The Salvation Army in Orillia, Ont., has been running a weekly street ministry since 2016, providing essential help to vulnerable people. Every Friday, a parked emergency disaster services (EDS) truck serves meals to anyone who drops by.

Led by EDS co-ordinator Ron van Deursen, the street ministry team has not missed a Friday run since its implementation.

A Sit and a Chat

Before discovering the street ministry, Daniel Crissinger was experiencing some personal challenges in solitude. He suffered from a terminal illness that caused an inoperable growth in his face, he was homeless, and he didn’t have anyone to come to for comfort or simply for company.

Despite keeping to himself, members of the community knew of him and informed the street ministry of Daniel’s situation. Ron, along with his team, decided they would try to locate Daniel and help him.

“We found him,” Ron says. “He was buried between a stack of mattresses, and he was sleeping between the top two. We had a conversation with him, and he was very shy.”

Daniel explained his situation to the team. His doctor had informed him that he did not have much time to live.

At first, Daniel did not feel comfortable enough to go to the EDS truck, so the team delivered his meals each week. However, after Daniel got to know the ministry team better, he started attending himself.

“We encouraged him, and he finally showed up on Friday nights. We would give him a meal and sit with him and chat,” Ron adds.

Starting the Process

For more than two years, volunteers and staff who worked for the ministry built a close relationship with Daniel.

“When he passed away, he was surrounded by us as his friends,” Ron says. “And that was the goal for us: to find someone who had no family, who had fallen through the cracks of society, and to help them throughout it. Daniel has been our inspiration to continue every week, each passing year, with our street ministry. It was an honour to know him and help him through his life’s journey.”

The street ministry helps an average of 200 people each Friday. In 2023, they served more than 9,000 meals. The program runs year-round. While hot meals are the focus of the program, there is also an emphasis on additional support, such as providing thrift store vouchers, toiletries and sleeping bags. 

In the summer, cold drinks are given out, while in the colder months, winter gear is provided to those who need it. Mental-health and first-aid support are also available.

While most of the people they serve are experiencing homelessness, Ron says they’re seeing an increase in the number of seniors and families with young children who are struggling to make ends meet. The street ministry team tries to get to know each client to see how else The Salvation Army can assist them.

“The hot meal is just the start of the whole process,” Ron says. “From there, depending on our conversations, we sometimes refer them to other assistance opportunities. We are giving a glimmer of hope to the vulnerable, homeless and lost by just being there every Friday.”


On Friday, April 19, 2024, Norm said:

Love serving the people that come to the truck on Friday night.

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, Tom said:

Thank you guys so much you are an inspiration to others

On Friday, April 12, 2024, Bob said:

Thank you Ron and your team for all you do for those a little less fortunate than most.

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