Thanksgiving takes on a COVID-19 twist for Montreal's homeless shelters

Though Thanksgiving will be different this year, Montreal's homeless shelters are trying to ensure that the people who visit them will still get a special meal.

For the past 18 years, members of the Montreal Alouettes football team have served up Thanksgiving dinner to 300 to 500 people at the Welcome Hall Mission.

While the team's tradition at Thanksgiving is to help out, this year, they'll do things differently.

"Unfortunately, we can't be there physically, but we'll be sending turkeys," said Annie Larouche, director of the Alouettes Foundation. "We won't be able to serve them, but at least we're sending food. Hunger is a big problem across Canada and especially in these pandemic times."

The ways of serving people experiencing homelessness have changed, but the needs have not, said Samuel Watts, CEO and executive director on the Welcome Hall Mission.

"(We want to) make sure we can accommodate everybody who comes, but do it in shifts. So as an example, the cafeteria in the Macaulay facility seats about 150, but typically we'll serve 12 to 15 people at a time. So 12 to 15 will be served and then go out, and then another 12 to 15 will come in and rotate. By rotating, that's one of the safety protocols we've had in place since March," he said.

The Old Brewery Mission can't receive the hundreds of Montrealers they usually do but will be serving in each of their pavilions to spread out the meal offerings.

"Hundreds and hundreds of people, we are nonetheless going to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to," said James Hughes, president and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, adding that the pandemic has been especially tough on people who are currently homeless.

"When you see someone on the street, take a moment to say 'hi' to them," he said. "Those people are struggling, COVID is not making it easier."

Donations are appreciated through their websites; the Welcome Hall Mission and the Old Brewery Mission.

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