Stuck in Halifax because of the storm, the executive director of the Gathering Place in St. John’s, Joanne Thompson, says what her staff have done in her absence is phenomenal.
“Sadly, we have been closed,” Thompson said. “So, the day prior to the storm, the staff... provided at least two to three days of prepared food and fluids for guests.”
As well, they gathered blankets, winter jackets and other supplies needed by the guests they would typically see daily.
The Gathering Place serves thousands of guests who require food, clothes, medical services or simply a place to warm up and have a chat.
After being given permission to open from the city of St. John’s, staff who lived in the neighbourhood walked to work. Concerns about safety means a call for volunteers has not been put out.
Today would have been the fourth day of not being open.
“We’ve been incredibly worried,” Thompson said. “Today we are opening, even though we know it’s still a state of emergency... we don’t want to put anyone at risk.
“But we’ve just put a notice to say to guests to come in, warm up, get something hot and then hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to push out into a full day.”
And the concerns are not limited food and warmth, she said.
“The reality is the vulnerability of mental illness, of medications if you’re on suboxone or methadone and you haven’t gotten it for a number of days... we really need to have a space to try and check in with people and help them find solutions,” she said.
Today, they will be concentrating on providing food until the need is gone.
“We’re not able to go to full supports at this point... but we will try to problem solve the best way we can,” Thompson said.
“If there’s people waiting for food, we will make sure whoever needs to be fed is fed.”
Thompson said they hope to return to the regular three meals a day tomorrow, but as of now, is not certain whether this will be possible.
“(But) we certainly will have our doors open going forward,” she said.