Despite the rise of Omicron, this London volunteer continues to help the homeless population

Despite the rise of the Omicron variant with restrictions and rules making a comeback, Janet Salter’s desire to help people experiencing homelessness hasn’t waned.

Janet Salter’s volunteering intensified during the pandemic

Omicron hasn't stopped Janet Salter from volunteering with 519Pursuit in London. (Submitted by Janet Salter)

Despite the rise of the Omicron variant with restrictions and rules making a comeback, Janet Salter's desire to help people experiencing homelessness hasn't waned. 

For over two years, she's volunteered with 519Pursuit, a foundation that helps those experiencing homelessness in the city. She assists in putting together care packages with community donations that include everything from personal protective equipment to clothing and snacks.

Although she started helping out before the pandemic, Salter said that she began her "intense volunteering" after.

"I knew that when COVID hit, that one of the most vulnerable populations would be those experiencing homelessness," she said. "Just knowing full well that having access to hand sanitizers or masks or gloves would be very difficult, especially with most of the stores being shut down and a lot of the facilities."

As the Omicron variant emerged as a serious threat, Salter went from wearing a single cloth mask to wearing two, and she's not going to stop. She feels it's necessary work, especially as more restrictions come into place. 

"It doesn't really faze me," Salter said. "Obviously, from a health perspective, I try my best to take those precautions, but it won't stop me from volunteering."

Janet Salter (second from the right) helps 519Pursuit in putting together care packages for people experiencing homelessness in London. (Submitted by 519Pursuit)

Doing this work during the pandemic has also offered up an "outlet" for her.

"Having all of the news circling around of what's happening and not being able to see family and friends, it was just a way to kind of give myself something else to focus on and not focus on all the negativity and what we couldn't do," she said. "It let me focus on what I could do." 

Not the only one

Chad Callander, the executive director for Meals on Wheels London, explained that volunteer levels haven't been affected whatsoever with the emergence of Omicron. 

Even with the pandemic at large, it wasn't a deterrent for many volunteers two years ago.

Chad Callander explained that the desire to volunteer with Meals on Wheels in London hasn't been affected by Omicron. (Submitted by Chad Callander)

"Believe it or not, we were very fortunate," he said. "We actually anticipated that we would lose a lot of our volunteers because of the pandemic, but actually a lot of our volunteers stuck with us and really wanted to continue to provide service.

"We actually received more inquiries for volunteers than we actually needed," he added. 

In London, they have a couple of hundred volunteers at any one time, who stay for an average of seven years. They've had some who have volunteered for as long as 35 years. And their volunteers don't plan to take any breaks for the holidays. 

"It's actually one of the things I'm most proud of with our staff and volunteers is that throughout the pandemic, we have gone no days without service," said Callander.

This year, the plan is to give out turkey dinners on Christmas day. 

"We don't even actually have to seek out volunteers for Christmas," he said. "We have people who have been doing it for so many years. They come as a family and they pick up the meals and they deliver them to individuals who need them."