Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Urgent plea made by Calgary homeless outreach agency after suffering thousands in losses

What began with the smallest of holes caused by damage at the back of the SORCe building in downtown Calgary, has led to the biggest of problems for local homeless outreach non-profit BeTheChangeYYC.

(Editors note: The original story incorrectly made reference to the Source building. It’s the SORCe building. We regret the error.)

Mice, crawling in through damage done to the exterior wall of the homeless hub building, have cost the organization more than $10,000 in losses of non-perishable food items, and more than $15,000 in clothing.

“Our shelves used to be completely filled with food and in bins, of course, and now everything’s been destroyed that we would normally have,” said Chaz Smith, CEO of BeTheChangeYYC.

“My team is working many—I’m working many—extra hours to clean up the damage, to tally up the costs, to get things corrected.”

Smith said that the damage was likely caused by garbage bins being slammed into the exterior of The Source.

“A third party, very clearly has been creating severe damage to our back infrastructure, and that damage still hasn’t been corrected and it’s been over a week,” he said.

“While those holes are still accessible, unfortunately, we’re doing the best we can. Everything’s in plastic bins, sealed bins, and now there’s not a single item of food that doesn’t have a sealed lid on the top—and that’s above and beyond Alberta Health Services protocols.”

BeTheChangeYYC was able to salvage some items. It’s something that Smith credited to their strict adherence to Alberta Health Services food safety storage rules.

“We have volunteers that work with AHS in higher up positions, we would never have food on the floor, and everything is always on shelves,” he said.

“We want our the food to be safe for the folks we serve, because if I won’t eat it, why are they eating it?”

Damage done to the exterior wall of the The Source on Thursday, October 6, 2022. Damage from garbage bins being slammed into the exterior wall of the building allegedly created holes allowing mice to enter the building, leading to over $10,000 in food losses and $15,000 in clothing losses for the charity. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Outreach continues with diminished supplies

Smith said that the organization is continuing its mission to provide homeless outreach throughout the downtown core, despite the lack of supplies.

He said that this has been difficult for the Calgarians they serve.

“The lunches that we made over the past few shifts have had barely anything in them, because all of our snacks and prepackaged items have basically been destroyed,” Smith said.

“We haven’t been able to offer folks some jackets when they asked us for supplies.”

He said they have been able to access some mitts, gloves, and toques to hand out, but most of the supplies they had stockpiled for the winter have been completely destroyed. Among those items badly needed now that the temperatures are beginning to drop at night are jackets.

“We’re doing the best we can, but that just means now that folks can’t get all of the things we regularly have that we would normally be able to provide for them,” Smith said.

“It’s heartbreaking for them, it’s heartbreaking for us, and it just means people suffer, and suffering increases. We had the ability to ease that and now we don’t.”

Sandwiches and snacks are loaded into carts for distribution during BeTheChangeYYC homeless outreach in downtown Calgary on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. The non-profit is no longer able to provide the same level of food to homeless Calgarians due to damage from mice. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Plea for help from Calgarians, to help Calgarians

Smith said that they need to be able to provide homeless Calgarians the essentials they need to survive, especially those at risk as the temperatures fall.

“It’s not fair that people that can’t access, or won’t access shelters due to bars or barriers, are going to freeze and get frostbite as it gets cold or that are going to walk the streets hungry in a city like Calgary,” Smith said.

“And we can do better, and I want to make sure that they get the better that they truly deserve—they’re human beings, they deserve it.”

BeTheChangeYYC is looking for donations of non-perishable food items, mitts, toques, gloves, and especially jackets.

“We have almost no food supply left for our bag lunches, that’s prepackaged food like granola bars, like cookies, things you would just put in your lunch.”

Smith said that they also accept monetary donations through their website, which would be used to replenish supplies.

“We’re doing the best we can to make sure our program does not continue to be damaged,” he said.

For more information on how to help, see www.bethechangeyyc.org.