“Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters . . .”
In the early days of this past fall, the Leadership Team at St. Felix Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, applied for a grant from the City of Toronto to participate in their “Extreme Cold Weather Program.”
The grant enabled the Centre to serve as a 24-hour shelter for the homeless on days and nights when temperatures were deemed dangerously cold.
According to SM Francesca Buczkowski, board of directors president, St. Felix Social Ministries Outreach, “No one anticipated the onset of one of the coldest winter seasons remembered.” For 14 days and nights in January and all 28 days of February, the Centre was open to the homeless around the clock. The number of persons housed and cared for ranged from 45 to 70 per night. In addition to providing welcoming and compassionate care, the Centre provided a safe and warm haven from the bitter cold, sleeping mats, blankets, hot meals, and shower facilities. Clients were also able to use the computers.
Sister Francesca explained that the regular, dedicated staff at the Centre were assisted by three shifts of additional staff hired to provide necessary services including laundering blankets and sanitizing sleeping mats, floors, and bathroom facilities every morning. Clients were also provided with jackets, hats, gloves, and socks as needed.
When word reached Sister Francesca that the supply of mittens and socks was running low, a simple email to the local homes in the western New York area brought an amazing – but not surprising – response! Within days, an astonishing cache of mittens, hats, gloves, socks, scarves, gently-used jackets, sweaters, boots, and monetary donations were deposited in her office and very soon delivered to the Centre.
Interestingly, one of the stipulations of the grant required the Centre to provide shelter for a client’s pet! So “Jennifer” was provided a “house” of her own where, several days later, she gave birth to two pups! Fortunately, unlike her owner, the pups will be adopted and not remain homeless.