With the colder months coming on, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people without housing arrangements to stay warm and protected from the elements. Pacte de Rue is an organization that helps provide services to people who do not have a place to go. This year, the Women’s Institute (W.I.), in association with Pacte de Rue, is organizing a collection of tents and sleeping bags to give to the unhoused community of the Valley.
Pacte de Rue was founded in 1994. According to the website, it works “with both young people and adults in social distress. We are present on a regular basis in parks, bars, apartments, schools, in resources, as well as on the street, which makes Pacte de Rue a resource known and recognized by people in the community.” It also states that the services are “free, confidential, and accessible 24 hours a day, weekdays, through a hotline, intervention, and also on weekends by personalized referral.” Services vary from vaccinations to help with addictions, providing access to food and housing, and more.
For the past six years, the W.I. has been working with Pacte de Rue. Member Pat Courbière Clarke says that “One of the things that we discovered was that in our area people do not even understand that there are homeless and street people.” The president of the regional W.I., Linda Janes, explains that homeless people are often overlooked in the Valley since they are commonly unseen, hiding in fields or barns. The public may be under the assumption that unhoused people don’t exist in the Valley, but just because they aren’t as visible as in a big city doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Local MNA Claire Isabelle has donated money to the W.I. to help it continue its efforts with Pacte de Rue. Janes says, “They’ve been helping us financially, so we can give more than we normally would have been able to do.”
This year, the organizations are mainly collecting tents and sleeping bags as well as monetary donations. Courbière explains, “A tent can’t keep you warm; but if it keeps the wet off of you, then at least you are going to have a good solid night so that you can get up the next morning and not be soaked to the skin.” It can be hard to get people to come inside, but at least they would be protected from the elements.
She encourages folks to consider how much one purchase can change a person’s life in comparison to how much we spend on non-essentials each year. “We go out and we spend thousands of dollars on Christmas, and we don’t even blink. We buy our children a $600 game… But if we were to go and spend $65 on a winter waterproof sleeping bag, we would blink.”
The W.I. is always looking for more volunteers so that it can continue its efforts with Pacte de Rue and other organizations in the Valley. Janes says, “We need volunteers, and young people today don’t understand the importance of volunteering… They think these people can find help through the government, but they can’t. There are not enough resources out there for them.” And while the government may help with bigger things, these organizations provide the smaller things – like shampoo, soap, and socks that is often overlooked.
Courbière emphasizes that there are many people experiencing homelessness, and says, “It’s not really our job to judge why things like that happen. It’s our job to help.” Organizations like this in the Valley work to protect vulnerable populations and keep them safe curing the harsher months. To help with this campaign, you can contact Janes, Courbière, or Pacte de Rue directly.