Windsor

Demand at a Windsor soup trailer is way up — and so is the cost to run it

The trailer has been parked in a few different spots since the Street Angels started the program 11 months ago. Currently, it's at All Saints' Anglican Church, next to Windsor city hall.

Organizers say financial support is needed to combat demand and inflationary pressures

Bobby Reaume serves soup and a coffee to someone at Windsor's Soup Shack trailer.
Bobby Reaume serves soup and a coffee to someone at Windsor's Soup Shack trailer. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)

Christina Casey has been using the Soup Shack for some time now for a warm meal and companionship. 

The Windsor resident says she fell in "love" with it because of its relationship with New Song Church — and that she likes their food.

"When you're struggling and you're on ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program] and you don't get money throughout the time when you run out of food … you try to hit a food bank and they don't have much," said Casey. 

"We normally come to the Soup Shack and get food. I do have a place but we just come here to get the food when we need it. We'll ask for toiletry things, for socks and stuff if we need it."

Rodger Fordham, with The Soup Shack, speaks with CBC Windsor Morning host Peter Duck about an increase in demand and cost.

For two hours every night, volunteers are in the Soup Shack, handing out warm drinks, food and other items to people in need.

The trailer has been parked in a few different spots since the Street Angels started the program 11 months ago. Currently, it's at All Saints' Anglican Church, next to Windsor city hall.

Its mandate is to feed Windsor's hungry, but it's getting harder to do that, with growing demand and rising costs. 

Approximately 130 bowls of soup were served Wednesday night when CBC News visited the trailer — and most were handed out in the first 30 minutes.

Program officials say they consistently sees around 125 people each night. 

Christina Casey says she's on ODSP and oftentimes needs to get meals at the Soup Shack.
Christina Casey says she's on ODSP and oftentimes needs to get meals at the Soup Shack. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)

Casey says because she's on a tight budget it's becoming increasingly difficult to make end's meet and get what you need. 

"It actually helps a lot. I try not to come every day, but if I do come every day, it's to see the people down here, like the friends down here. If I want soup or a coffee or something I'll just come down and just hang out with people."

Feeding Windsor-Essex is involved in preparing food for the Soup Shack. It's an outreach program of New Song Church in Ford City.

Executive director Rodger Fordham issued a public plea this week. He says it's getting increasingly difficult to deliver enough food to meet the growing demand. 

Without public support, Fordham says cuts will be inevitable.

"The best way for us in our operation is if we get financial support, then when we see something on sale, we can go buy what we need," he said. 

"Sometimes we end up with an abundance of one thing and are still out in the store buying stuff when it's just a random, random giving."

Reaume says he's been clean for the past three and a half years and used to be homeless.
Reaume says he's been clean for the past three and a half years and used to be homeless. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)

Bobby Reaume is the program's coordinator and hands out needed items from inside the trailer each night.

He says many people who use the service are on ODSP and can barely get by — with many asking him if they can find a room. 

"They don't really have a voice right from the start," said Reaume. "I got blessed with an opportunity to have a do-over in my life because I was dead like five times. And I got this opportunity and I came out as perfectly healthy. Night time's a long time."

Reaume says he was addicted to drugs for 37 years of his life and has been clean for the past three and a half years — after getting out of prison.

"I've been doing this for years and pretty much built relationships with them all. It's a trust thing ... because I've been there. I lived on the street, and I slept with them, I ate with them ... done drugs."

David Valiquette volunteers at the Soup Shack and says he can relate to many people they serve. He says he was homeless four years ago.
David Valiquette volunteers at the Soup Shack and says he can relate to many people they serve. He says he was homeless four years ago. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)

David Valiquette assists Reaume on a nightly basis.

He says he's been volunteering for about five months and can also relate to what the people who are using the service are going through. 

"I was homeless four years ago," he said.  "I found my higher power and got into recovery. I go home at night and I'm humbled … I'm in peace that somebody's eaten."

Valiquette says he thinks the number of users is growing because it's getting colder outside and with the trailer's move back to the downtown core.