On the Street 2020 – Year of Covid 19

Our SSVP Youth Conference St. Louise de Marillac in London Ontario has participated in our 4th annual On the Street program, corner of Horton Street and Wellington Road. This year with Covid restrictions happening we had to have in place protective measures to keep our friends and our volunteers safe and healthy.

It was quite the challenge to think of how we could do this program with the limitations to keep in mind. Our first hurdle was our supplies; were down due to the school year cut short and our partners not able to re-enter their schools to retrieve the supplies the students and staff had collected during Lent. Some of our schools were going to start their collection after the Spring break but low and behold school was closed for good for the rest of the year, no one would have predicted this would happen. We lost 3 school partners from that situation. Secondly, with Covid alive and still dangerously close, this was going to be a big problem to solve since we serve face to face to our brothers and sisters. Barriers were emplaced on the street by partitioning with the use of traffic cones and signs to mark off 6 feet sections for those taking part to stand at, while others moved through the donations on the street corner. We had everyone use hand sanitizer and to put on a mask before entering the area. This gave our volunteers and those we served some safety measures. Our volunteers stood behind the table and donation areas up to six feet as well, maintaining enough distance. Thirdly, how were we going to handle our remaining donations. Our team decided that after the items were handed out, all the remaining supplies were to be placed in bags to be kept isolated for up to 2 weeks before we re-donated them to another group that could use the items that were left.

To overcome the low amount of items, our Youth Executive team decided to buy some supplies to stock up on items to hand out and we were blessed with some supplies left over from other events such as our Valentine event, Socks for the Homeless and from past On the Street collections. We were given a surprise donation of supplies from one of our local high schools CCH (Catholic Central High School) by Mrs. Moynihan, much thanks go to the wonderful students and teachers who helped with this collection. We were also blessed to receive some donations from another high school Saint Andre Bessette through their Christmas Campaign in 2019. With both schools and our purchased supplies, we were able to give out a good number of essentials to our friends.

As we observed the area in which we set up our donations, things looked a bit different from last year. Behind the Centre of Hope Shelter was a makeshift Tent city for those who didn’t get housed or chose to live outdoors for the duration of this pandemic. In London there are at least 2 temporary Tent cities and the city has provided out houses for uses since the local businesses have closed their doors to everyone. This making the lives of those on the street more difficult to cope with just everyday living. It was a scary reality of how those who are marginalized must live when we take for granted all that we have.

So many people feel entitlement when it come to the everyday lifestyle but for those who have so little and are looked down upon, we found our friends to be in good spirits and so thankful for the simplest things. There is so much to learn from our friends, to appreciate and to know that God blesses us all in His most beautiful ways. Our team were blessed to be able to serve and those receiving were blessed to have been sent away with the thought of being loved.