Every night volunteers with Stone Soup Kitchen, run by the Wisteria Community Association, load up their van and travel around Nanaimo to distribute food, clothing and bedding to people experiencing homelessness.
Stone Soup Kitchen has been running for three years and is funded by private donations, bottle drives and a grant from Nanaimo Foundation. Local businesses like Little George’s Pizza and Panago Pizza also donate food.
Since the dismantling of the Wesley Street ecampment, reaching all the people experiencing homelessness is a challenge. The volunteers travel to the City parks and through the downtown core to distribute needed supplies.
“People are scattered around the city and in parks,” explains Tanya Hiltz, President of Stone Soup Kitchen. “The outreach workers are great at sharing information of who is where and who needs what.”
But Hiltz is worried about the safety of the people living unsheltered since being forced to leave Wesley Street.
“People are scared. They’re not safe when they are dispersed around the City,” says Hiltz. “We have to get these people back together. We need to advocate to get a parking lot for people to camp in so they can be together.”
Stone Soup Kitchen is looking forward to opening their own kitchen in early 2021. It’s designed around COVID regulations and allows eight people to work in the kitchen at one time.
A rent bank is opening in Nanaimo to help people with short-term rent arrears and utility payments. The rent bank provides loans which are paid back over a long period of time. This program helps people become financially stable so they don’t end up in a precarious housing or a homeless situation.
“We have lots of experience working with landlords through our housing programs, so it’s a good fit for us,” explains John McCormick, Co-Executive Director Nanaimo Region John Howard Society. “We can also work with applicants in other ways to stabilize their lives, if they need it. We can help people find employment. We can help people with food security.”
The rent bank is open to all. Anyone who is having trouble paying their rent can apply.
“If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you should call us. If it isn’t something that fits rent bank, we’re going to try and help in other ways,” says McCormick.
Application details will be published when the program opens in January.
Everybody deserves to feel loved and cared for, no matter what their story. This is the guiding principle behind Everybody Deserves A Smile (EDAS), a grassroots community project that started 17 years ago to bring a smile to people experiencing homelessness during the winter holidays.
Fairview Community School students from kindergarten to grade 7 are creating and assembling packages for people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo this December. The packages will include wool socks, hand sanitizer and delicious cookies donated by a local baker. Organizers have also reached out to dental offices for donations of toothpaste and toothbrushes.
Students in grades 6 and 7 are organizing donations and assembling the packages. The younger students are decorating the packages using their own artwork and creating cards with heart-felt wishes. Their personal touches are heartwarming.
“Fairview School has the kindest, most empathetic group of students I’ve ever met,” says Christina Renneberg, EDAS organizer and grade 2 teacher. “Some children wanted to donate their allowance money, one child wanted to build a tree fort for people experiencing homelessness and another wanted to invite people to live at their house. The students really love to help and make a difference.”
While working on the EDAS project, teachers include an educational component around homelessness. Students learn to take action and inspire their communities to develop deeper understanding of the world of homelessness.
“Our goal this year is to complete 500 packages to be given to those living on the streets of Nanaimo,” says Renneberg.
Individuals and businesses can support EDAS by sending cash donations by e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “For Nanaimo” in the message/note section, as this project is active in many communities.
“We’re grateful for any donations. We understand that people may want to contribute, but aren’t able to financially,” says Renneberg. “If you’d like to email a kind message, we’ll happily include it in a package too.”
Donations will be accepted until December 15 and teachers will be delivering the packages on December 17 and 18.
This month, Dann Denis became the first local author to be published on the board. Dann is experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo. He carries with him a binder of his poems and a long-standing ambition to be published. Dann’s poem Home: A Lesson Learned is currently on display in the window at 19 Commercial Street (Well Read Books), downtown Nanaimo.
Writing and showing your work is about “self-actualization”, Dann says, and he’s thankful for the opportunity to realize his potential. “I have the gift to write what I think, feel, see and do!” he says, and he wants to share his gift. Dann hopes to recruit other contributors and work to create a compiled edition of Word On The Street.
Dann will be helping to distribute LCVI’s new “Express Yourself” booklets to others in the homeless community. These booklets contain writing and drawing pages, literacy activities and pull-out submission forms.
The Word On The StreetCommunity Bulletin Board is a communication space for people facing homelessness and those without regular internet access. On display 24/7 in the window of LCVI/Well Read Books, the board displays news, jokes, community announcements and a map of local services. A feature section is reserved for the work of local artists and writers who are, have been, or are at risk of becoming homeless.
Word On The Street celebrates the work of experts and experimenters alike. Let your clients and community know they’re taking submissions.
Email email@example.com to request a booklet or submission form, or to send a digital submission. Submissions can also be returned to a literacy worker or through the mail slot at:
Literacy Central Vancouver Island 19 Commercial Street, downtown Nanaimo Above Well Read Books
LCVI is an active member of the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition and promotes, encourages and enhances literacy skills for children, adults and families through the ongoing support of coordinators, tutors and mentors. Learn more: literacycentralvi.org