One thing about running our pantry is that many users want, for a host of reasons, to stay anonymous. This can make it hard to share their stories with you, our supporters, to show just what a difference the project makes to individuals. I’m going to try, though, because it’s the human stories that make this whole project make sense.
Last week, I was talking to a regular, venting a little about my own stress (well, they did ask how I was doing) and they shared that they used to own a restaurant, so we were able to share some stories of the challenges of running a space like ours – and they were able to give me some good advice from their life experience.
They’re also a musician who, as they put it, gave their all to their music and made some poor personal choices earlier in life, they find themselves older and less able to socialise, the accumulated mental weight of a long and eventful life and the traumas have taken a toll, leaving them with a very low income and insecure housing situation.
Earlier this year, we were able to be a shoulder to cry on when their housing fell through and they were temporarily unhoused. Now, they have found a place to live but still travel to the pantry each week to stock up on food, have lunch and have a chat. We hope to get them here to perform sometime, too!
This space is so much more than free food to this person and to many who use it. When money is short and life is a struggle, they say, a lot of people won’t give you the time of day. People have their own worries and don’t have the energy to engage – but people in precarious housing and financial straits need more than just handouts.
We’re pleased to be a part of the citywide net to help catch anyone who falls, be a safe landing – I’m busy with the metaphors again so I will stop!
If you can help, please do. We are making a difference here in a world that sometimes feels overwhelmingly awful, taking small actions to make it better.