Keeping our community’s most vulnerable people fed on a regular basis is an ongoing issue, one we’ve been watching for some time.
So when the announcement came last month that a Victoria Foundation grant would enable Our Place to provide a lunch sitting on weekends – a first for the former Open Door and Upper Room facilities – it was good news, indeed.
The absence of a central location where members of the street community could sit down for a hearty meal for free on Saturdays and Sundays has no doubt created problems over the years.
Social housing providers may insist that having a roof over one’s head is paramount to one’s well-being. That may be true over the long term, but in the short term, an empty belly is more likely to affect a person’s capacity to make rational decisions.
That’s where the weekend meal offerings at Our Place have the most potential. Individuals who might have been forced to panhandle for change – or resort to illegal activities – to gather enough for a simple meal now have a place to go where they’ll not only be fed, but suffer far less of a hit to their self-esteem.
Our Place executive director Don Evans says attendance for the weekend openings continues to grow, with about 250 people served last Sunday. As word gets out about the expanded service, he expects weekends to soon become as popular as weekdays, when 300 to 350 of Victoria’s poor, disabled and homeless people are fed.
Having Our Place open seven days a week for meals offers regular soup kitchen users more continuity in their lives, which can be rather chaotic. Familiar faces and familiar places can do wonders for one’s well-being.
And with Greater Victoria’s winter rains and chilly temperatures fast approaching, having someplace warm, dry and welcoming to hang out for a while on the weekends doesn’t hurt, either.
We hope the success of the weekend opening demonstrates to funders of all kinds that keeping people fed is a good investment in maintaining a healthy and safe community.