“Coffee connects people,” declares Kyle Brennan, a Salvation Army thrift store manager in Parkdale, a suburb of Toronto. “All of us need others for support and to feel valued.”
For many in this community who live on a fixed income, the thrift store is more than a place to buy items at a low cost. On any given day, a steady flow of guests are drawn to the smell of coffee at the back of the store. Here a couple of soft couches nestled amongst shelves stacked with books invite you to relax, meet new people and engage in conversation.
“The coffee corner is a place where I feel I belong,” says 27-year-old Jonny. “Here I can temporarily avoid focusing on my current situation.”
Jonny grew up staring out his window, wondering if he’d ever be happy. His father disowned him at birth, and his mother immersed herself in her work, leaving Jonny to fend for himself.
“I’ve always done things on my own,” he says. “It’s harder than you might think.”
With lack of parental support, Jonny questioned his self-worth. He tried to reach out for help, but when he spoke, no one listened. Jonny has never experienced genuine peace and love.
Today Jonny is unable to work due to chronic health issues. He calls the streets home and sleeps in places that are well-lit to avoid mugging. He memorizes soup-kitchen schedules and his wrinkled, dirty clothes remind him of the beating he has taken in life.
But thanks to a cup of coffee and a listening ear, Jonny has hope for a better future.
At the coffee corner Jonny met Major Doug Hammond, a Salvation Army pastor in the community. “We need to get you off the streets,” Major Doug said to him.
Trust is an issue for Jonny and he was hesitant to respond. However, he saw that Major Doug was genuine and accepted his business card. Jonny wanted nothing more than to make loneliness and homelessness a thing of his past.
“This card makes me happy,” Jonny replied. “Let’s talk.”