Homeless and Hungry: In Our Backyard

By absolute happenstance, I stumbled across the Facebook page of a food truck that goes around my local city. Why is this significant? It gives away the meals for free. Freedom Kitchen parks at the Sackville Public Library every Monday night for anyone who is hungry, homeless or in need. Kick-started by a member of the Knox United Church, Rainie Murphy and her friends saw a need in the community that largely goes unnoticed. Contacting the Salvation Army who has a mobile kitchen unit, organizing and training volunteers, and jumping through many hoops, they opened their service window for the first time on October 7th, 2019.

In just a couple short months, the initiative has grown. Not only do the volunteers serve food, but thanks to the latest addition to their caravan of giving, they are able to offer free clothing, blankets and winter wear from the Freedom Closet. Ready and willing to serve, the happy helpers wait with empty plastic bags to help their visitors get what they need. Anything from winter boots to sweaters to pet food line the shelves of the refurbished trailer, all absolutely free to whomever needs it! Last night (the first night the Freedom Closet was in operation), hundreds of items including sweaters, toiletries, and 154 winter jackets found new homes.

With the nights getting longer and winter settling in, the issue of homelessness comes more into the limelight. I recently became aware of the number of homeless youth in my community, finding out that many of them spend their nights couch surfing, sleeping in dumpsters, or making up a camp in the woods. Because of this, a warming shelter has organized, volunteers trained, and it’s with great excitement that the Sackville Area Warming Centre officially opens it’s door for the first time this season tomorrow evening, Wednesday, December 4, 2019.

The need isn’t isolated to Lower Sackville, though. The Salvation Army offers hot meals weekly in both downtown Halifax, as well as Dartmouth, using their food truck. Because this truck is the only unit of it’s kind in the Maritimes, they are constantly on the road, serving where they can. When Hurricane Dorian hit this past September, the truck was parked at one of the warming centres offering hot drinks and meals to those who lost power. A quick Google search shows several warming centres and shelters are throughout the Halifax area, however, there is not enough space for all of those who need a bed. With the harsh Nova Scotia winters, a dry place to sleep is integral to survival.

So what is the solution? Why are there so many without basic human essentials like clothing, shelter and food, especially in a country where we have so much excess? What can be done to decrease the number of youth living in the streets? It is easy to get lost in these questions, easy to assign blame, and easy to be an armchair critic. And while these questions do need answering, the solution isn’t going to happen overnight. In the meantime, the need for volunteers, meals, donations (in clothing, food, and finances), and a helping hand is growing. So let’s ask ourselves one last question: How am I going to help this winter? If you are anything like me, perhaps you are truly unaware of the very real need in our backyard. My challenge to us is to become part of the solution by going out and lending a helping hand. While the need is great, together we can create change in our community.

Amy Holloway

// Wanting to help? The Sackville Area Warming Centre, Freedom Kitchen, and the Salvation Army (along with MANY other organizations and not-for-profits) are welcoming volunteers! //

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