Coffee and Connection
As you may know, at Outreach, we focus on providing food, clothing, shelter and connection. The biggest of these has always been connection. At SCO people typically come through our doors for the first time looking for food or help finding shelter, but they stay for the coffee. Coffee has helped us connect with each other in a way that would never have happened without the simple offer of “Can I get you a cup…” We’ve seen some amazing friendships develop over a cup of coffee. We’ve even seen romantic relationships develop over a cup of coffee. We chat, commiserate, cry and laugh together over a cup of coffee. For a group of people who struggle to connect, the almighty cup of coffee has brought us together as one big family.
Coffee as the fuel of the Social Justice Warrior
Coffee plays another role at SCO. Coffee is the fuel of the social justice warrior. More than just bringing people together at the drop in center, it does some pretty important outreach work on the street. Case in point: One Sunday morning, several years ago, Irene was set to give a sermon at one of the churches here in town. While drinking her morning cuppa and reviewing her sermon Irene answered a call. It was a report of some homeless people sleeping in their car at AD Penner park. Irene slogged down her coffee and set out for the day. After delivering her sermon Irene went straight from the podium, to see to these people in need. On her way to the park she stopped at Tim Hortons to pick up some coffee and sandwiches. Irene found the couple sitting at a picnic table in the park not far from the parking lot. After offering them a hot drink sharing her lunch they opened up about their story. It turns out they were travelling from AB to ON to get help from family there. They had run out of gas and had no money to go any further. They hadn’t eaten in in two days and were stuck in Steinbach living out of their car with no cash for food or fuel. Irene explained who she was and what she did and offered to help. Together, over several more cups of coffee, they came up with a plan to get some food and shelter for the short term and reconnect with their family in ON. Two weeks later she received a text from this couple saying how grateful they were and asking for a mailing address so that they could repay the kindness. It’s a small blip in the grand scheme of what we do here at Outreach, but that offer of a cup of coffee ended up making a huge difference in these people’s lives.
Coffee as an Act of Compassion
Sometimes our blessings come from the most unexpected sources. 10 year old Drayton Loewen had been driving around Winnipeg and Steinbach and saw so many people struggling in the cold. He wanted to do something about it. So he called us. Almost every single one of our guests has to walk every where they go. They walk from the south end of town and downtown where the affordable housing is, several kilometers to the north end of town where we are, and where Superstore and Walmart are. Winters in Manitoba are pretty harsh so when they’d come in to get whatever help they needed from us they’d usually warm up with a cup of coffee before they’d set out again. With Covid protocols limiting the amount of people in we are allowed to have in our space, this winter they walk to us only to have to wait in line, outside in the cold wind. Drayton and his mum offered to set up a stand at our doors and hand out a hot cup of coffee to our guests waiting in line. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful we feel and what a blessing that small act from that 10 year old boy has been. It has made a huge difference to our SCO family. It was such an easy way to do something positive in such trying times. In line people started people started conversing again, physically distant of course, but talking and laughing all the same. Word got out about what he was doing and the community jumped on board. What an inspiring act! We were flooded with calls from people offering to do the same. Week after week the coffee has been flowing, and several of the coffee bringers even joined our SCO family as volunteers.
Coffee and Covid
When covid hit, we made a huge effort to keep our coffee time open because we knew how important it was to our guests. Unfortunately, month after month the restrictions got more and more stringent, and we were eventually required to shut our hangout time down all together. In a world that requires us to be socially and physically distant, this has had a huge impact on the mental health of our guests, who are already struggling with social inclusion.
“The people that are homeless and struggling and are actually trying to find a place to get their lives back in order need the most love. They need Outreach. We find it hard to stay 6 feet apart because all you want to do is embrace each other and celebrate their successes. We’re already lonely. SCO needs their coffee time back.” Tim Unrau – SCO guest