Toronto has endured extreme cold and several major snowfalls this this winter.
While most of us have warm homes and cozy beds to protect us from the elements, there are hundreds toughing it out on the streets, even after governments have stepped up efforts to tackle homelessness.
Toronto’s diverse faith communities also provide service to those experiencing homelessness. Most religions embrace the mantra “Service to Mankind, is service to God,” and there is evidence of this in almost every corner of the city.
Vadhuva Alin, a man in his early 30’s who is a refugee from Romania, recently received temporary shelter at a refugee camp in Toronto, after surviving on the streets for several weeks. Being separated from their children, the man spends all day panhandling for coins on the intersection of Highway 50 and Ebenezer in Brampton.
On the verge of losing shelter for himself and his wife once again, their dream to make a better life for their kids is the only thing keeping them going. He said that he feels lucky to be in this country, safe. He said that just a few days ago, a Toronto man gifted him his old family van. He sees it as a blessing in these freezing months and said he already has all the luxury than he ever did, even when he barely has anything.
He and his wife are thankful for the free food services provided by one of the Sikh Gurudwaras in Brmapton.
“I am fortunate to be accepted and helped by people of different backgrounds, not having to worry about food is a blessing,” Alin said.
Herman Preet Singh, an active volunteer inthe Sikh community has been looking after the outreach and several community service programs at most of the Gurudwaras in Toronto and the GTA for more than 10 years now. He said that along with several high school volunteers, they aid people with free food services, clothing and shelter when required.
“As long as they follow the rules that we do, they are welcomed to come in and avail any of our services.”
There are several other faith organizations working to provide a safe and nurturing environment to the needy in the city.
All Saints Church in Toronto provides friendship, social opportunities, case management, counselling, advocacy,and sanctuary to homeless and street-involved individuals.
Amanda Berges, a senior drop in worker at all-saints said, “We aim to provided our services with respect, compassion, and with a non-judgemental approach.”
On Queen street near Dufferin in Toronto. St. Francis Table has been serving nutritious food to the poor since 1987. Anyone in need gets a meal for a dollar.
Brother John Frampton, the director of St. Francis Table said, “Many people come and sponsor meals and donate instead of buying gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions.”
The Muslim Welfare Centre, a 25-year-old charity has been grounded in the faith of its founders. An immigrant couple from Pakistan devoted all their lives serving anyone, irrespective of that religion, background or language. The organization provides a wide variety of services across the GTA, including emergency shelter, healthcare and food assistance.
Ferez Azeez, the manager of special projects at the Muslim Welfare Centre said, “With a total donation of about 2.5 million a year, over 2500 individuals benefit from our food bank just in the GTA each week. However, unfortunately, we sometimes do have to turn people away due to huge numbers seeking resources.”
“I do not wish to see the existence of our services a few years from now. I want poverty and homelessness to end,” said Broth Frampton. Dedicating all my life to serving the society, it can get very upsetting to not see any overall improvement in the numbers of the homeless, said the Brother.