By Michael Boriero
The Chaudronnée de l’Estrie is bringing back its weekend heat break this winter to provide a brief respite from the cold, some hot coffee, snacks, and a moment to interact with people in similar situations as well as trained interveners.
The Sherbrooke soup kitchen started this initiative last year. They decided to bring it back for this winter season, but it was delayed because they couldn’t find any staff. However, Chaudronnée Coordinator François Lemieux has finally assembled a weekend crew.
“We were able to find our team. The heat break was supposed to start in November, but it was pushed back because we couldn’t find a team,” said Lemieux, adding there will be two interveners working every Saturday and Sunday, providing soup and a friendly ear.
According to Lemieux, the soup kitchen will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekends. And it’s a free service that Lemieux is gladly willing to provide to the city’s homeless population, since there aren’t many options for people seeking shelter on weekends.
There are some services available on Saturdays, but everything is usually closed on Sundays, he explained, so the Chaudronnée keeping its doors open on the weekend will plug an important hole for people living on the street, in solitude and without food.
Lemieux said it was a major success last year when they introduced the heat break. His intervener team was able to meet the needs of many people, whether it was providing a hot meal, giving them space and allowing them to interact with others, or simply to warm up.
“It’s always a little quiet at the beginning until the message passes around, but by the end of last winter we had about 20 to 30 people coming in every day to find some warmth. It responded to a number of their needs,” Lemieux said.
When asked about the homeless encampment that recently developed under the Joffre Bridge, and Sherbrooke’s subsequent response to remove everyone living there, Lemieux said he was glad residents were finally able to see that there is a housing crisis in the city.
“Well certainly there is a homeless problem in Sherbrooke. We’ve always said it. What happened under the bridge brought to light what we’ve been talking about for a number of years; that there are people in homeless situations,” said Lemieux.
Subscribe to The Record for the full story and more