Nanaimo’s Salvation Army has seen roughly a 25% increase in vulnerable seniors coming through its doors in the past year, to get a warm meal or shelter.

“Unfortunately we are seeing more and more seniors not only in our shelter, but in our mail program and in our community— our community ministries,” said Kim Maandag, Community Ministries Director of Salvation Army. “That tells us that the need for seniors is getting more and more great, and that concerns us greatly.”

Nanaimo’s Salvation Army serves around 260 individuals in a day, though it wasn’t stated how many of those 260 were older individuals.

“I would have to say that before the pandemic we definitely had noticed the number of seniors coming through our doors was increasing, but since the pandemic it has increased even more.”

Maandag states “Homelessness Action Week” helps bring homelessness to the forefront of people’s minds.

“It’s a very good thing for people to go ‘oh, right.’ I mean if you don’t live in the downtown core in Nanaimo and see what we see every day… You know, we’re all busy with our lives, so it’s easy to— I’m not saying that people forget but— it’s not top of mind so, should this action week brings to the general population the top of mind of seeing the struggles and suffering that the homeless folks go through. Not just in Nanaimo but right across our province, and frankly across Canada. And maybe they’ll go ‘I wonder how I can help.’”

Maandag states that the all-men shelter in Nanaimo provides fresh, healthy food such as mashed potatoes, chicken roasts, and a variety of different options for people who need it. She states it’s amazing that some donors come every week to bring fresh fruits and veggies, though she has advice about proteins.

“We can actually purchase our proteins cheaper than people can buy them in the grocery store. So if someone said ‘I want to donate towards the protein of the meal, it’s actually better to give funds for that. We can make it go further.”

Maandag added that the shelter’s new monthly average of meals served has gone up to 12000.

The Salvation Army also assists with income tax filing, so vulnerable people are able to take advantage of government assistance. For those struggling with rent, Maandag states that the Salvation Army can help supplement it as a ‘gift.’

“The Good Tenant program is a program where people can come to us and there’s a limit on how much money we have so we try and spread that out over as many individuals or families as we can and it’s no repayment required. It is a gift. It’s up to $275 a month. It could be someone who maybe doesn’t need $275 maybe they only need $160 each to be able to make up the difference in the rent and then that money that we save on that individual we are able to put towards maybe a hydro bill for someone else who’s in danger of getting their hydro cut off.”

As the rainy season buckles down, Maandag states things like ponchos, raincoats, mitts, gloves, toques, scarves, and umbrellas are all requested. Umbrellas can be used both during the summer and winter, providing shade in the summer and shelter during the winter.

“Once you’re wet you can’t just put on extra layers. Once you’re wet it’s very hard to get warm because everything is soaking. Your blankets are wet, everything is wet. So yeah, it’s a real concern.”

She states men’s underwear and socks are always needed, as they are always short on them.