impact uphub.ca has had in supporting vulnerable community members to find and access the services they need,” said Elliott. “Our government is proud to work with organizations like York Support Services Network to support initiatives that provide community members with the tools and services they need to reach their full potential.”
“YSSN and Up Hub are helping people in York Region who are seeking social services or in need of support by connecting them with the community resources they need most. I’m proud that the Ontario Government and OTF were able to support this project,” said Michael Parsa, MPP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill.
The Up Your Life guide is available as a free download.