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Oshawa coming together to help homeless

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

While many people are bemoaning the fact they have to stay home due to COVID-19, there are also the homeless living on the streets of Oshawa.

With St. Vincent Palloti’s Kitchen closing its doors due to a fear the organization couldn’t protect it’s clientele from COVID-19. Because of this, a number of homeless people are unsure of where to go.

“I have to go through the garbage now as I don’t know about other services,” one homeless individual, who preferred to keep his name to himself, told The Oshawa Express.

However, another says they can use the Backdoor Mission as long as they are open.

Derek Giberson, Backdoor Mission’s board president as well as Oshawa’s Ward 4 city councillor, says the organization is expanding their lunch service.

“As of [Monday, April 6] we have just expanded our lunch service to seven days a week,” says Giberson.

He also notes the organization has also added windows of time during the day for washroom access.

“There’s a scarcity of washrooms with businesses and services that have shut their doors, and that’s a real challenge for folks who are on the street, and those who are homeless,” he says.

Giberson also notes there’s a group of health agencies coming together in the near future to get some services under one roof at Backdoor Mission to address critical needs being faced right now.

Backdoor Mission isn’t the only organization currently stepping up in Oshawa though, as Feed the Need in Durham (FTND) has also been working to help the homeless in the absence of St. Vincent’s.

Benjamin Earle, the executive director of FTND, says his organization has seen homeless people in Oshawa have been going to Backdoor Mission, as well as Gate 3:16 in downtown Oshawa.

“Backdoor Mission specifically has done a great job. They’re finding a lot of prepackaged meals and things like that,” says Earle.

He notes homeless shelters have continued to do their work, but their role doesn’t really change even during a pandemic.

FTND has been stepping up their support for all of these organizations by putting a call out to the community asking for more food donations.

“We’re expecting increased demand, not just from the homeless population, but we’re expecting overall an increased demand,” he says.

Earle and his team has continued doing what they normally do and collecting food for other organizations, but they’ve also gone out of their way to make sure the community knows the need is there, and the need will continue to grow.

There are also a number of groups going to Memorial Park, such as LIFE Rally Oshawa, a group in Memorial Park seven days a week handing out food.

For those in need of help, Backdoor Mission is located at 66 Simcoe St. S., at the back of the Simcoe Street United Church, and is now open seven days a week for lunch services.

Other organizations, such as Gate 3:16 (64 Albany St.) are also available in Oshawa.