Medewiwin Angels Valerie Foster (left) and Leslie Farmer serve soup during the philanthropic group’s luncheon held at Riffington (Black Press owner David Black’s home) in Uplands

Housing provider with roots in West Shore helped out by fundraiser

Philanthropists host lunch to raise funds for regional housing organization

An estate in Oak Bay hosted a pretty posh soup kitchen last week to raise awareness and cash for Pacifica Housing.

A group of philanthropic women dubbed Medewiwin Angels host the luncheon every second year, and when their venue fell through this year, Black Press owner David Black came through in a pinch, offering his Riffington estate on Beach Drive.

The group creates a range of soups guests devour (and can take home for a small fee) for $50 per person. All proceeds from the event go toward supporting the tenants living in Medewiwin, on Gorge Road East, 26 units of independent, supported housing units for formerly homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

“Mental illness in its many forms touches one out of every five Canadians, and although the stigma is slowly fading, it is not changing fast enough. Our 26 residents in Medewiwin still struggle at times, but they are warm and safe and they are valued,” said head angel Shirley Hunter, who noted providing supportive housing for those struggling with mental illness and addiction was a relatively new idea when she got involved.

Alongside ladles of homemade soup and the takeaway containers, the ladies spread the message of their work. Leslie Farmer has been an angel for about eight years, since being recruited by Hunter.

“It is one of the most hands-on, rewarding philanthropic endeavours I do,” Farmer said.

Cutting a cheque is a grand gesture, but giving of her time and energy means mid-month grocery shopping for an entire complex.

“We make sure they’ve got enough to get through the month,” Farmer said. “We make sure they get a birthday present and a goodie bag at Christmas … I’m sure I get more out of it than they do.”

Soup day is an effective fundraiser – they only need to do it every two years – in part because of the awareness. This year’s event raised $12,140.

“It costs us as taxpayers $9,400 a year to keep them there,” said Donna Thomas, adding a shelter bed costs $25,185 a year; jail $52,195 and psychiatric care $242,725. “Pacifica Housing is a great example of how not to put someone back on the street where the costs are tripled.”

Pacifica provides more than 800 rental units – subsidized, supported and reduced market – in more than 30 sites across southern Vancouver Island, including the West Shore. The organization provides homes for more than 1,500 people in Greater Victoria, Duncan and Nanaimo. For more information go to pacificahousing.ca online.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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