Had Nathan Lewis not being assisting with the packaging of winter survival kits for the homeless on January 16, he would almost certainly been at home playing video games.
He, and other three other Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) students, spent the first half of the day helping volunteers pack winter survival kits containing sleeping bags, blankets, socks, scarves, winter hats, toiletries, healthy snacks and bottled water for the homeless across the Greater Toronto Area and its environs.
“This is an opportunity for me to get out of the house and assist those in need,” said the George Harvey Collegiate Institute. “It’s Saturday, and it’s a bit cold outside, but I don’t mind doing this.”
John Polanyi Collegiate Institute student Gerwi Banwaj, who plans to become a police officer, relished the opportunity to engage in community service.
“This is a big opportunity for me to do my part in giving back to the community and to those who desperately are in need during the cold winter months,” he said. “It’s also a chance to work hand-in-hand with police officers in the field for a few hours.”
This is the sixth year that 13 Division has participated in the charitable event.
“This is a chance for us to go out in the community and let people see us in a different light,” said Sergeant Sean McCutcheon.
A total of seven community response officers, five Auxiliary members and four YIPIs from 13 Division, took part.
“We normally take a few kits away and keep them at the station for our personnel who are out on the street 24/7,” said Staff Sergeant Courtney Chambers. “If we encounter anyone that we can’t convince to go to a shelter, our officers will offer them a kit to help make their life a little bit more bearable.”
Inspector Anil Anand, second-in-command at 13 Division, was on hand to lend his support to the initiative.
“This is an opportunity for our officers to connect with the community and extend humanitarian compassion,” he said. “It’s also a platform to build trust with the homeless and let them know we want to help them.”
Jody Steinhauer, the founder and chief bargains officer of Bargains, started Project Winter Survival in November 1998.
She said that nobody should be homeless, particularly during the cold winter months.
Steinhauer was also full of praise for Toronto Police.
“They are just a wonderful community partner,” she said. “Every year, for this event, they come out and direct traffic and ensure that we are all safe. Many times, they are the first point of contact for homeless people. We are here to showcase them and thank them for their outstanding work.”
For more information, or to make a donation to the project, interested people can visit projectwintersurvival.org