Toronto

Local organization leaves coats, gloves outside to help 'protect' the homeless from the cold

Over the last five years, Brandon Arkinson and some friends have been providing resources to the city's homeless.

There were 8,715 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto in April 2018, survey shows

Brandon Arkinson, holding a pair of red gloves. More than 500 pairs are distributed near Toronto shelters every year by Moving Hope, said Arkinson, the project's organizer. (Submitted by Brandon Arkinson)

Five years ago, at the end of his first year of university, Brandon Arkinson noticed something strange — piles of abandoned clothes left behind by students their residences.

The clothes, often discarded by international students trying to avoid overweight baggage fees, were left on the floors of dorm rooms and in garbage cans.

"We couldn't believe the amount of things that were left behind and either weren't picked up, or given to a shelter or partner organization," Arkinson told CBC Toronto.

That's when he and some friends decided to start Moving Hope, a non-profit organization that provides resources to the city's homeless. Arkinson, the organization's executive director, says its focus is helping the vulnerable population in the city's core.

There were 8,715 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto in April 2018, according to the Street Needs Assessment survey.

I'm just trying to find a way to help protect them from the cold.- Brandon Arkinson

"As an organization and as a person, I'm just trying to find a way to help protect them from the cold and give them the adequate resources to get through the next little bit," he said.

Every winter, Moving Hope gives out 500 pairs of red gloves by placing them in small bags and hanging them from utility poles and on fences near shelters around downtown Toronto. Starting this year, they will also donate 100 winter jackets to those in need.

Moving Hope also provides seven different shelters and partner organizations with non-perishable food, personal hygiene items and feminine hygiene products collected through donation drives.

One of these organizations is Sherbourne Health, which delivers a wide range of health-care services. Amika Gupta, the program coordinator of the Urban Health Team, told CBC Toronto that grassroots organizations like Moving Hope help fill the gap in the resources they can offer.

"It's challenging to supply those products without the support of those organizations," said Gupta.

A desire to give back

She said Moving Hope has been giving them a bag of hygiene products once a week for more than a month now.

"I think it's important for people to know that these items — while we may take them for granted — for a lot of people are [not affordable]," she said.

"If they're homeless . . . (they) aren't able to keep a pair of socks for a long time because they don't have a place to wash them. They aren't able to keep a toothbrush because for them, it's a one-time use," she said.

The products grassroots organizations provide teams like Sherbourne Health also help draw people to places they can access better long-term care, she said.

Arkinson, a graduate of Disability Studies, says his education fuelled his desire to give back to the community.

"The program made me want to give a voice to the marginalized and the vulnerable," Arkinson said. "It really made me want to make the city a better and more inclusive place for everyone."

With files from Haweya Fadal

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