A tree in Edmonton full of fall foliage

Remember this link. It’ll come in handy at the end of this blog.

As we head into fall, we come into a season where the emphasis is on family. With Thanksgiving (in Canada) about a week away then Christmas, people will start thinking about all the wonderful things they’ll be doing with family. Thoughts of turkey or ham with stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and those little tiny cabbages I really hate will be dancing through people’s heads. We’ll think about sharing a glass of wine or six with our siblings, thinking about all those holidays growing up and watching nieces and nephews play with our children. When the weather gets cold outside, we’ll be warm inside surrounded by love.

Then there’s those who have no family or are estranged.

There’ll be no presents or turkey or memories. I don’t mind, personally. I chose this path and believe me when I say I’d rather be at home by myself watching old movies than enduring another abusive night with my sister. I’d come away from those holidays wanting to jump off a bridge. For those who think I’m exaggerating, I spent the week after my last Christmas with my sister crying hysterically and contemplating suicide. Turkey isn’t worth that.

However, this isn’t about me.

Many homeless people are going to be alone during the holidays, struggling to find a place to sleep and enough to eat. They don’t have a family to have turkey with or share memories with and they need your help. There are things you can do that take no time or effort on your part but make a world of difference to someone who has nothing.

For example, I always carry those little dollar store gloves in my purse during the winter. They’re not much but they offer some protection against the cold. A friend of mine knits scarves all year and gives them to shelters. She can’t knit anything else but it helps. There are senior’s facilities that ask for donations of wool. Knitting and crocheting helps keeps elderly hands agile and the products are often donated to shelters or schools.

Do you have an apple tree in your yard that you complain drops apples on your yard and is a pain in the ass to clean up? Maybe you planted too much zucchini in the garden this year and are going to throw out what you can’t use. Take those apples and zucchini and whatever else you have leftover and take them to shelters or the Food Bank. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always needed and welcome.

As you pack up your summer clothes, some are inevitably never going to be worn again. This is a great time to clean your closets and donate your clothes and such to places like the Bissell Centre.

So what happens if you do these things? One more person gets to eat. One less homeless person freezes to death on the streets in Edmonton’s winter. More than that, though, you help yourself. The amount of money that places like the Food Bank and the Bissell Centre require just to make ends meet is huge. If they had fewer people depending on them, they could allocate their resources better.

There’s more than that, though. Instead of having to feed, clothe and house people who are unable to do it for themselves; you create a new workforce. People previously unemployable due to a lack of a fixed address, suddenly become employable. Guess what? Employed people spend money. They boost the local economy by buying things. So instead of being a drain on society, they contribute to society. There’s a lot of hidden talent within Edmonton’s poor that’s going unused.

Do you know there’s more benefits to ending poverty? Children who live in poverty do poorer in school than children who don’t live in poverty. If you don’t eat, you can’t think. That’s just common sense. So you invest in a whole generation of kids who may go on to do great things and give them chances they may not have had before.

Remember that link I posted at the top of the page? Well, click on it now. These are good people trying to do good things. There are those people that will tell you that there will always be poverty and we can’t do anything about it. I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. Edmonton’s mayor, Don Iveson, has made a commitment to end poverty in Edmonton. Edmonton is the capital city of the wealthiest province in Canada. We have a lot to be proud of and if we end poverty, it will add one more thing to the list of Edmonton’s pride. All it takes is working together and I’ve never seen a problem yet that Edmonton can’t overcome. We’re not afraid of hard work and we can pull together, we’ve done it before. Let’s help our city end this problem.

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