An Edmonton women is hoping more people will make an effort to help feed the city’s homeless after a 90-year-old Florida man was arrested this week for giving meals to the less fortunate.
Dr. Shawna Pandya, a neurosurgical resident at the University of Alberta and ex-NASA researcher, said she was inspired by the story of 90-year-old Arnold Abbott, who was arrested in Fort Lauderdale this week for giving out 300 meals at a local park. Abbott was in contravention of a new city ordinance that tightens restrictions on the homeless in order to move them from public spaces.
On Sunday, Pandya and her friends set up a table full of free perishable food items and hygiene products outside of the Boyle-McCauley Health Centre to remind people that it’s perfectly acceptable to feed the homeless in Edmonton.
“The bottom line is that it’s OK to help,” said Pandya, asking supporters to use the #itsoktohelp hashtag on Twitter.
“It comes down to being compassionate in the face of a complex issue. The homeless and the hungry are essentially being told they don’t matter and those who are trying to help are being pushed away.”
Pandya said it took less than 36 hours to organize the table, which was stocked with items donated by a local Real Canadian Superstore such as Kraft Dinner, cookies, toothpaste, razors and deodorant. She hopes other Edmontonians will follow her example.
Homelessness has been trending down in the city. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of homeless individuals in Edmonton dropped from 3,079 to 2,074, a 30 per cent reduction overall.