What started out as a mobile food distribution program in Sarnia, Ont., for those who are homeless or precariously housed now supports a second group of people in the community.
Birth of a Relationship
Once a week, on Thursday nights, The Salvation Army Sarnia Community Church brings its emergency disaster services canteen van to Veterans Park, to serve up food and fellowship to individuals who are homeless. Veterans Park is adjacent to two seniors’ residences and the Sarnia Library, and it didn’t take long for news of the food program to spread. “Not only are we seeing the homeless population come out for a meal but we are also seeing the seniors in the area coming out for fellowship and a meal as well,” says Lieutenant Brad Webster, the pastor at Sarnia Community Church.
The success of the mobile feeding program among both groups of people has resulted in the senior community embracing the opportunity for ministry while nurturing the homeless population in Veterans Park.
“We are seeing a relationship being formed in the two communities, with seniors conversing with the marginalized and listening to the stories of those without housing,” Lieutenant Brad explains.
Every Thursday night, community and family services supervisor Daphne Bourque also brings the canteen to a motel that provides shelter for those who are currently homeless.
“We serve hot meals to 50 to 70 people between the two locations,” Daphne says. “I am blown away by the compassion of the seniors. They have no problem supporting the homeless population, and it is a very beautiful thing to see.”
COVID-19 lockdowns meant seniors limited to their homes could no longer get out to socialize and meet people, so the purpose of the mobile food program expanded to help seniors as well as those who are homeless. Meeting people where they are also provides more opportunities to talk, listen and to get to know people better.
“This is something that has not been done in this community to this extent and we’re doing it,” Lieutenant Brad says. “I think that is the reason the truck has been so well received. It shows that we’re not here just because we’re a social service. Instead, we’re here because we care and we have a different reason for why we do what we do.”