Event space pivots in pandemic to help homeless population
KITCHENER -- An event space hit by the pandemic pivoted to help the homeless this year.
“It’s a lot better than when I was on the street,” said resident Dennis Leger. “It’s better than shelters actually too.”
The owner of Kitchener’s Lot42 was Ron Doyle. Doyle was passionate about helping the vulnerable group.
He reached out to Nadine Green, who owned a convenience store and allowed people to sleep in her shop at night. Green agreed immediately to becoming the Site Coordinator for A Better Tent City.
“My store got closed on January 20 and COVID hit like a month after,” Green said.
A Better Tent city now has 50 residents with 25 tents inside, and 25 tiny homes outside. Donations have poured in from community groups, schools and churches and volunteers have seen the change in residents.
“For the first time in a long time they got a good night’s sleep because they weren’t worried about somebody stealing their stuff. So it really helped to build hope,” said Jeff Willmer.
That hope and dignity are also improved relationships with outreach health-care providers.
“It made it easier for me to make connections with people immediately,” said Peter McKecknie, a social worker at Sanguen Health.
“Now they know people care and they have a family of their own,” added Willmer.
Despite a battle with cancer, Doyle showed up daily at A Better Tent City to pitch in a help the community feel stronger together. Doyle died last week.
“It’s hard for us to go on,” said Green about Doyle's death. “But we have to. Your legacy will continue and we will make you proud.”
"Everyone that’s helped us here, I mean, they are amazing people," Leger said. "I’m grateful for people like that.”
Lot42 is up for sale.
But Doyle left behind plans for A Better City to eventually move to a new site and expand in the future.
A Better Tent City was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Recovery Projects by The Future of Good. It’s an organization that celebrates local initiatives helping communities thrive beyond COVID-19.