The Comox Valley Salvation Army hopes to soon feed the community’s homeless an evening meal via a community kitchen on wheels.
Community ministries director Brent Hobden says there are hot food options for homeless during the day, pointing out the hot lunch program operated by the Sonshine Lunch Club.
“But there’s not much in the city as far as that evening meal goes, so that’s why the focus is on going into the evenings, and getting out into the community where the people are congregating,” says Hobden, noting the program is still in the planning stages, but the mobile kitchen will likely visit certain locations that are easy for users to reach.
“The idea is bringing the food to the people but there still would have to be some kind of a gathering point.”
The vehicle was previously used in Bermuda among other places in North America, and it needed a bit of work to get it up to code, according to Hobden. For example, he says the brakes were replaced in Bermuda and less-stringent Bermuda regulations meant they needed to be ripped out and replaced.
But, he expects it will be ready for the public to see it by Wednesday’s community forum on affordable housing and homelessness at the Filberg Centre in Courtenay. The unit is scheduled to be there between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The mobile kitchen features a commercial fridge, microwave oven, two-burner stove, deep fryer and grill, with stainless steel throughout. Disaster response is its primary purpose, Hobden explains, noting the mobile kitchen could have fed search and rescue crews during this month’s search for two men missing in Strathcona Park if it had been ready for use at that time. It also features a 7,000-watt generator so it can operate in any location.
Funding for the food to feed the homeless will come from community donations, such as money from the Christmas Kettle campaign and proceeds from the three Salvation Army thrift stores in the Valley. It will be staffed with volunteers and Hobden notes some people have already stepped forward to help out.
Once up and running, Hobden expects the mobile kitchen will serve an evening meal one or two nights a week in the community.
“The long-range goal is to send it out every evening, but that’s not going to be feasible for quite some time,” he says. “Down the road as things progress, and we have more volunteers step forward and more funding opportunities, more resources, and a better understanding of exactly where the need is, then we’ll look at expanding the program.”
He adds similar programs have been tried in Kelowna and other parts of B.C., and North America, and they have been successful.
“It’ll feed over 100 people an hour, is what it’s tapped out at, so it’s quite impressive,” Hobden adds, as he notes three objectives of the program.
“It would be to make sure that they’re getting a hot meal. It’s also just to make sure that they’re safe where they are, make sure that they realize that there’s an opportunity for them to go to the shelter … or wherever it is where they can find a warm, dry place to get out of the elements.
“But then the third component is super important too: it’s just that check-in. People like to have that opportunity to sit down and have somebody to talk to, so that’s a key component of what we’re trying to do, is incorporate some more one-on-one communication with the people that we’re trying to serve.”
For more information about volunteering or donating to the Salvation Army, visit www.cvsalarmy.ca.