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In Their Shoes: A Day with Barrie’s Ryan’s Hope bringing food, aid, and hope to those who need it most

Last Month due to strong public backlash, Barrie City Council had to drop laws that would’ve banned giving food or essentials to the homeless in public places.

One of the local organizations in Barrie that would have been severely impacted by the council’s decision is Ryan’s Hope. This initiative was founded by Christine Nayler and her husband to honor the memory of their son, Ryan, who tragically succumbed to toxic drug poisoning.

Ryan’s Hope operates both a breakfast program and an outreach initiative that provides necessities such as food, tents, tarps, and shoes.

We joined their outreach program on a journey through downtown Barrie, where the homeless population can be found. The all-volunteer team of Ryan’s Hope convenes at a parking lot near downtown. Sean, a dedicated volunteer, discreetly entered the library to inform those inside that breakfast had arrived. Although Sean has only been volunteering for a few months, he’s grown familiar with many individuals who utilize the service.

After the outreach, the team distributed sandwiches, fruits, and beverages.

Mohammad steered the food cart towards Meridian Square, a location that had become a familiar breakfast point for those in need. Barrie’s Mayor Alex Nuttall faced a lot of criticism for a tweet that was seen as disrespectful to the homeless. His comments suggested that homeless people were making Barrie’s waterfront look unsafe and unwelcoming.

At the waterfront, we encountered a man and woman sitting together. The man had an injury on his leg from wearing shoes that were too tight. They had met and become friends a few months earlier. The woman found herself homeless following her husband’s death. Her husband, a disabled individual, lived in government-provided housing. However, after his demise, she wasn’t eligible for the housing and lost her home. Despite losing her house, she managed to maintain her sense of humor.

Another volunteer Ashleigh took down their shoe sizes, and the team proceeded to the bus terminal, rounding off their route via Meridian Square and then returning home.

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