On a chilly, sunny February morning in Summerside — Prince Edward Island’s second-largest metropolis — Ivy Inkpen sits in her automobile subsequent to the town’s group fridge in a downtown car parking zone.
“Somebody made potato soup in containers, which is a pleasant scorching meal,” Inkpen stated from the entrance seat, turning to see into the again of her automobile.
“We’ve a field of sandwiches, one other field of sandwiches with chocolate bars, and I’ve two extra bins of sandwiches within the again seat on the ground.”
This can be a common morning for Inkpen: sitting in her automobile full of donated meals, ready for anybody who needing a free meal to come back alongside. For the previous few months, she’s been right here six days per week.
The Summerside group fridge is a small picket shed that homes a pantry space on one aspect and two fridges on the opposite. Anybody is welcome to both go away a donation or take what’s there.
Inkpen and her volunteers use this car parking zone subsequent to the fridge as a house base from which at hand out packaged lunches to individuals in want, and acquire donations from group members.
Together with meals, she’s bought blankets, sleeping luggage and heat socks in her automobile to present away.
“I don’t have an workplace. That is my workplace,” stated Inkpen. “Folks come right here each day to present me issues to assist the homeless individuals in Summerside.”
A lot of the dialog round homelessness on P.E.I. in current months has centred round Charlottetown, the province’s capital. The municipal and provincial governments not too long ago dismantled a big encampment that cropped up as the town’s housing disaster hit an all-time excessive final summer time. A lot of those that had been residing on the encampment are actually staying at a brand new emergency shelter that opened in December.
However homelessness can be a rising drawback in Summerside, in accordance with Inkpen and her group of volunteers.
There are greater than 90 individuals within the space who’re experiencing some type of homelessness, stated Inkpen — both renting motel rooms, couch-surfing, or residing in barns or previous campers.
I wanted any individual simply to say I mattered. And I need different individuals to know that they matter.— Volunteer Susan Gower
Inkpen labored as a social employee in British Columbia for 30 years and got here again house to P.E.I. just a few years in the past to retire.
Her work in Summerside started when she stepped in to assist somebody who had been evicted. It snowballed from there.
“Folks began telling me about individuals residing in tents throughout the town. So I discovered some those who have been within the tents and I attempted to present them blankets and meals to make it possible for they have been OK,” she stated.
‘It rips my coronary heart aside’
Inkpen by no means anticipated to be taking up work of this magnitude throughout her retirement.
“I don’t need to see individuals die,” she stated. “After I see individuals residing on the streets or in tents, and those who don’t have sufficient meals and so they’re struggling … it rips my coronary heart aside. In order that’s what provides me the inspiration, helps individuals looking for housing.”
Inkpen fashioned an advert hoc group referred to as Homeless Helper and arrange a Fb web page. She now has 13 lively volunteers who cook dinner meals, ship meals to individuals staying in motels, acquire donations, and sit on the group fridge at hand out meals and requirements.
A type of volunteers, Constance Duncan, sat in her personal automobile that February day alongside Inkpen to assist acquire donations.
“There’s a large want in Summerside. It’s sort of a hidden want. I don’t assume individuals actually realized how many individuals are having issues with shelter and meals,” stated Duncan.
Duncan has a private connection to those points — her son Jay was once homeless in Charlottetown. Earlier than witnessing his struggles, she stated she wasn’t conscious of the extent of the issue in P.E.I.
“Particularly right here in Summerside, we thought we have been slightly bubble and we have been doing so nicely, however the final couple of years, we’re actually beginning to wrestle,” Duncan stated.
“I believe [most people] consider homelessness as residing beneath a bridge or in a tent. It’s not at all times that. It’s people who find themselves residing beneath excessive circumstances with out warmth, with out electrical energy, with out meals.”
‘Homelessness is in all places’
Her son, Jay Griffin, stopped by to see his mother that day within the car parking zone. He stated he was “ecstatic” when he heard his mom was volunteering with the Homeless Helper group.
“It’s wonderful to listen to, lastly, issues shifting in the direction of the western aspect [of the Island]… as a result of homelessness is in all places,” stated Griffin.
You may sweep it beneath any rug you need. It’s nonetheless there.— Jay Griffin
“You may sweep it beneath any rug you need. It’s nonetheless there.”
Griffin was homeless for about 18 months in Charlottetown, earlier than searching for assist for habit and touchdown again on his ft. He’s now residing in Sackville, N.B., and works as a lobster fisher on P.E.I. within the spring.
“When you’re in it, it’s completely horrible to attempt to get out, and I do know from private expertise as a result of I clawed my approach out,” stated Griffin.
He stated the persistence of the employees at locations like Bedford MacDonald Home, a males’s shelter in Charlottetown, was key to getting him off the streets.
He desires others to know the difficulties those that find yourself homeless are going by way of.
“You don’t get up sometime and go, ‘I’m going to go beg for cash on the road. I’m going to do this.’ No person wakes up and decides that. You’re pushed to that time as a result of it’s survival,” he stated.
“So to individuals who haven’t been there, they’re simply individuals. We’re simply individuals. We’re simply in a nasty spot.”
‘Grew up not figuring out this’
A standard chorus from volunteers and people dropping off donations to Inkpen and her group is that they didn’t know the extent of homelessness within the Summerside space — and that’s what’s spurring them to behave.
“Actually, I couldn’t sleep at evening. It fearful me,” stated Priscilla Giroux, one other volunteer who confirmed up in her automobile to assist hand out objects. “I’ve lived right here virtually my complete life and it’s simply, it’s getting very unhealthy … it’s actually arduous to see while you’re from right here and also you grew up not figuring out this.”
Giroux began out amassing donations of males’s boots, and now helps collect and hand out donations.
“Actually, I really feel like I’m not serving to sufficient. I really feel like I want there was extra that I might do to assist. However it’s very rewarding,” she stated.
Utilizing the group fridge to get by
The individuals who stopped by to select up donated objects the morning CBC Information visited are fortunate sufficient to have roofs over their heads, however they’re struggling to afford fundamentals like groceries.
Heather Campbell wheeled a procuring trolley and appeared over the pantry cabinets on the canned objects. Her two-year-old grandson was visiting, and he or she wished to get just a few issues for him, deciding on a can of beans with pork and molasses, a can of soup, and an vitality bar.
“This cabinet is — it’s wonderful. It’s so wonderful, like, what the ladies and the group have finished,” stated Campbell.
The 2 fridges on the opposite aspect of the small shed have been almost empty, however Judy Griffin was capable of seize a carton of eggs to present to her boyfriend, who’s on incapacity and typically struggles to make ends meet.
“I do what I can for him as a result of I’m on a hard and fast revenue. So then I can solely achieve this a lot as a result of I bought to care for myself too, proper?” stated Griffin.
One other volunteer, Susan Gower, cooks scorching meals and delivers them to individuals residing in motel rooms throughout Summerside.
Gower found the Homeless Helper volunteers by chance, when she was in a troublesome spot herself final fall and got here by the fridge to select up just a few issues.
“Ivy was right here with Constance and so they requested me: ‘Would you want a lunch?’ And I stated: ‘What?’ So that is how it began,” stated Gower.
“We simply began speaking and he or she stated: ‘You recognize, that is what we do.’ And I stated: ‘Can I volunteer?’ And I’ve gone full tilt continuous since.”
Gower cooks and delivers between 30 and 100 do-it-yourself meals per week.
“After I first began, you recognize, they wouldn’t even open the doorways.… I’d go away the meals on the doorstep till it was gone. Now they belief me that they’ll open the door,” she stated.
‘I need different individuals to know that they matter’
Gower stated she helps out as a result of she is aware of how simple it’s for anybody to land on arduous occasions.
“What if I wanted it? I wanted it that week. I wanted any individual simply to say I mattered. And I need different individuals to know that they matter. And there’s individuals on the market keen to assist.”
Folks on this group care about different individuals, and that’s what it takes to make the distinction.— Ivy Inkpen
The provincial authorities is doing what it might, Inkpen stated, planning to open a brand new males’s shelter in Summerside and serving to individuals who name the shelter help line discover a room for the evening.
However it’s simply not occurring quick sufficient, she stated, and for now it’s as much as the group to step up and fill the hole.
“While you look within the again seat of my automobile, you’ll be able to inform. ‘Trigger this all got here this morning. All this meals and the sleeping luggage and socks and blankets. Folks on this group care about different individuals, and that’s what it takes to make the distinction.”
Vancouver fire chief calls for action after propane tank explosion and fire in Downtown Eastside
Changes coming to ensure prompt reporting of oilsands spills, Alberta premier says
Body of 2nd victim recovered at site of Old Montreal fire