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Apr 29
Saint Vincent de Paul Stands by Neighbours in Need During the Pandemic
Louise Coutu is the executive director of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Toronto Central Council. She tells us how COVID-19 is affectingour neighbours in need.    

1. Can you describe some of the work that the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP) does in the community?

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul serves neighbours in need by providing assistance – mostly by way of food vouchers, clothing vouchers, essential furniture and friendship – through a network of 1,400 Vincentian volunteers based out of 114 parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

2. How is COVID-19 affecting the requests for assistance coming to SSVP? 

So far, we are finding our calls for assistance are coming in at a normal rate, which averages about 2,800 calls a month. Based on our experience, we anticipate our call volume to increase once the emergency short-term assistance programs end and people start struggling with the longer-term impact of job loss.

3. Has SSVP suspended any of it assistance programs? How has SSVP changed how it works?   

Our volunteers, called Vincentians, continue to serve our neighbours in need. We are following all the public health guidelines with respect to interacting with our neighbours, replacing our traditional home visitation program with phone calls and relying on alternative methods for delivering assistance. 

We have also asked parishioners to find alternative ways of financially supporting the society. With the closure of parishes, we have lost the opportunity to collect through our “Poor Boxes.” Poor boxes in the GTA collect $2.5 million annually, which Vincentians give to those in need in our community. 

However, our stores and bed delivery programs are not considered essential services; these activities have been suspended for the time being. 

4. SSVP also provides housing for: people who cannot find permanent accommodations; women in need of emergency shelter; those overcoming addiction; and adults with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges. Are those facilities still open at this time?

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul continues to operate our emergency, supportive and long-term housing programs, which serve 270 people in need each day and night. Our staff continue to work at this challenging time, diligently serving the most vulnerable. Our residents, some of whom have lived in our care for over 30 years, range in age from 22 to 87 years young. Each and every day we serve in hope of their continued health and wellbeing. 

5. How can our readers help SSVP at this time?

We have been the beneficiary of wonderful community support – meals delivered to our programs, surplus food donated, cards and words of comfort for our residents and staff members. 

Like most agencies, we appreciate any connection to suppliers of PPEs to augment these scarce resources. 

Please pray for the health and wellbeing of our residents, staff, Vincentians and our neighbours in need. 

If you are able to help the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, donations can be made here


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