After COVID closed her cleaning business, this Windsor woman got inspired to help the homeless
'We need housing now,' says advocate providing food, support to those on the streets
One Windsor woman is spending her spare time helping those experiencing homelessness, providing things like food, blankets and an ear to listen.
Leslie Laframboise stumbled into this outreach work after the pandemic put her cleaning business on hold. And while her business is once again running, she's still working away.
Laframboise joined host Tony Doucette on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Wednesday to explain what she does and why.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Explain how all this happened.
I just started volunteering at some of the shelters, bringing stuff. Because I work for a housecleaning business, people give me clothes and certain items and I started bringing them to places. And then, when the pandemic hit and so many places were shut down to the homeless, myself and a friend started going out on the street and bringing food and snacks and clothing and winter items, because it was in the winter time and people were living on the street, and that's basically how I started doing this and it was during the pandemic and my business was shut down and I live alone so I have a lot of time on my hands.
This is not the sort of thing that everybody is drawn to ... what's the attraction for you?
I guess I have a hard time seeing how many people are actually living on the street. And I don't really think so many people are aware how many homeless we do have in Windsor. I mean, they see a little bit here and there. But it's grown, like, in the last year I've seen so many people coming here from all different areas and are living on the streets in Windsor because there's no accommodations.
We can certainly protect people's privacy by not naming names. Tell me about some of the people you've met, some of the people you've helped.
I've helped people on the street, and also because a lot of them have such a bad drug addiction, I'm now trying to help them get off the street, get into detox. And there is a new support house that opened, Hand in Hand, and... they house about 50 men so I've gotten a lot of men off the street into there, and we're trying to get them addiction help.
Help me to understand what you're doing on a day-to-day basis to provide whatever help you can.
What I do is I try to get private help for food also because it gets expensive. I will try to get donations and then from there, myself and a group of women, we make food or sandwiches. I've really met a good network of women that have come in to help me. Like, I have one woman on Sundays that makes 200 sandwiches, and then somebody will give me snacks, and then somebody will give me water or juice.
So we'll go out almost on a daily basis with either sandwiches or hot soup or stew and a drink and a snack for them. I've had to go out later at night because that's when they're hungry and it's cold or damp, and try to give them a blanket and some food and some comfort. I do talk to them and try to hear their story and where they're coming from and try to see what kind of help we can give them.
So certainly you've gained a lot of insight here. What do you see as the greatest need?
Affordable housing is one thing, because people are coming here thinking that they can get housing. And our own initial people who have been on a waiting list for 15 years, 10 years, eight years. It's ridiculous, and that's why they are homeless and living on the street.
We hear about an increase in the number of people coming here to Windsor. What do you see, what do you hear?
Well, because they think that Windsor has housing and they hear that we have better services here for them. So they're coming here and then they're just living on the street.
What do you think needs to change?
Better housing. We need housing now. It's just ridiculous that we would let this amount of people sleep on the street.
If people are coming here from other cities, that indicates to me that we must be doing something right.
I can really commend Water World. It's a day program, that's where a lot of homeless go. They to me have been the best services out of all the services in Windsor. They help them try to find medical help, housing, mental health, doctor's appointments, they try to help them find jobs. To me, they don't get enough accolades; I really love them there.
What can people do to help you?
Well, we need help with donations of snacks and water and juices and gift cards that we can use to make food for them. Or sleeping bags are a big thing that are going to be needed for them because they're going to be sleeping out in the cold soon.
I'd like to see some mental health for these people because a lot of them are falling through the cracks and they need help.
With files from Windsor Morning