It's Thanksgiving – Let's Talk Turkey
Ask around and most everyone will tell you that Thanksgiving is about family and friends, good fortune, and great food like turkey with all the fixings. Some might even be more specific and say it’s about the turkey and stuffing or candied yams or pumpkin pie. But for just a minute let’s talk turkey.
This Thanksgiving over ten thousand people in Toronto will be homeless and at risk of going without eating because of a lack of money. Seventy-five percent are men; many in their 60s, 70s or 80s.
Poverty, homelessness and food insecurity in Toronto are on the rise in tandem with businesses closing down and the cost of living going up. The price of chicken, butter and eggs, for example, are up 8.6, 10 and 5.8 percent year over year, respectively. If you cannot afford the basics, a turkey feast is most likely out of the question.
This Thanksgiving, clients of Haven Toronto, a downtown drop-in centre, will enjoy turkey for free thanks to donations coming in from the community. Grateful to have anything to eat, turkey will be a treat – a real luxury – for these elder homeless men.
The increase in poverty and homelessness is no surprise to staff at Haven Toronto. The centre has seen an alarming rise in the number of clients and the number of meals served since the start of the pandemic. The number of hot and healthy meals prepared by Haven Toronto at breakfast and lunch combined has increased 268 percent over pre-pandemic numbers. At the same time, the cost to provide healthy meals has increased 443 percent.
While donors were quick to step up and help out in the early days of COVID-19, Haven Toronto has seen a decline in donations from individuals in 2021. The centre’s Executive Director, Lauro Monteiro says, “There is no ignoring the signs that the next year or more will continue to be a challenge for charities like ours and for those we serve.”
“At the start of the summer, you could sense this feeling that the collective ‘we’ are out of the woods, that the worst was behind us,” says Monteiro. He continues, “Yet we as a charity see within our industry a growing decline in support.”
“As people begin to celebrate and reacquaint themselves with normalcy, some move on mentally; it’s human nature.” Adds Monteiro, “Sometimes that can mean leaving others behind.”
Haven Toronto, which opened in 1933, is the only drop-in centre in Canada dedicated to elder men impacted by poverty, homeless and isolation. This year, for one dollar, donors can share a meal with an elder homeless man through the centre’s online store at www.shophaventoronto.ca. Tax receipts are issued for store donations.