By Angela Irinici, The StarPhoenix September 24, 2013 - It’s easy for people to get upset after seeing a video or reading an article about tragedies around the world. Angela Ewen is one of those people. She decided to do something about it.After seeing Make the Homeless Smile, an online video of young men handing out food, clothing and money to people living on the street in New York, Ewen wanted to do the same in Saskatoon. (Many others in North American cities have followed suit.) She created a Facebook page called Make the Homeless Smile — Saskatoon and sent messages to her friends to get involved.
“We definitely need it,” Ewen says as she prepares for the evening’s hand-out. “We realized there were a few food programs that actually shut down in Saskatoon.”
Right now, all of the cash (aside from a few small anonymous donations) and food donors as well as those who hand out the food are “just Facebook friends” of Angela’s. She explains that she’s working on registering it as an official charity. She gets cut off as a man approaches the group in the parking lot before they head out. He asks for some food.
“Can you help him out?” Angela says to her friend October Low. Low hands the man a bagged lunch, a cold pop and a pair of socks. He says “thank you” quickly and turns away.
“If we can just help somebody and take the stress out of their day, even if it’s just helping them with one meal they don’t have to worry about trying to find, then we did something good,” Low says.
Since May, the group — which is usually made up of around 10 people — hands out lunches and clothing at 5 p.m. on the 15th of each month, regardless of the weather. Angela mentions that consistency is important; people can always rely on the group on the same day and time each month. This month’s lunch consists of a sandwich, banana and a couple of cookies, as well as a cold drink and a pair of socks. It costs about $125 to make 75 lunches and takes about four people under an hour to put them together in Angela’s kitchen. Angela says she wishes the group had more donations so they could give out food more regularly. But right now, it’s just not feasible.
“When we’re heading back we could probably do another 10 to 20 (lunches),” Angela explains. “We’re actually turning people away and that feels crappy.”
The group walks the same route each month; they start at a parking lot on 20th Street West and Avenue P and walk down 20th Street to Idylwyld Drive and back up again. They don’t explain who they are or what they are doing; they just approach each and every person the same.
“Do you want a sandwich?” Low asks a young man. He asks what church they are involved with while he stuffs the food and socks into his backpack. They explain they aren’t affiliated with anything.
“Oh, you’re just walking around? That’s nice of you guys,” he answers.
Angela mentions that it can be overwhelming at times, especially because they run into a lot of youth.
“I don’t think that’s something any of us were expecting” she says.
Right across the street is the man who first approached the group in the parking lot. He’s sitting down and already putting on his new socks. Low says it’s “heartbreaking.”
The group hands out more food on their trek: An elderly couple riding bikes, a young family with a toddler riding her bike, a group of men, a family sitting in their front yard. Two young children run behind the group, barefoot, asking for another canned pop and bagged lunch.
Angela’s two son, Sheden, 10, and Shad, 15, help hand out the food. Angela says it’s a good experience for them and Shad says he’s learned to be grateful. Especially after one incident:
“One time we had a $20 bill leftover and we waited for the most needy person out there. My mom said, ‘Can we shake your hand?’ And she did and gave him the $20 and the look on his face was just …” Shad pauses for a few moments. “Hard to forget.”
Make the homeless smile — Saskatoon is always looking for donations. With winter coming up, they are looking for winter clothing. To donate or get involved check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/leaslightsinnercitysaskatoon or call Angela at: firstname.lastname@example.org/@angelinairinici