The president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope says donations and messages of support are pouring in after protesters allegedly harassed staff at an Ottawa soup kitchen.
Deirdre Freiheit says the rally against COVID-19 restrictions and the Liberal government roiling the capital’s downtown has disrupted social services and blocked road access to their shelter.
She says several protesters showed up at the soup kitchen on Saturday and allegedly verbally abused staff and volunteers while demanding they be served.
She says some protesters were given food to defuse the situation.
In a statement emailed to Global News, the CEO said one service user was also assaulted by protesters, “and when a security guard (who is a member of a visible minority) went to help the individual, they had racist abuse hurled at them.”
Shepherds of Good Hope had no desire to comment on this protest, the statement went on to say. However, they felt “compelled to correct disinformation on protest communications channels that we were ‘happy to feed the patriots.’ This was not the case.”
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The staff at Shepherds of Good Hope serve roughly 400 meals a day to those in need and due to the pandemic they have to get people in groups of 30 to try and keep people safe, so Freiheit said the incident caused a lot of disruption.
In a statement, the CEO said incessant honking and noise from trucks caused significant anxiety to their staff, volunteers and people using shelter services.
This led to staff taking many breaks throughout the day. The shelter also saw an increase in mental health distress in its residents.
“Unfortunately, we’re in the midst of many challenges…we have an ongoing opiate crisis, the pandemic is still here and we have a housing crisis, so there are more people coming for shelter services and then you add this incident to it,” says Freiheit in an interview with Global News.
“It’s been super challenging for the staff…They’re exhausted, they’re tired. And when they see people coming in and taking services from people who need them the most…It’s very discouraging,” she added.
In addition, Freiheit says there were trucks that were parked directly in front of the shelter for 12 hours on Saturday.
“They were in the lane where ambulances and police drop people off to us for care, so that actually could have cost somebody a life,” she said.
Freiheit says since Shepherds of Good Hope tweeted about the incident of the alleged harassment, the organization has been overwhelmed with tens of thousands of dollars in donations.
“The support we have gotten from across the country has been staggering. It is safe to say that the meals that were consumed have been more than made up for.”
— with files from the Canadian Press and David Akin
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