In my neighbourhood there is a small non-denominational church called Southridge. As we all know churches are supposed to be helpful to the needy, and many are. Excitingly this church is directly helpful; half of the building is also a shelter for those in need. The shelter is not the biggest I have seen, but it is quite large as it is at 35 beds, and they also have separate “dorms” for men and women. This is part security and part for privacy sake. Men can be more comfortable around men and vice versa. Southridge is not just about offering shelter it works in conjunction with many other organizations such as Ontario works or Niagara Health. The goal is not to just offer a place to stay for evening but to direct people towards employment and becoming self-sufficient. They even work with housing to try and get the residents situated in something permanent.
They do not only operate as a shelter for sleeping, they also offer meals throughout the day and someplace warm when the weather becomes unbearable. Southridge will also regularly schedule even nights at the shelter for the residents. These event nights are just a movie night, they have even gone to rock climbing and other interesting and fun activities. This may seem wasteful or expensive but some of the residents are teens or young adults, and some are young at heart. This night out can do wonders for lifting a person’s mood or instilling hope in them. Hope can go a long way in getting the person back on track and feeling good about themselves. I was impressed to see many people were not depressed but hopeful and grateful.
As for the food served, it is quite good. They serve a well-rounded meal with many options that is clearly appreciated. This made me think back to when I volunteered with Food Not Bombs, where they will not serve meat as they believe meat is cruel and abusively obtained. When Food Not Bombs served food to the people in Montebello park it was quite obvious that, though grateful, they were missing meat. This is wrong to me to force an ideology on to other people, especially those that are hungry. Southridge does serve meat and they serve some non-meat items also (salad) so you can choose to not eat meat if you like. As for ideologies, it is a church, and that much is clear. They do not seem forceful about the message and I think part of that has to do with the fact that the church itself is non-denominational. They do offer a program called Devotions that is optional and teaches the fundamentals of Christianity, but since it is optional it is not as if they expect you to be Christian. Overall I have to say that Southridge is preaching through practice not by words, and I see no problem with that.
One last interesting thing about the shelter is that it is not a “walk in” shelter. As in they will help anyone who needs it so long as they do not appear violent or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They door is a buzzer door and you will need to be let in by a staff member. This may seem excessive but the safety of the residents is their main priority. Along with safety, they strive to keep their residents healthy through daily recreational activities. Southridge has a goal to have residents be healthy and happy, and have found that many friendships have been forged through recreation, be it sports or just an outdoor activity. Again this leads to happier people with hope.
All in all, I was impressed by Southridge. I was hoping to write about how they force scripture down people’s throats and that they are condescending, but this was just my atheist side being exceptionally biased. I am happy to say that Southridge seems like a very positive shelter actively striving to better the people who pass through their doors.