It’s something most of us take for granted. A cold glass of water on a hot summer day straight from the tap, but what if that isn’t an option?
This thought crossed Ryan McHugh’s mind during the first heatwave of the summer and how dangerously dehydrated a person could get if they were living on the streets in the heat.
“I picked up a 24-package of water,” McHugh said.
“I saw a group of about six or seven guys and they all looked hot, you could tell.”
He gave them some water and others crowded around. McHugh said some people even took two bottles to quench their thirst and we’re so appreciative of the gesture.
Fast-forward weeks later and picking up water then handing it out to the homeless has now become McHugh’s new routine.
The Saskatoon father of two has now made it his mission to changing lives one bottle of water at a time.
“Every human can help another human.”
When there isn’t anyone outside, McHugh will take the water and deliver it directly to shelters.
“Society looks down on the homeless, there is a lot of good hearts and good souls and I commend everyone who works with the homeless but there is a large part of society that chooses not to look,” McHugh explained.
A crusader of kindness who has now started the HomelesslivesmatterSK movement and is able to purchase more water thanks to donations from family, friends and the public.
“My sons have always been very empathic and have a lot of compassion for the homeless people,” Ryan’s Mother Judy Pelly said.
“For those who don’t have a voice, for those that don’t have anything.”
Over the last month, McHugh has given out up to 8,000 bottles of water and is now expanding his movement to include purses and feminine hygiene products.
“It was funny because I said ‘Ryan, you have more feminine products and purses than anybody I know,'” Pelly said as she smiled over at her son.
Sadly, the need is there for all of the essentials – the last homeless count conducted in April indicated there may be as many as 475 people living on the streets of Saskatoon.
“It doesn’t it doesn’t take much to change a life,” said Shaun Dyck, who is executive director of the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership.
“If it’s a bottle of water or handing them things that they need like food or hygiene products those things can go a long way to changing a life.”
Dyck said there are lot of people seeking help but there are often wait lists when it comes to different programs like Housing First.
“There really is a need to address homelessness in Saskatoon, we just don’t seem to have enough affordable housing or access to the support people need to be successful in their housing.”
This is why Dyck applauds the initiative started by McHugh to help some of the most vulnerable in our city.
“We could all use a leg up in those hard times,” McHugh added.
“All of these people are somebody’s mother, dad, bother, sister, aunt and uncle – somebody loves them out there. They’ve just lost their way and to help them feel good for one day makes me feel eternally grateful.”