According to municipal statistics, there are currently more than 1,000 individuals without a home in Halifax. This figure includes people who live in shelters or are couch surfing, and people who fall under the category of “living rough”—people who live in makeshift shelters such as tents.

While there are various organizations helping people who are experiencing homelessness, The Salvation Army’s Halifax West Community Church has made it its mission to provide hot meals through a street ministry in areas that don’t receive much attention. 

“That is what we are targeting,” explains the ministry’s team lead, Dave Watts. “We are trying to get to the people that don’t see a community group coming in.”

Building Relationships

The Halifax West street ministry goes out each Monday and Thursday, visiting encampment sites and transit terminals around the city, providing meals, hot chocolate, water and even clothing out of an emergency disaster services (EDS) truck. Dave leads a team of 20 people who volunteer for this ministry. The EDS truck has four team members who work together during deliveries.

The ministry began in December, and there has been a lot of interest from the community in helping.

“There are always new people coming forward, seeing what we are doing,” Dave says. “They have a desire to get involved, and we welcome them.” 

While a local restaurant provides meals, a supplier provides donations of gently used footwear. Community support is welcome as the program incurs expenses.

Despite the program’s short tenure, clients are already getting accustomed to seeing the EDS truck and are beginning to build relationships with the staff.

“People now are coming out to the truck,” Dave says. “They are thankful and walk away with a smile on their face because they know they are going to have a full belly with warm food, and they can get a meal from us without any judgment on our part. They know we are a safe haven.” 

“Near and Dear”

This wasn’t always the case. At the very beginning, Dave recalls meeting a client who did not want any help and did not want to interact. Despite the initial rejection, the Salvation Army team kept coming back. Now, anytime the client sees the EDS truck, he comes to get his meal, says thank you and smiles. This kind of relationship-building is integral to the success of the program, and to referring clients to other Salvation Army services.

“I tell my team when we’re going out on the truck, ‘We are going to listen,’ ” Dave shares. “Many of these people have a story to tell, and we become their sounding board; we become the person that they want to tell their story to.”

Getting to know the clients also allows the team to cater to specific needs. There are vegetarian meals available, as well as dog treats for any individuals with furry companions. Dave believes it is important to ensure no one feels left out.

“We are all brothers and sisters; we were all put on this earth the same way. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Dave says.

Helping others is something Dave has loved to do his entire life. He and his wife, Donna, have partaken in Salvation Army street ministries for more than seven years. The opportunity to lead the Halifax West street ministry was perfect for Dave.

“The street ministry gets in your bones; it gets in your heart,” Dave says. “It’s one of these things that once you get out and do it, the people on the street become very near and dear to you.”

Leave a Comment