Chief Mark Saunders joined 11 Division uniformed and Auxiliary officers and their Community Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) members for a few hours on the night of November 6, as part of the Division’s Warm for Winter Project.
This is the second year the Division has organized the event to address the hardship of homelessness in the city by collecting clothing to benefit low-income and homeless people, while sleeping outside of the station for the night to empathize with those without a roof over their heads.
Over a six-week period, the Division’s uniformed and civilian staff, along with CPLC members and community residents, collaborated to collect used clothing for pre-winter donations to local shelters. A total of 3,000 pounds of clothing, including hats, gloves, sleeping bags and blankets were collected this year, surpassing the 2,100 pounds picked up in the inaugural year.
On November 6, the sleep-out took place on the front grounds of the Davenport Rd. police station, where Chief Saunders showed up in pyjamas to lighten the mood among volunteers.
“What struck me was not what they did, but that there was such a strong personal attachment because these officers are going right into communities and making hand deliveries,” said Saunders. “What I found is the officers get more plugged in because they have such a strong understanding of homelessness.
“It’s so stigmatized but when they hear the stories of the journeys that have led these people to be homeless, they have a much greater appreciation and empathy for why these people have reached that state. Obviously, there is stronger willingness to want to give. That helps build better police officers in addition to making their community a better place to live.”
The clothing was loaded up and delivered on November 10 to the West Neighbourhood House Meeting Place and the All Saints Church & Community Centre.
“This is the second year we are receiving clothing donations and it is a true blessing that many hundreds of men, women and children in our catchment area will benefit this winter with much-needed winter clothing,” said Shaida Addetia, the director of family & newcomer programs at West Neighbourhood House.
Anne Marie Batten, a street nurse who works out of the All Saints Church & Community Centre, also received clothing for her clients.
“This will go a long, long way,” she said. ‘We are definitely in need of winter clothing and sleeping bags at this time of year. This is an amazing program.”
Superintendent Heinz Kuck and his 11 Division team conceived the project idea.
“The project follows a two-part approach for two reasons,” said the Division’s unit commander. “The first part includes public education as to the hardships and deprivation many homeless face, especially in the winter time. Apart from food and clothing, their needs include affordable housing, employment and social services support. Part of that public education piece involves members of the Division and community supporters sleeping outdoors for a night without shelter in sleeping bags and ground sheets to experience that very hardship. The second part involves the collection and distribution of much-needed winter clothing.”