Demand for meals outpacing donations at Sally Ann

Salvation Army sees monthly meal servings soar above 11,000, but donations haven't kept up

Salvation Army public relations director Deb Lowell says the number of meals served by the Salvation Army has risen dramatically in recent months.

Salvation Army public relations director Deb Lowell says the number of meals served by the Salvation Army has risen dramatically in recent months.

The Salvation Army is serving more meals and sheltering more clients than ever before, but officials say donations haven’t kept up.

After serving just over 7,000 monthly meals last year, numbers have risen sharply in recent months, with 11,509 provided in April.

And although community ministries director Nate McCready said the Sally Ann has good relationships with grocery stores and other food partners, funds are still needed to cook the meals.

The increase comes, in part, because of a decision to serve full, nutritious meals every day, rather than every second day. Previously, full meals had alternated with soup and sandwiches.

The food is also serving more than the city’s homeless population.

Public relations director Deb Lowell added that recent closures to a variety of retail outlets – including Future Shop, Target and local IGAs – also may have brought forward more people who haven’t found another job.

“They may be unemployed, very unexpectedly, and often times folks who are struggling financially will use our services to offset their other expenses,” she said. “They’re using their limited cash for paying their rent if they are housed.”

The organization’s shelter has also seen increased use.

Over the last two years, the Salvation Army has also lowered its barriers for admittance. Where once prospective clients had to be clean of drugs, now admission is based on behaviour.

That reflects both best-practices and recent research that shows housing-first approaches lead to better long-term outcomes.

Those lower barriers have led to more demand for the Sally Ann’s shelter, and the organization now houses nearly a quarter of those who come to the shelter, up from seven per cent previously.

Donations, though, are trending in the opposite direction.

“As our demand has increased, we’ve actually seen donations go a bit lower,” McCready said.

Similarly, funding has also not kept up. from contracts the Salvation Army has.

That said, McCready and Lowell said the organization has no plans to cut services for financial reasons.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to keep up,” McCready said. That includes trimming the organization’s staff, which only puts more pressure on overworked employees.

“What we talk about is how do we get more money?”

Those who wish to donate can do so by calling 604-852-9305, dropping a cheque at the Gladys Road Centre of Hope, or by visiting careandshare.ca. For more information, visit careandshare.ca/donate-now.