They devote their lives to helping others, but they need support too.

More than 400 people who work with the homeless came from across the country for StreetLevel IV: A Legacy of Justice at the Westin Hotel yesterday.

The four-day event, which equips workers from across the country through lectures and workshops, advocates on behalf of people who are poor and excluded and reminds the country’s decisionmakers that “there is a rising tide of poverty in Canada,” said Greg Paul, executive director of Toronto’s Sanctuary and the event’s keynote speaker.

The government needs a poverty reduction strategy and a national housing strategy, he said.

“We’re hoping that the federal government will provide a vision of Canada as a place where people who are vulnerable are protected in the centre of the country rather than pushed to the margins.”

“Every city is best represented by how we care for those in need,” said conference chairman Tim Huff, who is also director of light patrol and homeless initiatives with Youth Unlimited in Toronto.

But the primary reason for the conference — which is organized by the National Roundtable on Poverty and Homelessness — is to care for people who care for others, said Paul.

“Many of our folks are working with slim resources and in isolated circumstances, even in large cities,” he said. “Gathering them together has a very empowering effect.”

Later in the evening, 50 guests, including MPs and government officials, joined delegates at a vigil on Parliament Hill.