Community

Lending a hand to the homeless in Halifax

This 25-year-old has a plan for all your holiday socks

Colby Veinotte spreads the word about his new project.   Maddie Johnson

The holiday season is known as a time of giving. But once January rolls around, and the general population settles back into their daily routine, this generosity appears to decrease.

This year, Colby Veinotte plans to change that.

The 25-year-old from Dartmouth — who has never participated in charity work except for giving small donations to panhandlers on the street — wants to keep the giving spirit alive all year long. With the help of his wife, Brittany Veinotte, Veinotte has kick-started a non-profit movement called Lend a Hand, Halifax.

“After Christmas everyone claims the same, ‘new year, new me,’ cliché,” says Veinotte. “People are focused on improving themselves, but what about everyone else? Why is it only around the holiday season that we feel the need to help the less fortunate?”

Veinotte wants to help those in need by collecting donations and redistributing them in curated care packages around the peninsula. Each care package will include a hat, a pair of gloves, socks, deodorant, bottles of water, a toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer and non-perishable food items. Donations will be collected via small bins set out in local businesses around Halifax and Dartmouth.

The idea came to Veinotte a week before Christmas while he was on a Tim Horton’s run. He figures most people are unlikely to make cash donations right after the holidays, but he wanted to find another way they could help year round. After the holidays, people often end up with extra or old articles of clothing that have been replaced, and now they can be put to good use.

He plans to start small by filling reusable bags with these necessities. If he receives larger donations, such as boots or coats, then Veinotte intends to collaborate with local shelters as well.

He is currently looking for more businesses willing to maintain a donation bin on their property. So far Habaneros, The Auction House and MakeNew Thrift Shop are on board, he says.

“We’d like to do a trial run in downtown Halifax to see if the project takes hold,” says Veinotte. “And then hopefully it will go from there.”

Being the largest city in Atlantic Canada, Halifax struggles with issues of homelessness. In 2016, the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia estimated there are about 300 people living in the Halifax Regional Municipality without a place to call home.

Sarah Gallant, marketing and communications officer at United Way Halifax, applauds Veinotte’s initiative.

“I think the city definitely needs more people who are compassionate and aware of the needs within the community,” she says.

As someone who grew up in and lives in the province, Veinotte has seen how bad conditions can get.

“It’s not enough to just help out during the holiday season,” he says. “Nova Scotian winters are notoriously bad, and people need the basic necessities.”

Veinotte hopes the project can continue into the summer months by simply swapping out hats and mittens for sunscreen and bug spray.

So far, social media like Instagram have been his greatest asset. Veinotte hopes to use this online presence to recruit a small team of volunteers to target specific areas. Along with this, he has started posting flyers around the downtown core. Ideally, he’ll have a team within the month and aims to distribute the first set of boxes by March.

To find out more information about Lend a Hand, Halifax or to get involved, visit: https://www.facebook.com/lendahandhrm/