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  • McMaster Student Outreach Collaborative

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful concerned citizens  can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
    — Margaret Mead

    Mac Soc logo

  • Mission Statement

    McMaster Student Outreach Collaborative is an interdisciplinary group of volunteer students, staff and faculty whose aim is to work with the community to conduct outreach for those who are marginally housed, homeless or at risk of homelessness in the City of Hamilton.

  • Objectives

    Since 1999, The Objectives of Mac SOC are to:

    • Conduct outreach to those who are marginally housed, homeless or at risk of homelessness in the City of Hamilton.
    • Provide food, clothing, basic personal needs and health information and foot care to those who are marginally housed, homeless or at risk of homelessness in the City of Hamilton.
    • Connect adults and youth with health and social service information to community programs and health services.
    • Promote collaborative and coordinated community partnerships with existing organizations who work with marginalized populations (e.g. Wesley Urban Ministries and St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church).
    • Facilitate communication and develop social networks built on trust between student volunteers and the community.
    • Promote understanding of poverty as a determinant of health and amongst volunteer students.
    • Promote the value of social responsibility amongst students across the McMaster University campus.
  • History and Overview of Mac SOC

    ​"If I hadn't met that Mac SOC outreach worker, I wouldn't be here today"

    — Personal communication from a citizen who accessed Mac SOC outreach services.

    In 1999 two nursing students from McMaster University, Patrick Mahoney and Greg Reilly established McMaster Student Outreach Collaborative (Mac SOC). Together Patrick and Greg recruited and organized volunteers of students, faculty, and staff from the School of Nursing to conduct outreach to those living in poverty and those at risk of poverty and homelessness in the City of Hamilton. Initially, this group mapped out a downtown route through parks and other areas where people experiencing poverty and homelessness congregated and determined the needs of the population. As a result of this assessment Mac SOC teamed up with the Salvation Army Soup Van to assist with providing health service information support at their designated locations. This was a valuable service as it allowed a mobile clinic of volunteers to assist a larger cohort of individuals who needed food, clothing, as well as access to health information and support services. Slowly through the grapevine of personal communication on the streets, a community of underserved individuals learned that MacSOC could be found every Wednesday night in their neighborhoods.

    Much attention for the project was raised through several media outlets including articles in the Hamilton Spectator television coverage on both CH TV 11 and Global Networks. In addition, a film was aired on Discovery Television depicting the day in the life of a nursing student featuring the Mac SOC outreach experience.


    Since 2002 as the demand for outreach services increased, Mac SOC partnered with St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church to provide indoor weekly meeting space for those whom MacSOC served. Individuals in need were invited to come to the church from 8pm-10pm each Wednesday night, where food, clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, social interaction, and health care information and support were available. In addition, foot care by volunteer Registered Nurses was offered at both the Out of the Cold locations and at St. John’s Evangelical Church. More importantly these outreach efforts enabled those whom Mac SOC served a chance to communicate with dedicated volunteers.


    Since its inception, student and faculty volunteers have developed strong relationships with people in the Hamilton community.  For students, developing community partnerships and learning about the contributing factors of poverty and homelessness and its effects on the social determinants of health has been a significant learning experience during their time as McMaster students. As of September 2018, MacSOC has grown to a size of close to 200 volunteers who continue to provide food, clothing and health & social services information and support to the marginally housed, homeless, or those at risk of homelessness. It is a unique service where the University is actively involved in using a "hands on" approach in meeting the needs of those who are poor and marginalized in the City of Hamilton. After 20 years of this initiative there is continued interest from students from the departments of medicine, midwifery, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and engineering, health sciences, arts and science, life sciences and kinesiology in volunteering with MacSOC.


    "Operation Shoebox" is a holiday shoebox drive in which  approximately 300 shoeboxes are donated and handed out with items such as gift certificates, socks, hats, gloves and personal hygiene items. The shoeboxes are distributed by each December to individuals and families experiencing poverty and homelessness in the city.


    If you or a group you are involved with are interested in donating supplies, making sandwiches, fundraising for our group, or joining up on Wednesday nights we would love to work with you. Please contact us at:




  • HOMEMADE MASK DRIVE - April 2020

    Student volunteers and the McMaster School of Nursing are spearheading an initiative to give people who are marginally housed, homeless, or at risk  of homelessness the tools to protect themselves from COVID-19. Housing advocates across Canada have repeatedly sounded the alarm that individuals living in poverty or in shelters are at a heightened risk of contracting and dying from the virus. That is why students from MacSOC (the McMaster Student Outreach Collaborative) are working with community organizations to distribute handmade masks and to educate individuals about how to use them safely and effectively.



Laurie Kennedy

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