Tyler Melnyk said he saw a lot of inequity during Covid, particularly with quarantining and self-isolation and the impact it had on those with temporary housing.
He wanted to help, and at first, he started doing outreach with Calgary organizations.
“What I noticed about an outreach was they’re doing everything. They’re doing clothing, harm reduction, food, social supports. You look at that and you say, ‘How can you do that all while you’re a group of volunteers walking down the street?’” Melnyk said.
“The one thing I saw that I could help with was food with dignity.”
Now, Melnyk has a pop-up food station that he’s been bringing to Olympic Plaza and delivering hot soup for the soul. It’s called No Fixed Address. He said he’s been committing to Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 to 6 p.m.
Melnyk has had help along the way to get to where he can nail down the proof of concept over the next year. His friend Charles said he could run a business with a social purpose – it didn’t have to be a non-profit.
He started with soup as his main meal, and that’s how he met Dean Mitchell at Saffron Catering. Mitchell helped him focus the idea.
“That’s when everything started to fall into place,” Melnyk said.
Mitchell and Saffron provide him with high-quality soup to deliver to customers. But, he’s also got Pie Junkie on board to offer some delicious treats to go with the soup.
Melnyk also said that both the City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services have been very helpful in helping him get started with permits.
Everyone is huggable
Melnyk, who is a teacher from Monday to Friday, said he knows the different social organizations are doing their best. Everyone from the food banks to the homeless shelters have their role in helping people.
He said he’s on a different side of the social spectrum.
“I see where the rubber hits the ground in the classroom, and I see lots of opportunities to be proactive, but there are no supports for that,” he said.
“So, as an educator, I have one view, as a business proprietor doing a social-purpose business, I have another, but they do overlap.
“The idea is people need to be treated with respect.”
One way to do that is through the Huggabowl. That’s how people who buy from No Fixed Address can leave something behind for others.
The typical bowl is $5. Customers are asked if they want to leave a Huggabowl token for another bowl of soup, and they’re asked to cover an additional $2. The No Fixed Address superheroes (people or businesses wanting to help) cover the other $3 with their donations.
A customer can leave the token behind in a bowl for someone that needs a meal, or they can take the token and give it to someone in need. People can also just tap and leave a couple of bowls (tokens) behind for others.
That transparency aspect was important to Melnyk.
“The concept with the Huggabowl was we’re all huggable,” he said.
“We’re all people, we all have dignity, but a lot of that’s been taken away.”
Outpouring of support
So far, Melnyk said the community support has been fantastic. He said he’s heard a lot of people saying that they wish they could do something like this.
“Now they’re kind of looking at me going, ‘well now what can I do to help you because you did it,’” he said.
He said aside from financial contributions, he could use a good canopy for cover from the weather. If organizations allow him at their event, that could also help drum up more community support and those valuable Huggabowl tokens.
Right now, hoping his high-profile, Olympic Plaza location will be a good spot to catch the eye of those folks going to the theatre, or others getting out in the downtown. Melnyk’s also hoping the upcoming Calgary Expo will bring in lots of superheroes to help.
The company website is currently being redesigned, but he can be found on Instagram at NoFixedAddress_YYC.
For any superheroes wanting to step up and make a donation, they can do so by getting in contact with Tyler via email at firstname.lastname@example.org (etransfers accepted there, too).
- With files from Aryn Toombs