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HELSTON: A small act of kindness will go a long way this Christmas

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
November 28, 2014 - 7:58 AM

I’ll admit it; I tend to get my back up when I'm asked for money. My instinct is to terminate the uncomfortable conversation as quickly as possible with a ‘no, not today’ or some other firm, but polite, way of communicating the cause is not getting my hard earned cash. But I’m going to tell you why we should all consider donating to local homelessness action groups this holiday season.

We ran a story this week about a soup kitchen in Vernon struggling with a food shortage. Like soup kitchens everywhere, it relies primarily on cash and food donations from the public to provide healthy, nourishing meals to people in need. It’s a vital service, and one that helps build a foundation for people to turn their lives around.

Imagine going to job interviews with a growling stomach or starting the day without that hot cup of coffee. We take that for granted. When you’re hungry, it’s hard to focus on anything else. One meal can go a long way in starting someone down a different path.

Soup kitchen staff estimate that a $50 donation will feed 15 people. That means if every one of the City of Vernon’s 40,000 people donated $50, the soup kitchen could provide meals for 600,000 people. It's the same in every other Thompson-Okanagan city.

But healthy food is only a start. One of the most important aspects of reducing homelessness, according to studies like the At Home/Chez Soi project, is housing first. Giving someone a place to call their own gives people a home base from which to tackle overlying issues, such as mental health or addictions. Imagine living a life of addictions counselling by day, and returning to the streets by night. A home provides dignity, security and comfort. 

There are several housing programs available through the John Howard Society in Vernon that focus on stable, long term accommodation. But the society receives little in the way of funding from the federal and provincial government and beds don’t buy themselves. Like the soup kitchen, the society counts on donations from the public. 

The $110 million At Home/Chez Soi study (funded by the federal government) actually found that housing the homeless pays for itself. For ever $10 invested in housing the mentally ill or drug addicted, $9.60 was saved in taxpayer-funded services.

No one enjoys seeing panhandlers on the street or the remains of a homeless camp at the neighbourhood park. As a community, we really can do better than that. We can start with doing something as small as giving someone a plate of food. 

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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