Feeding Victoria’s Homeless

by British Columbia
Categories: Blog, Community, COVID-19

Feeding Victoria’s Homeless

In Victoria, B.C. the number of people unable to afford a place to live increases every day, significantly more so since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People without homes are sleeping in parks, beside trees and in forest clearings, feeling helpless, lonely, and unsure where their next meal is coming from.”
Major Sheldon Feener, Executive Director Victoria ARC

In order to meet this increasing demand, the Victoria Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) put forth the Food For Life program, ensuring people in need in their community are fed and hydrated. The Food For Life program was made possible in part thanks to the donations received from the Victoria Rapid Relief Fund initiated by Times Colonist with the Jawl family, and the Victoria Foundation. This new program is run from our newest mobile feeding unit, a 34-foot-long Freightliner outfitted with a commercial kitchen.

This Emergency Disaster Services Community Response Unit (CRU), donated by our friends at Walmart is designed to support evacuees and first responders during catastrophic events. With the ability to feed up to 1,000 people every hour; while on standby for other emergencies like floods and fires, during the COVID-19 emergency this unit is worth its weight in gold.

The Food for Life program began in April, going out three times a week serving 300 meals every trip right to people’s tents. As numbers of people in the parks grew the program changed and the crew started parking the Community Response Unit in five strategic locations throughout the city.

Following the closure of two major encampments in May, the ARC was contacted by the Capital Regional District and was asked to expand the program to 600 meals, seven days per week. The new truck began serving the community by delivering drinks, meals, and a listening ear to vulnerable people and those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Some say this is the first time they’ve eaten since the last time we delivered food. Others say they wouldn’t have eaten today without this service. Others remark that they have just finished eating what they were saving from the last we were there,” says Feener.

“We know we are making a difference in people’s lives when we pull in with our truck and see the relief in their eyes knowing they won’t go to sleep hungry tonight.”
Jeffrey Baergen, Program Manager Victoria ARC

Major Feener describes the range of emotions seen when the truck pulls up and volunteers begin to deliver meals to people in need. “To see despair and pain turn into hopefulness and optimism is why we do what we do,” he says.

From April to June 2020 the Food for Life Program delivered a remarkable total of 26,400 meals to the community. The success is attributed to the incredible staff, volunteers and leadership, as well as the generosity and compassion from the community through food donations and financial support.


To learn more about our Community Response Unit vehicle watch this video.