St. Thomas soup kitchen issues plea to open
ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- A soup kitchen operator in St. Thomas is hoping her public plea to Ontario Premier Doug Ford strikes a nerve with provincial policy makers.
Ginny Trepanier, the founder and manager of the Grace Cafe on Talbot Street in St. Thomas this week produced a YouTube video with a personal message to the premier.
In the video she pleads for “mercy” asking that soup kitchens be allowed to open and serve their clients inside while practicing physical distancing rules.
“Some people have said to me ‘I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for you,' because they depend on us.
The downtown location serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with coffee all day long to those who need it.
It also keeps a supply of clothing on hand for anyone who needs something.
Trepanier has arranged the tables inside to meet physical distancing requirements.
She would like to be allowed to bring five people in at a time, for 15 minutes each, allowing those on the street to take a break and have a bite to eat.
“I’ve got all these empty tables and they’re outside sitting on the concrete in some cases eating lunch. And now they’re coming earlier. I’ve had people at six in the morning with their hands up against the window, ‘Ooh ooh is there coffee?’”
Unfortunately for Trepanier and the 80 to 100 clients the Grace Cafe serves each day, the soup kitchen is considered the same type of premises as a restaurant. That means it can only serve people for curb-side pickup.
That means clients take one step inside the door, get their coffee and food, and and then they’re on their way.
Client Jeremy Leblanc, who lives on the street, said it’s getting harder all the time to find somewhere to take a break.
“Since everything’s shut down there’s nowhere to go,” said the 36-year-old. “The library’s closed...and other places that are open they don’t want their places full of homeless so they don’t want us around at all.”
The City of St.Thomas has opened a number of drop-in centres for those who need a place to hang out, all of which recognize physical distancing.
Some people CTV News spoke with said they’re not comfortable going inside for a variety of reasons, and prefer the familiarity of the Grace Cafe.
As for Trepanier, she said she doesn’t want to be a law-breaker, but admitted she’s tempted to defy the provincial order, and begin letting people in.
“When we’re all in our cozy cars and in our offices, in our house and homes drinking our coffee they’re out on the street. And I take issue with that. This is why were here.”