NANAIMO — After six months handing out food and camaraderie to Nanaimo's homeless and working poor, a hot soup program has big plans for the future.
Stone Soup started earlier this year in a parking lot beside the 7-Eleven on Nicol St. It's now grown to a covered patio in the backyard of organizer Tanya Hiltz where roughly 170 people are helped a night.
By 6:30 on Monday, Sept. 10, volunteers had already gone through one big crock pot of soup for the many homeless sitting at their benches.
“They keep bringing their friends, or they find somebody roaming the streets at night who's hungry,” Hiltz told NanaimoNewsNOW. “Even hosts are now picking people up at motels and bringing them down. And our volunteer numbers are growing like crazy.”
She and other volunteers are expecting a tough winter, which is why they built the covered eating area.
Hiltz said of the nearly 200 people fed a night, roughly 100 of them aren't homeless but are considered the working poor who have to make tough financial decisions.
“It's a choice, pay your rent or have food. So they come to eat.”
Despite so many people coming to the area every night, area resident Linda Rukavima said there's no reason for neighbours to be concerned.
“We have our alleys all clean and having Stone Soup makes people take a lot more pride in their area,” she said. “I think it's a great place for people to be able to come.”
Rukavima also said there's very little noise or ruckus as every one sits and eats before heading back out.
It's a project she'd like to see expand to other neighbourhoods across Nanaimo.
“If you're going to help within your own community, that piece of charity begins at home. If every community did that instead of trying to push people away and pretend it doesn't exist, then we'd have a better situation.”
Stone Soup organizers previously said they hope to expand out across Nanaimo to help as many people as possible.
The most recent homeless count in Nanaimo estimated there's nearly 400 people experiencing absolute homelessness.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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