Saskatchewan

Souls Harbour and Salvation Army still providing meals during pandemic

Joe Miller says Souls Harbour Rescue Mission has seen a lot in its 30 years of existence but the current COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory.

Souls Harbor and Salvation Army have modified their meal programs to ensure physical distancing

The COVID-19 has necessitated physical distancing and Souls Harbour Rescue Mission has changed the way it distributes meals as well. Rather than a communal meal, people can pick up food and a drink individually. (Souls Harbour Rescue Mission/Facebook)

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is not celebrating its 30th year in operation but the Regina non-profit is still serving meals and providing a place to sleep for those in need, despite the strain the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on society.

Executive Director Joe Miller said the organization has had to lay off a staff member and limit volunteering to a steady crew of two or three people to feed about 250 people daily.

"We're doing things a little differently but we're still serving the public as best as we can," Miller said on Friday.

"We're still getting those healthy, nutritious meals. The only difference is that things are slower than what they were before," he added.

Meals are no longer served in a communal setting with hundreds of hungry guests together in a room. Now, staff members are providing takeout meals to people on an individual basis, Miller said.

Someone enters a room, then they grab something to eat, a drink and maybe an informational pamphlet before leaving. Then, the next person comes in. Staff are about 2½ metres away, behind a table at all times.

Physical distancing is necessary to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and has forced changes to food programs at the Salvation Army as well.

"It changes the dynamic, of course, because people come to the meal program not only for the food, but also for the socialization," Maj. Mike Hoeft, area commander for the Salvation Army in the province, said Friday evening.

Souls Harbour is still serving about 250 meals per day. (Souls Harbour Rescue Mission/Facebook)

He said there hasn't been a noticeable decline in the number of people who are dropping by for a meal, if and when it's available. Food is now being dstributed out of the Salvation Army's doorway, in some cases. 

Hoeft said the organization is trying to operate as efficiently as possible and all staff in the province are still working, even in the thrift stores, which are currently shut down.

The Salvation Army's food banks have made modifications for clients, such as shifting to an appointment-based approach where a client calls or goes into the food bank as an individual.

"Food banks, meal programs, shelters and girls' homes — all of those things — the long-term care, they're all operating," Hoeft added.

Souls Harbour is still accepting some food donations but it is no longer accepting clothing. (Souls Harbour Rescue Mission/Facebook)

The Salvation Army, Souls Harbour Rescue Mission and Riverside Mission in Moose Jaw have all stopped accepting clothing donations.

Food donations to Souls Harbour can be arranged by emailing Bob Fallon in Regina. Donations to Riverside Mission can be arranged by contacting Rachel Mullens.

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