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Toronto-area homeless welcome winter survival kits prepared by volunteers

Last Updated Jan 13, 2018 at 6:37 pm EDT

More than 100 volunteers gathered in a warehouse in Toronto’s west end on Saturday to package 3,000 survival kits for those in need — and launch Engage and Change’s Project Winter Survival.

Members of the Toronto Police Service were among those assembling kits for about 170 social service agencies, homeless shelters, and outreach providers throughout GTA and surrounding areas.

The project was started by Jody Steinhauer who has been on the front lines and seen first-hand how vital initiatives like these are for people living on the streets.

“Every year we say the same thing: We don’t want to be doing this next year,” she said.

“Long-term housing and support services are what we need, but until there is a solution to homelessness we will continue to do these projects.”

More than 30,000 winter survival kits have been distributed to homeless in the GTA and surrounding area over the past 19 years.

The kits are made up of 37 items, including a sleeping bag, winter gloves, energy bar and personal hygiene products. Each kit is worth about $200.

It’s a welcome gift for John who currently lives on the street.

“It’s not fun — it’s freezing,” he said. “Half of us can’t even find boots. Like myself, I’ve been running around all winter in runners because there are no boots in the community for people … It’s nice to know that people actually care about people out there.”

According to Homes First, there are about 5,000 homeless people in Toronto, and more than 70 died in the first nine months of 2017.

For more information on Project Winter Survival and to make a donation, visit the Exchange and Change website.