In an effort to expand services for people experiencing poverty in Victoria, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has announced its Social Concern office will shift operations to their Yates Street location in summer 2018.
The front line service centre will include an additional 2,000 square feet of space, include a food distribution centre and turn the existing thrift shop into a “free” store.
Angela Hudson, executive director of SVDP, recognizes the change will be hard for a community that has utilized the downtown thrift store for over 20 years. But things are changing in the neighbourhood and the need for expanded services continues to rise, she notes.
“Obviously it’s difficult, we understand that, but we’re really excited about the expansion of the Social Concern office,” Hudson says. “That’s an enormous support for the people of downtown.”
The society is excited to be able to expand their current food bank model, she adds, and take a new approach with the “Food with Dignity” program. Previously, the community accessed food bags with a set number of items; the new model will operate like a regular grocery store.
“If people have dietary needs or an allergy we try to accommodate them, but it’s very challenging to do that,” Hudson explains. “This way, the food donated can go directly onto the shelves. It’s a much more dignified way of providing food.”
Grants from the United Way and Victoria Foundation will add to the expanded services, implementing a “Food Security toward Sustainability” program, which provides the society’s housing residents a step toward independence through nutrition and food preparation education, as well as gardening training.
It also broadens the reclamation program, a partnership with Fairway Markets who, for five years have donated produce on a daily basis.
“Gardening and cooking has been lost a little bit, food has become quite processed,” Hudson says. “This is the next step to help people.”
In Sidney, the SVDP thrift store location will also close at the end of March after the lease expires. That store will be amalgamated into the two-year-old location at Keating Cross Road in a building SVDP purchased, to ensure security for years to come, Hudson says. The thrift store at 833 Yates St. will also close under its current format on March 31.
For more than 100 years, Saint Vincent de Paul has provided supportive affordable housing for seniors, single moms and those exiting homelessness across the region. As well, the society operates a community inclusion program for adults with different developmental abilities.