Bimonthly, volunteer-run street buffet helps Montreal’s homeless get back on their feet
Twice a month, a section of Ste-Catherine Street East is transformed into a street buffet for Montreal’s homeless population.
Every second Saturday, hundreds of the city’s homeless people line up on the corner of Berri Street for a warm meal.
The bimonthly event is organized by Calling All Angels founder Susan Clarke in partnership with SOS Itinerance.
“We feed them well here,” Clarke said.
A row of tables is set up on the sidewalk with various warm and cold dishes as well as clothes for those who need an extra layer.
Clarke started this tradition five years ago with the idea of doing more than just feeding the less fortunate.
“The food is basically bait,” Clarke said.
“Once I’ve gained their trust, they feel free and honest with me, and they will come to us and say: ‘Hey I do not want to do this anymore.'”
Many of the homeless people who Clarke has helped over the years have come back to lend a hand with the street buffet.
One of those success stories is Frank, who spent 14 years on the street. Now living in social housing for the past four years, Frank volunteers every second Saturday.
“It helps me because I was able to get off the street, and now I can help others do the same,” Frank said.
“I don’t have to do this,” he said. “But it’s in my heart that no one should have to sleep outside.”
Frank lost his part of his right hand to frostbite after spending a frigid night outside during the winter.
He now claims to have helped up to 25 people off the street.
Small donations support the buffet, but Clarke says much of the cost to support the service comes from the volunteers themselves.
“All the volunteers are paying for their own food and cooking and coming,” Clarke said.
It’s not just food that is free. A local veterinarian is also on hand to administer treatments to dogs.
Dr. Isabelle Pinard offers vaccines for pets as well as tracking chips, which she says usually cost around $150 but are free of charge at the street buffet.
Pinard says she sees more than six dogs every visit.
“I do it because I can,” Pinard said. “That’s just the person I am, and it’s a service that is needed.”
Clarke feels the same sentiment when it comes to helping the homeless.
When asked why she hosts the street buffet, Clarke said it’s encouraging to see people change.
“Just to see a little change is better than no change at all,” she said.
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