Photo By: Helping Hands for the Homeless

A 2019 study conducted by Statistics Canada found that approximately 10.1 per cent of Canadians were living in poverty. To target this issue on a local scale, Niagara Falls residents Silvana Nguyen and Gwen Ehi founded Helping Hands for the Homeless (HHH). 

The organization, led by students from both Brock University and McMaster University, collects donations of masks, hand sanitizer, food and personal hygiene products for local shelters in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. 

Last year, HHH collected more than $700 from local businesses and were able to purchase supplies for over 100 COVID-19 care packages that were distributed to shelters across the region.

This year, in collaboration with Brock Student Life & Success and The Toolbox Niagara, HHH is building winter care packages for Niagara’s population of homeless men. 

The fall campaign is currently underway and will be accepting donations until Dec. 2. Students, staff, organizations and clubs at Brock are asked to bring their donations of personal hygiene products to one of three donation boxes located across campus. They are located in the Rankin Family Pavilion as well as outside of the Student Life and Success office (MCA 204).   

“This is the first time HHH is collaborating with another organization. It allows us to work together and build a better connection in helping the homeless population,” said Silvana Nguyen, HHH co-founder. “I believe this initiative is important because it helps us learn more and spread awareness so others can help within the community.”

These issues have been exacerbated by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many people unemployed and unable to find other work. Ontario’s numerous lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing requirements have severely impacted the existing population experiencing homelessness as well, because it further limits their access to social services, which many rely on for food and shelter.

“This initiative is important for HHH because there’s a [large] homeless male population that doesn’t have plenty of resources especially during the COVID pandemic…it really shows the inequalities in our society,” said Gwen Ehi, HHH co-founder. “It is really important to come together as a community to help one another to get through this difficult time.”

The HHH team will be assembling winter toolbox packages throughout December to be delivered by the end of the month. Donors are reminded that donations must be unused and unopened and will be accepted until Dec. 2.