In Winters dark a group of Londoners gathered in a parking lot to say who they were, how many times they had been out, and how they were doing. “ I’m good, I’m exhausted, I’m happy to be here, I’m glad I came, I’m worried”. All of them had come to serve their fellow citizens who were left in the deadly cold of minus -24 without a home. Nursing students, retired people, others for whom coming out and serving was important. These citizens came together and gathered donated coats, sweaters, socks, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, food, loaded them into their vehicles and set out in a convoy of survival through Londons Downtown.
In the previous 3 hours many more Londoners had come by and dropped off needed items and many had been doing do so for years, months, and weeks. They donated the clothing, toiletries, and food needed to survive outside all day, and often all night, in these coldest days of winter. At the warehouse, donations were sorted by another group of volunteers and organized to be loaded into one of the 6 vehicles that were going out. Many businesses had donated food, hand warmers, toiletries, and the cash support needed to keep this mission of care moving forward.
And so it was Project Hope ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/276546363421116/) began another night, as they had done for the last 2 and a half years, to help those who live homeless survive another night and see another morning. They journeyed from Downtown on Dundas street to East of Adelaide to the Men’s Mission, and The Salvation Army parking lots. Behind Ark Aid, I spoke with a volunteer who was staying all night in the emergency shelter that had hastily been set up. “ 40 people are staying with us and St. Andrews is full”. And here he was putting his time into making sure that the people who had made it in out of the cold that night would be taken care of.
But project Hope had to move on. There were other people to see. One young woman had had all of her clothing stolen an hour before we arrived. She was sobbing uncontrollably. Heartbroken at being in the deadly cold with no jacket, or mitts, or a place to lay her head. She was comforted and then helped by a woman who has been coming out with project hope for 2 years. The young heartbroken woman was taken to St,. Andrews’s which Ark Aid has set up another emergency overnight shelter. And Project Hope moved on to the next spot.
At the Men’s Mission a flood of people came out. All of them needed clothing. Mitts, or a sweater, or food, or toiletries. Most were staying at the Mission but some were in makeshift tents in the parking lot. Not everyone had somewhere to take refuge from the deadly cold last night. And so the 12 volunteers again served their community with care, humour, and most of all heart. And it so it was until off to the next stop on the route until finally, before midnight, the volunteers gathered where they started and standing in a circle checked in again, sharing their experience of that night.
If you want to donate to project hope clothing ( they need underwear, hand warmers. coats, toiletries, food, volunteers) then you can do so here https://www.facebook.com/groups/276546363421116/ or to Ark Aid and their warming shelters you can do so here https://arkaidmission.com/donations/ but in addition, you could do something else as equally meaningful. You could call Members of City Council, The Provincial Government, and our Members of Parliament.
City Council, MPPs. and MP’s all knew there would be a major crisis of homelessness throughout the pandemic and beyond. Homelessness numbers have increased again and again and again. Last year in London 55 fellow homeless Londoners died on our streets yet still, there are inadequate resources to solve this problem. Why are there always last-minute emergency shelters being set up? Why hasn’t any of our leaders demanded the resources and the rigour of planning instead of shaking their heads and saying how “terrible a problem and it needs to end”. Unlike the volunteers at Project Hope, the words of our elected leaders do not match the actions needed right now.
So if you are moved to do something truly impactful then call and demand this failed approach of the last two years end!! Demand the City, The Province, and The Federal Government to step up and finally do something meaningful in this growing crisis of homelessness!!!
Call the Mayor and City Council here ( https://london.ca/sites/default/files/2021-11/Council-Contact-List-Nov%202021.pdf )
Our members of Parliament can be reached here ( lindsaymathyssen.ndp.ca/ & https://www.ourcommons.ca/members/en/peter-fragiskatos(88827)#contact & https://www.karenvecchiomp.ca/ & https://www.ourcommons.ca/members/en/arielle-kayabaga(110502)#contact ) .
Call them all and tell them that the last-minute approach to solving homelessness had been deadly. 55 of our fellow Lenders didn’t survive last year. Demand they fund solutions for the long term rather than for a year or a term of office. If you really want to use your heart and change the lives of your fellow citizens for the better then call. The consequences are much too high for those living homeless not to.