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    Coffee, Cookies and Christ

    In Toronto, a Salvation Army youth group helps spread compassion to those on the streets. October 10, 2018 Story and photos by June Li
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    Two members of the Salvation Army youth group hand out coffee and cookies
    Can you live on just $3 a day? Would you skip a meal in order to pay your bills? Unfortunately, those experiencing homelessness are forced to make these tough choices every day. 

    A New Perspective
    Bright and early on a Wednesday morning last fall, a youth group from The Salvation Army’s Northridge Community Church in Aurora, Ont., gathered together for Mission Toronto where, for the next five days, they would learn and experience the realities of homelessness on the streets of Toronto.

    Nancy Harrison and the youth group from The Salvation Army’s Northridge Community Church prepare to hand out cookies around Toronto City HallNancy Harrison and the youth group from The Salvation Army’s Northridge Community Church prepare to hand out cookies around Toronto City Hall
    Organized by Nancy Harrison of Northridge, the days were filled with eye-opening experiences and with many firsts.

    Through a local church, the youth group experienced a glimpse of what it would be like to be homeless. They were provided a map of the city and tasked with objectives, such as finding a meal for $3 and a place to sleep for two nights.

    Though the students were filled with optimism, they soon realized that these tasks were not as simple as they seemed.

    “What many people may not realize is that it takes a lot of strength to live on the streets,” says Nancy. “Sometimes, you have to make difficult decisions, such as which meals to skip so you won’t have to sleep on an empty stomach.”

    Youth pastor Matt Delaney walks with part of the youth group around the streets of downtown TorontoYouth pastor Matt Delaney walks with part of the youth group around the streets of downtown Toronto
    After learning about the realities of homelessness, the students focused on giving back. Influenced by a Salvation Army church in Santa Monica, California, they brought “Coffee, Cookies and Christ.” With two canisters full of coffee and backpacks with cookies, the group walked around Toronto spreading compassion and hope to those on the streets.

    Nancy explains that society’s perceptions about homelessness are often not shaped by direct experience, and to see and experience it first-hand puts everything in a different perspective.

    “I’ve always struggled when I walked past homeless people. I wasn’t sure how to act, whether I should look at them or say something,” says Amber, one of those who participated. “Mission Toronto showed me that they are just people, who need to be loved like everyone else.”

    Youth volunteers pour hot coffee for a man experiencing homelessnessYouth volunteers pour hot coffee for a man experiencing homelessness


    A member of the youth group distributes paper cups to those wanting coffeeA member of the youth group distributes paper cups to those wanting coffee


    Matt and another youth group member carry backpacks called cambros, which can weigh as much as 23 kilograms when fully loaded with either hot coffee or cold waterMatt and another youth group member carry backpacks called cambros, which can weigh as much as 23 kilograms when fully loaded with either hot coffee or cold water

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