A recent tour of Our Place in downtown Victoria opened a new avenue of giving for one Oak Bay resident.
Britt Swoveland thought to herself, “this is just amazing” post-tour. It inspired her to get involved in the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness winter program, Project Connect.
It’s one-day service and information fair for those experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty. Attendees get lunch and a wide range of free services, including care packs, medical attention, ID replacement, haircuts and pet care.
“They put together these winter packages,” Swoveland said. Collecting items for those care packs seemed an easy way for Oak Bay residents to respond to the need. “The concept really is just connect with people in your community.”
The most in need items include new socks, gloves, hats, toques, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and other small travel size hygiene products.
The public is invited to drop donations at the collection box in the main foyer of Oak Bay municipal hall until Oct. 20.
“It’s fantastic to see the municipality supporting this cause to collect essential items for those experiencing extreme poverty in Greater Victoria,” she said. “Homelessness is difficult enough but to be homeless in the winter and to be cold,” Swoveland said, taking a moment to think of the right phrase, “it’s not fair. I think it’s easy to forget about the homeless because we don’t see them here. It’s not as present.”
The kits are critical for those experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty because what are deemed everyday essentials are actually “luxuries” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director at the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.
Socks are always a top donated, and top sought item.
“When you’re outside and your stuff gets wet, it’s really, really bad for your feet. Having extra socks to have something dry to put on is critical,” said Wynn-Williams.
They also hope to hand out USB drives this year.
“People who don’t have any place to put their things, it helps them keep their stuff that’s critical like resumés and tax documents, family photos and stuff like that,” Wynn-Williams said. “If you have a USB drive to keep these things on, it’s a small way to carry things around.”
Almost 700 people attend to visit the more than 50 booths providing information on topics ranging from housing to substance abuse to street soccer, during the Project Connect event run by about 100 volunteers. Newer offerings include portraits added last year, and flu shots added this year.
Along with municipal hall, donations of new items from toothbrushes to USB drives, can also be dropped off at the Oak Bay United Church office (the house behind the church at 1355 Mitchell St.) between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Curves Oak Bay is also collecting items at 2545 Musgrave St.
Go to victoriahomelessness.ca/get-involved/project-connect/ online to learn more ways to help.