If you happened to step into Dr. David Danto’s office in the Robbins Health Learning Centre anytime over the last several weeks, you would have found a sea of backpacks, sleeping bags, winter coats, socks, journals, mittens, winter hats, hand-warmers, tarps, blankets – and even dog food.

For the past several months, the dean of the Faculty of Health and Community Studies has been connecting with community partners, students, faculty and alumni to collect donations in support of people in the city who are experiencing homelessness. 

“Our faculty has diverse programs – from social work and massage therapy to corrections and child and youth care – but we all share a deep concern for community and well-being.”

The latest manifestation of that deep concern is the faculty’s new Life Kits program, a partnership with Boyle Street Community Services

For the past two months, Dr. Danto has reached out to local retailers to build connections and request donations. A group of students from the Department of Public Safety and Justice Studies banded together to buy dozens of warm hats. And alumni have been gathering donations of cold weather items and financial support for the project.

Danisa Jara wears a black MacEwan Alumni t-shirt as she sorts through the donations of shampoo, soap, toothbrushes and many more personal care and cold weather supplies she collected
Corrections alum and Alumni Advisory Council member Danisa Jara packs up some of the many donations she gathered for the Life Kits project.

On January 19, students, faculty, staff and alumni volunteers came together under the supervision of Boyle Street staff to organize those donations into the first set of Life Kits. Now, Boyle Street will distribute the kits – backpacks filled with warm clothing, notepads, small games and caring notes from MacEwan students – during the coldest part of the winter. 

We all belong to one community, we are all neighbours, and it makes me so happy to be a part of this partnership.
Kassidy Green

“These kits go beyond meeting the basic needs of folks to keep them well during challenging weather. They also afford them dignity and a message from the larger community that they are seen and cared for,” says Kassidy Green, Bachelor of Social Work ’19, and development team lead for Boyle Street. “I am incredibly proud to work for Boyle Street and to be a MacEwan alum. We all belong to one community, we are all neighbours, and it makes me so happy to be a part of this partnership.” 

 Volunteers sit at a table in a classroom writing cards to include in the kitsVolunteers write caring notes to include with each Life Kit. 

Dr. Danto acknowledges that Life Kits aren’t a solution to houselessness and that his faculty remain committed to working and advocating for solutions to address mental health, substance use, well-being and housing in the Edmonton area. But as long as Life Kits are needed, they will work to continue growing the project.

“MacEwan University is an urban campus, we educate people who support health and community, and we have a responsibility to address well-being here,” says Dr. Danto. “The Life Kits project reminds us of what we care about, what brought us to the Faculty of Health and Community Studies and MacEwan University, and why we do the work we do.”

Relationships: January – April 2023
Connections between two or more things – concepts, objects or humans – appear across disciplines and are described in many ways: professional, symbiotic, reflexive, familial, romantic, parasitic – or even toxic. Throughout the Winter 2023 term, we’re exploring the idea of relationships. 

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