On Friday, July 10 around 45 people got a hot meal prepared by Grassroots Kind Hearts at the Radiant Life Church.
By the end of August, however, that organization and the others who provide services to people experiencing food insecurity and homelessness are going to have to find a new place to operate. The Radiant Life Church, which is operated in a leased building behind the firehall in downtown Campbell River is nearing the end of its lease, leaving the future of the organizations in question.
Grassroots Kind Hearts Founder Krisandra Rufus said that if it comes to it, she’ll go back to serving meals out of her vehicle until a new facility is found.
“I am willing to serve out of the back of my vehicle. I built this up from the ground for my family that is out there. It’s deep in my heart,” she said. “We were outside when I first started, so this is just kind of back to the norm. I was outside for a couple of years at least.”
Grassroots Kind Hearts serves dinner to the people who need it seven nights a week. Rufus said that she and other volunteers typically serve between 30 and 50 people per night, with some nights jumping up into the 70s. Along with services provided by other groups like Volunteer Campbell River and the Kwakiutl District Council, around 1,300 meals per month are served in the space.
According to Strathcona Health Network Coordinator Erica Benson, “it’s more than just meal provision, it’s the relationships with the people who are providing the meals. It’s a safe space and there’s an indoor multi-purpose area for when the winter rains come and a clothes closet as well. We’re certainly losing a really important piece in the community.”
Benson and her organization have been tasked with helping coordinate food security for people experiencing homelessness as part of a working group set up by the Coalition to End Homelessness. They have been working to secure funding and to coordinate the different groups operating in the city.
“We’re helping coordinate the user groups right now to figure out what the need is and try to find an alternate location,” Benson said. “There are a few that we’re looking at. It’s hard though because that building is so perfect. It has a washer and dryer, they’ve done a lot of updating to the kitchen to make it a commercial kitchen, and also that multipurpose room is more of a gathering space. It’s become this multi-functional building that user groups can host different events at as well. Finding something that is similar or could hold a similar purpose has been really challenging.”
One option that has come up is the recently sold Rosebowl Restaurant. That facility was bought by the provincial government through BC Housing to serve as bridge housing. Rufus has expressed interest in asking the Province for access to the Rosebowl building as a place for Grassroots Kind Hearts and the other organizations to operate.
She and the Grassroots Kind Hearts staff have been asking people to write letters to MLA Claire Trevena to ask if the organization could provide meals out of that location.
“It would be good,” she said. “Even with all the other groups, hopefully they’ll get involved in writing letters and stuff. I think just the letters for now will help, until we know more.”
Regardless of the outcome, Rufus said she and her staff would continue serving meals to the people who need them most.
“When I originally started doing this it was six years ago in November or October. It was crazy because we were in knee-high snow and everything was outside. We kept it going and kept it going. We’ve got a great board and staff,” she said. “I think that people are more willing to help now because we’ve been here for so much longer than everybody thought… The Campbell River community has been awesome with the support.”
More information on the letter writing campaign can be found on the Grassroots Kind Hearts Facebook page.