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Give help, get help: Our COVID-19 mutual aid network

Give help, get help: Our COVID-19 mutual aid network

When times are hard, we show up for our neighbours.

All of us are bound to feel a little lonely right now.

We can fight the social isolation of social distancing by taking care of our neighbours — and letting them take care of us. Many people who were already struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic are in urgent need now.

Can you help?

We’re supporting self-organizing groups of volunteers called pods that are getting together to help their neighbours. Mutual aid volunteers provide almost any kind of help that can be done from a safe physical distance! For example, your pod could check in on vulnerable neighbours with friendly phone calls, run errands and pick up groceries for people who can’t leave home, and help people who need particular services like Meals on Wheels find the right kind of help!

Need help?

If you or someone you know needs help from a mutual aid volunteer, give us a call or fill out this needs request form. Someone will be in touch shortly!

This is a brand-new, rapidly changing initiative. Check back here often for updates, and contact us with any questions!

The mutual aid model

West Neighbourhood House is working with the support of other agencies to organize mutual aid networks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mutual aid is a way for neighbours to support neighbours. It connects those who can give with those who need help. It’s based on the idea that everyone needs support from others, and everyone has something to contribute!

To reduce the spread of this virus, everyone needs to stay home as much as possible and only go out for essentials, like brief grocery runs. But right now, some people can’t take care of even their basic needs, or can’t go outside safely. That’s where we come in.

The Downtown Southwest Mutual Aid Network

We are looking for volunteers to join our network of local, self-organizing mutual aid groups. These groups are called pods.

map of mutual aid area bounded by bathurst, bloor, lake ontario and roncesvalles

Where we are

Our network covers the area bounded by Roncesvalles Ave. in the west, Bloor St. in the north, Bathurst St. in the east and Lake Ontario to the south (not including the island communities). These boundaries are not strict! Also, we are happy to connect people to resources outside of our network if needed.

Who can get and give mutual aid

Everyone is welcome. We aim to meet the needs of our vulnerable neighbours especially. This may include seniors, people with disabilities, people who are new to the neighbourhood or isolated without friends or family nearby, people who are homeless or poorly housed, and anyone else who is in need right now.

What are neighbourhood pods?

Pods are groups of about five to 30 neighbours from the same area, like the same building or the same few city blocks. They can be text message groups, group chats, or phone trees. We recommend WhatsApp as a tool to communicate, but you can use what works for you. Online tools like social media and Google Drive can be great, but not everyone has access to the internet or devices — so consider picking up the phone!

Pods are independent. They organize their work themselves, using a system that works for them. Here at West Neighbourhood House, we will help you get started and support you throughout the process.

What volunteers do

Pod leaders are volunteers who help organize and coordinate their pod and its work. Responsibilities include:

  • Reaching out to your neighbours
  • Checking in on, and reporting back about, the needs of the community your pod serves
  • Keeping track of requests, like grocery help, and assigning volunteers to complete them
  • Coordinating and moderating a neighbourhood group chat or phone tree
  • Staying in touch with other pod leaders to share resources, get training and stay safe

If you can take on this role, or you’re already doing this type of work and want our support, click the button below to fill out the pod leader form.

Not ready to take on a leadership role right now? Become a pod member.

Resources for volunteers and pod leaders

West Neighbourhood House will provide training, support, safety advice and problem-solving to neighbourhood pod leaders and volunteers.

Quick start guide — what you need to know as a mutual aid volunteer

Mutual aid COVID-19 safety guide

Pod leader resources


The Public Health Agency of Canada now suggests non-medical masks where physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transit and at grocery stores. However, you need to put on, wear and take off your mask safely in order for it to work. Here is a video that demonstrates safe mask use.

Support our efforts

Mutual aid is the least expensive way to deliver services to the community. But many incidental costs come up during the course of this work. You can donate to our COVID-19 response fund here. It is used for various pandemic-specific response initiatives across West Neighbourhood House.

Get in touch

Questions about mutual aid or want to know how you or a neighbour can get help?

Call (416) 532-4828