Archives for posts with tag: Pandemic

Since March The Dale has been serving meals to-go, all outside. We set up outside of 201 Cowan Avenue. Every six feet along the sidewalk is a strip of bright yellow tape, a visual reminder that a line is now necessary. Sometimes the number of people snakes all the way to Queen Street, around the corner and down the block.

We miss not being able to share a meal around a table. The Dale is motivated to build and nurture participatory community, and we lament how the pandemic has impacted this. Having said that, there are no shortage of important and oftentimes beautiful moments that happen as we interact in line and around the neighbourhood on the street.

We can always hear this person coming, because their wheelchair has a loose shock and a missing wheel. Though in obvious need, it took some time for this person to feel safe to ask for or receive help. It was a long series of fairly short interactions that led to a significant conversation, one that has led to putting a plan in action for repairs to be completed on their mobility device.

Laid out on the sidewalk, we stopped to make sure this person was breathing. Fortunately, we were able to have a bit of a conversation and provide some water. It was clear that the day had been a very difficult one so far. At one point he reached out to grab a hand, so hungry for a brief, healthy touch. In that moment of connection, he spoke words of encouragement to each of us. We left feeling like everyone involved had just received a gift.

Some people in the line are very new to The Dale and have no context for how life in this community looked pre-COVID. It is fun to tell stories of drop-ins and open mic nights, of cooking together and playing board games, of making music and sharing prayer requests. It is encouraging to hear the new folks telling their own stories of The Dale: of how good a certain meal was, of making new friends, of eating freezies together in the heat of the summer, of discovering that we meet for church in a parking lot, and of how the bad weather doesn’t stop us from being “open”.

One day a person brought us two bags full of plastic bags, having noticed that we need them to hold all the things we are giving away. Someone else painted us a picture. Another gifted me a used tripod for my daughter, knowing that she is studying photography. These presents remind us that everyone is built to both give and receive, a value that cannot even be quashed by our current circumstances.

The poet John O’Donahue says that, “A life that wishes to honour its own possibility has to learn too how to integrate the suffering of dark and bleak times into a dignity of presence. Letting go of old forms of life, a tree practises hospitality towards new forms. It balances perennial energies of winter and spring within its own living bark. The tree can reach towards the light, endure wind, rain and storm, precisely because it is rooted.”

The Dale wants to be such a tree. Our roots are deep. We know who we are. We believe in what we do. We will be in the neighbourhood rain, snow, or shine. While the line is not our preference, we will seek to make it as Dale-ish as possible. There is grief, yes AND God is making a way through the sadness. For all of this we are grateful.

It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of another year. As I reflect on all that has transpired during 2020, I am filled with a variety of emotions, ranging from sadness to joy, anxiety to peace, and everything in between. Overwhelmingly though, I feel a sense of gratitude. As a community we have remained intact despite the distance. We have leaned in to the opportunity to creatively address the limitations of COVID-19. There have been tears shed and laughs shared, our refrain often being, “we’re making it work!” or “we’re doing it!”

One constant has been change. We have needed to pivot more than once. Our set-up for giving out meals has been tweaked and then tweaked some more. Meagan has returned from her mat leave. Olivia got married. And most recently, Pete completed his contract with The Dale- we are grateful for and wish the best of things for Pete and his family during this time of transition.

As much as I love finding the words to describe the journey The Dale has and continues to be on, I think pictures can really help bring it to life. This is a vibrant place, one that is nurtured through the support of a very broad network of people. These pictures might be familiar to you, or maybe this is a first glimpse into the neighbourhood. Either way, I invite you to take a look.

Monday Lunch
Prepping meals and groceries for the community
Sunday
Ross and Sheila (not pictured) getting ready to help with deliveries
A community member’s first garden since being recently housed
Friends
Thursday Breakfast
The Dale Devotional- The Beatitudes
Jahn’s Memorial
Let’s do it
Rose
Where many friends are currently living
Pete, Meagan, Erinn, Joanna, Olivia

Last night I dreamt about the possibility of The Dale’s programming closing due to COVID-19 and I woke up in a sweat. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the ramifications of this virus that go beyond the obvious. If you are person who is homeless and test positive, where do you self-isolate? What happens to the many people who cannot afford to stockpile toilet paper? If your only point of connection and meal of the day happens at a large gathering like a drop-in, where do you go if it gets cancelled?

I feel increasingly aware of the privilege that so many people hold (including me) as I think about this pandemic. When I listen to the news, I hear this: quarantine yourself at home, spend money on having food delivered to and dropped off at your doorstep, continue to work remotely by pulling out your laptop. These are all important measures that will help stop the spread of the coronavirus, yes, and they are just not immediately available to every person. Things get even more complicated when you consider how many people are in the shelter system, in many cases sleeping closer together than is necessary for “social-distancing”.

As The Dale crafts a way through this challenging time, we want to be sure that our community, especially our most vulnerable members are not left behind. We know that our family style meals need to stop for the immediate future (typically each table in the drop-in passes around a large platter of food), but we can create boxed meals for people to take-out. On Monday we will be serving hotdogs outside. As a nomadic church and organization, we are well poised to continue providing support to people beyond the confines of a building. We want to respond calmly, appropriately and lovingly in this situation.

Joanna and I went to visit a friend today who is generally housebound and certainly well acquainted with poverty. His word to us? “People should really learn how to take care of each other and share”. He went on to say a number of things, including how aware he is that if he buys three rolls of toilet paper, it means two other people don’t have any. As we all navigate this unique time, I think his words are important.

The coronavirus has certainly exposed how interconnected this world really is. Whether we like to believe it or not, we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, not just for the sake of ourselves, but for the other. For those who feel forced to slow down life, I hope good things can develop in the solitude. For those who know isolation all too well, I hope there are ways to remain connected. But maybe most of all, I hope that when we are keeping our distance from one another, we can learn to look each other in the eye more, including people we might otherwise already pass by.

Postscript: If you are wondering how to support The Dale community right now here are a few ways: 1) Donate new containers for us to package food in, 2) Donate hand sanitizer, 3) Donate money. While we are a Second Harvest Partner Agency, we anticipate needing to purchase additional items, such as the hotdogs I mentioned above, disposable cups and lids for hot drinks (recyclable if possible), etc. 4) Pray.

You can give here: https://www.thedale.org/donate/