United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 175 and 633 have donated a Mercedes sprinter van to the SOS program, which Shelter House hopes to get back up and running next month.
Shawn Haggerty, president of UFCW Local 175, said the plan to donate the van followed the vision of the APTN documentary, First Contact, which featured Thunder Bay Shelter House and the SOS program in one episode.
“It got a lot of people’s attention that this is a program that really makes sense to the community,” Haggerty said. “We were looking to trade in our van because we weren’t using it due to COVID and we thought it would fit the program perfectly.”
The van is only a few years old with 9,000 kilometers and is valued at around $ 38,000. Haggerty said it was primarily used for members’ shuttle to and from the airport, and due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, it is no longer needed.
“What better way to help a community?” Haggerty said. “Our members are just thrilled to be able to help in this way. It’s a great program and it really feels good to help. ”
According to Michelle Jordan, general manager of Thunder Bay Shelter House, the van will be used with the SOS program to bring street outreach services back to the community after the program was sidelined in March due to COVID-19 .
“As most people know, our SOS program was taken off the road at the onset of COVID,” she said. “We reused our SOS van for transportation and sorting. This means that we haven’t done our outreach services since that time so it’s a huge donation to get SOS back on the road.
Transportation and yard services with the existing SOS van will continue with funding of $ 520,000 from the federal government until the end of December.
Jordan said it would institute developed security protocols with this service in the SOS program, as well as call-up personnel, and hopefully put it back into service next month.
“It will always be strictly a street awareness service as it has always been managed. We will see what the needs are right now and if we need to expand it, we will look at it, ”she said.
“We don’t know the impact of how many people actually sleep outside and where people go. SOS really follows this and sees where people are, brings the things they need, checks them and gets them back inside the shelters. Right now we don’t know who is there and where people are going. It is therefore very important to get back on the road, to monitor and evaluate this.
The SOS program is always looking for community support and donations, but Jordan said an organization like UFCW Local 175 offering a vehicle was a huge boost to the program.
“I was very shocked and surprised and very happy when this was presented to us,” she said.