Saturday, December 19, 2009

Food Vouchers for the Homeless in Toronto

This seems like a good idea, as it helps provide warms meals to the homeless, and makes the public feel good about giving away their hard earned money. The one thing not mentioned in this National Post article is how the donations being collected are going to be allocated. I'm almost certain a good percentage of all money collected will go toward administrative costs of implementing and running this program, including printing costs and staff salaries. So instead of $5.00 going directly into into the pock of a homeless person, it will be managed by an organization in whatever way them deem fit.

I'm also quite disturbed at how many times the word addiction appears in this article. Not every person on the street has an addiction. In reality, people end up on the streets due to mental illnesses, loss of work, family troubles, and various other reasons. Let's not lump everyone in the same category here people.

Overall, if it helps feed the hungry, then I'm keen to see it work. We just need to have public disclosure and accountability for the donated funds.

Read on.....


Volunteers for a Toronto charity will flood downtown subway stations on Thursday to offer, in exchange for donations, free-lunch coupons donors can give to the homeless.

The event was created to address public skepticism about giving money directly to people who live on the street.

“This way, you know your money is going towards feeding those in need and that you’re not enabling an addiction,” said Darlene Desveaux, the manager of 6 St. Joseph House in downtown Toronto. With the help of food donations from Second Harvest, 6 St. Joseph House provides a hot lunch twice weekly to anyone who comes through its door.

Alan Beattie, managing director of Sanctuary, a nearby church that works extensively with people who are homeless, applauds the effort, but cautions that donations of coupons, gift certificates and the like, instead of cash, could be construed as demeaning.

“It could be interpreted, as ‘I don’t trust you with my hard-earned money,’” he said. “On the other hand, no one wants to give someone a noose to hang themselves with, which is what giving money to an addict can feel like.”

The lunch coupons were originally conceived two years ago in a different way: they were viewed as a tool to attract potential volunteers, and invited donors to visit 6 St. Joseph House. When a woman refused to donate because she said she would not use the lunch coupon, Ms. Desveaux suggested she give it to a homeless person instead.

“The woman was so taken with the idea she took out her wallet and handed me a $10 bill,” recalls Ms. Desveaux. “I knew we were on to something.”

Ms. Desveaux said there is a second benefit associated with the coupon approach. “By giving it to someone who is struggling you’re helping that person find their way to us,” she said. The House offers several programs to help those facing challenges such as poverty, mental illness and addiction.

With the goal of raising $15,000, the charity expects to place more than 80 volunteers in nine subway stations, making it their largest campaign to date.

“Our fund-raiser is not meant to stop people from giving money to the homeless because the reality is, men and women living on the street need the coins they collect to survive,” said Ms. Desveaux. “But we are pleased to provide an alternative way of giving.”

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