By Michael Boriero – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chaudronnée de l’Estrie reopened its dining area this week and allowed people inside for the first time since the Eastern Townships was designated a red zone back in November.
“We’re so happy to have time to talk to them even if it’s like for 20 minutes. They can debrief on what they’ve been through, like distress issues, suicide, a lot of things,” said Lucie Lefebvre, a social worker at Chaudronnée.
People are given between 15 to 30 minutes to sit down, relax and enjoy a hot meal. However, the Sherbrooke soup kitchen and day centre stayed open throughout the red zone period because it is considered an essential service.
They just weren’t able to provide all of their normal services, like one-on-one meetings, group activities and packing the dining area with hungry visitors. Lefebvre said the team did its best to accommodate people under the circumstances.
“We gave a lot of services by phone because people got to states of mental distress,” said Lefebvre. “It has been really hard on people because it was their centre, they came here for the different services.”
According to the social worker, before the pandemic they were feeding between 150 to 180 people every day. But now with restrictions in place they are only seeing about half the amount, around 60 to 75, she explained.
They also served hot lunches throughout the past few months. People were able to pick up a take-out meal, rather than find an empty seat inside the building. But winter is a particularly stressful time for everyone, Lefebvre said, and the pandemic made it worse.