TCHC’s Violence Reduction Program team and Sunnybrook Hospital staff are teaching our communities how to save lives until paramedics arrive
Toronto Community Housing works with many partners to offer various courses and training to TCHC tenants throughout the city. Recent examples include coding seminars for girls, cooking classes for teens, as well as courses in resume building and mural painting. But perhaps the most innovative course is a two-hour training program that provides community residents with skills to stop uncontrolled bleeding in an emergency situation and save lives.
Taught by medical personnel from Sunnybrook Hospital and in partnership with Neighbourhood Action Youth Employment Committee (NAYEC), the course teaches grandparents and teens alike how to go beyond the role of bystander in a medical emergency and literally keep someone alive until the paramedics arrive.
Offered in a growing number of communities in Toronto, the Stop the Bleed (STB) program refers to the second step in emergency health care: first make sure the person is breathing, then act fast to stem any bleeding. The question for most people is, "how?"
STB is a one-time, two-hour speed lesson in how and where to apply pressure to help keep someone alive until help arrives. Fifty-five TCHC tenants took part in this pilot program in northwest Toronto this summer, and through word of mouth, countless other tenants asked for the lifesaving training as well.
TCHC and Sunnybrook Hospital will offer three additional training sessions this fall, and more are planned in 2022. Initially geared toward youth who sometimes witness violence in their communities or among their peers and want to be a part of the solution, the program is open to all ages.
Diandra Greaves, a TCHC Violence Reduction Program Community Services Coordinator, says that to step forward and receive training to help save an injured person's life means first having to confront the fact that such violence may and does occur.
Greaves, whose work includes crisis response, coordination of partnerships and implementing programs that enhance safety in vulnerable communities, also notes that community members were eager to work together to mitigate violence and be prepared in case of an emergency.
This past summer, one young woman was walking home at night when she heard several gunshots. She found a 12-year-old boy near the back entrance of his building with a leg wound. She had just completed the Stop The Bleeding training two weeks earlier and stepped in to help the victim until paramedics arrived. Her parents and community credit her with helping to save the boy's life.
Greaves says following the teen's success in helping to save a life, word spread quickly about the positive impact of the training.
"Equipping residents and community members with training like this contributes to the empowerment of communities," Greaves said. "Neighbours are often first on the scene when violent incidents happen in communities. Now, not only are they present with the victim offering emotional support, but they have the skills and tools to act.
"They can buy the victim time until the paramedics arrive, which can mean saving a life."
TCHC's Violence Reduction Program is focused on improving safety and security for tenants. The program offers economic development and community and social supports in collaboration with the City of Toronto. It also focuses on an enhanced security presence, including adding dedicated Special Constables who work solely in specific neighbourhoods to address community needs, working in tandem with community leaders.
According to Greaves, TCHC's partnership with Sunnybrook and NAYEC to deliver the Stop the Bleeding program is a testament to the impact community stakeholders can have when they work together to build healthier, safer communities. "We saw an opportunity to participate in proactive measures to interrupt violence," she said. "We're very happy with the community response."
About Toronto Community Housing
Toronto Community Housing is Canada's largest social housing provider. Toronto Community Housing provides homes for nearly 60,000 low- and moderate-income households in neighbourhoods across the city. Toronto Community Housing is wholly owned by the City of Toronto and its 2,100 buildings represent a $10-billion public asset.