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May27WedWith a hearty meal and warm clothes, The Salvation Army is meeting needs in Halifax. May 27, 2015 by Bill Spurr
The image of a homeless man struggling along an ice-covered sidewalk, on feet filled with so many sores that blood splashes from his sneakers, reminds David Jackson why he's here every week.
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- Faith & Friends
For the past seven winters, on Wednesday evenings, David has parked a Salvation Army truck in the same spot where people line up for overpriced french fries in the summer.
This particular Wednesday was the most pleasant day Halifax had seen in months, and when David opened the window in the side of the truck, his clientele was waiting.
“You can't not come. You know they're going to miss you,” says David, who is here every week from November until April with a cargo of hearty food and warm clothing. This week, it was beef stew with big chunks of turnip, and ham sandwiches, with hot chocolate or bottled water to drink. David and The Salvation Army's Jack Frost program are one spoke in the wheel that keeps Halifax's poor from starving to death.
“I come here every Wednesday,” says James Daisley. He lives in a rooming house where it's always warm, but some nights there's food, some nights there isn't. Often, his one meal of the day is a sandwich. His only work is at the flea market on Sundays, unloading tables.
“I get 40 bucks. Better than nothing,” he says.
The first week David set up his truck there, he had to walk up the road to let folks know there was a meal available. He hasn't had to do that for a long time because if it's Wednesday, he's there—even if that means Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
“They know we're here. They know the day,” says David, a refrigeration mechanic who has been a Salvation Army member for 20 years.
He has a wife and two kids, and his teenage sons help him out on the truck, an experience they find humbling.
“There's a lot of mental illness, a lot of drugs, alcoholism, all kinds of things, but everybody has their story,” David says. “I know most of them by name. You can't do this for seven years and not know them.”
Helping Make Ends Meet
As many as 75 people get fed here every week, and not just the homeless. David has fed university students, and nobody gets turned away until he runs out of food—everything from macaroni to chili to stew, even a turkey dinner at Christmas.
This winter has been tougher than most for people who live on the street.
“It's been hard on them because the temperature's been so low, with a lot of snow, then you get rain on top of that,” David explains. “Rain's the worst for them, because they can't get dried out. They have no place to dry their clothing, so we give out socks and gloves frequently to the same people over and over.”
The food is prepared at a Salvation Army commercial kitchen on Gottingen Street, and there's lots of appreciation, but not just from the folks David is feeding. At Christmas, a man put two hundred-dollar bills on the counter and said, “Thanks for what you're doing.”
“They're good folks,” says Wayne Lavigne, a Wednesday regular. “You gotta do what you can on social service to stretch what you have. If you blow it, it's too bad. I'm trying to make ends meet. I don't drink, I don't smoke. Thank God for these places. It helps me out."
(Reprinted from The Chronicle-Herald, March 12, 2015)
(Photos: Ted Pritchard/The Chronicle-Herald)