The Salvation Army in Ajax has a new way to reach those in need.
It’s called Hope On Wheels. The mobile unit has been out in the community for just over a week now and it’s already making an impact.
“We have this vehicle, the Hope On Wheels, to reach those populations to save them from coming to find us,” said James Dark, the Ajax Salvation Army community and family services co-ordinator.
After two years in the works, the program launched last week.
Wednesday evenings, the truck can be found in downtown Ajax for about an hour providing essentials to those who need them, and it doesn’t take long for the lines to form.
“I’m totally grateful that they’re doing this,” said Salvation Army client Don Duchemin, who came for a hot meal.
He says he’s had to rely on the Salvation Army for several years due to financial strains.
“I think one of the benefits is to basically give anybody who’s either homeless or low-income hope,” said Duchemin.
The mobile unit helped serve close to 80 people in its first week.
Dark says that includes providing all essentials, from meals and sleeping bags to winter clothing and backpacks.
“One of the biggest concerns I had was knowing we had all this here to offer individuals and them not having a way to come to us or them not feeling comfortable coming to us, so it’s crucial now that we can bring it to them,” said Dark.
Getting the wheels in motion cost around $100,000, with financing mainly coming from the Ajax Mayor’s Gala.
“I wanted to address the problem. Let’s bring the services to the people,” said Mayor Shaun Collier.
Ruth Sinnott has been a dedicated volunteer for nearly a decade.
“The smiles, knowing that people have had a good meal when everything else is so upside down and the marginalized are so marginalized,” said Sinnott.
Dark says, “If there’s a need, we will find a way to make it work when we’re out in the community.”
Aside from Wednesdays, the program serves lunches behind the Salvation Army Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the hope of expanding to other areas around Ajax and Pickering in the coming weeks.