Get to Know Us: Mary Ann Proulx

LOFT’s Crosslinks Street Outreach Van Coordinator, Mary Ann finds joy in building relationships and sharing her love for baking with clients and colleagues.

Mary Ann Proulx is a Coordinator for LOFT’s Crosslinks Street Outreach Van program. Active with the organization for the past four years, Mary Ann has a lot of experience in the social services sector. She has been working in youth and adult mental health for 20 years and addressing poverty and homelessness for the past 20 years.

Before joining LOFT, Mary Ann was looking for a meaningful job in which she could make a difference, use her skills and leverage her vast experience. Most of all, she was looking to contribute to something she was passionate about.

“When I saw the Coordinator job posting, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Mary Ann remembers. “I missed being on the streets and working closely with individuals.”

The Crosslinks Street Outreach program is a comprehensive and coordinated network of services for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in York Region. Through appointments, people can be reached by the van and receive food, clothing, and one-on-one mental health support services.

“We service three types of individuals,” Mary Ann explains. “Those experiencing homelessness, living on the streets or temporarily living in a shelter; those who are housed but living in poverty, struggling to keep a roof above their heads when housing costs are so expensive; and those who need support with harm reduction.”

Mary Ann and her team always aim for one thing: building relationships. “We get to know people and their story,” she says. “Once they feel comfortable with us, they reach out to get help for other challenges they are facing and we can then connect them with services in the community.”

While referrals are a big portion of this program, the van also has a Case Manager who works one-on-one with individuals to help them achieve their goals and get the help they need. “Sometimes individuals need more than a referral,” Mary Ann explains. “Our Case Manager can be in touch with them within a day or two, avoiding the frustration our clients usually face when trying to navigate the social services system on their own.”

“We meet people where they are at,” Mary Ann continues. “People can call the van for an appointment and we will be as discrete as possible to service them at a location of their preference. We also don’t keep any information about our clients. Everything is anonymous.”

The Crosslinks Street Outreach program also has an office in Newmarket. “Our office is open twice a week for those who don’t feel comfortable approaching the van,” Mary Ann says. “Most people associate the van with services for those experiencing homelessness and looking for support with harm reduction. The truth is, a lot of people are struggling with poverty and connect with us to have access to food, clothing, and hygiene items.”

Whoever comes to our office or van is treated with dignity and respect. “Living on the streets, people often hear rude things and experience others staring at them,” Mary Ann explains. “So I make sure we treat them with a lot of respect. My approach is shaped by the understanding that we are all human beings. We make some good choices in life and we make some bad choices in life. I have made some bad choices in my life as well. We are entitled to do that.”

If she had not pursued a career in the social services sector, Mary Ann would be a cook. “I love cooking and baking,” she says. “I get to be creative and also get to share with other individuals. Seeing how happy people are when they receive something cooked by me gives me a very good feeling.”

“My motto through this pandemic has been: stay strong, stay positive, and stay safe,” she continues. “I truly believe that this pandemic has taught us a few things. We have found new ways of doing things and I think we will come out stronger and wiser. I don’t think the old way of doing things was necessarily the right way either.”

Mary Ann has two dogs that are the joy of her life and enjoys spending time with her kids and family.