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Downtown drop-ins, food programs see sharp increase in demand

'It’s mostly people who never thought they’d be in this situation'
20201019 HOPE House takeaway breakfast AD 2
A community member holds a brown paper bag containing a takeout breakfast at Hope House. Ariel Deutschmann/GuelphToday file photo

Downtown drop-in centres are seeing a sharp rise in demand as of late, with more people accessing food programs and other services.

There’s been more than a three-fold jump in the number of people attending Royal City Mission (RCM) in the past six months, with Hope House experiencing a similar rise.

“I think it comes down to the economy right now,” said Meg Ryan, communications and events lead for Hope House, pointing to higher prices for food, gasoline, utilities and more. “It’s mostly people who never thought they’d be in this situation.”

RMC pastor Kevin Coghill said during the past six months about 850 unique individuals have attended the Quebec Street mission, up from 250 in the six months prior. Some of those people are regulars, others are not.

“I think a lot of it is a number of places that used to be available to people closed down,” he said of the growth in demand, adding it may have taken a while for word to get around that RCM was still open. “We expect to see more with rising costs.”

During the pandemic, Stepping Stone shifted its focus from running the Gordon Street drop-in to providing permanent supportive housing. Hope House, on Cork Street, also put its drop-in service on hold for a while but is back up and running.

There’s been a continuous rise in demand since the pandemic began, Ryan said, noting that hasn’t stopped. During a recent two-month period (April and May), Hope House saw 62 new families sign up for services – that’s 146 individuals, including 48 children.

In light of that increased demand, both agencies are calling for donations and volunteers.

“The biggest thing is our staff hasn’t grown to meet the need,” Coghill said, explaining services are provided by a combination of staff and volunteers. “We do definitely need more resources.”

Both Coghill and Ryan say their agencies have witnessed a jump in the number people with addiction issues and experiencing mental health crises.

Anyone interested in making a financial or food donation to Royal City Mission, or volunteering some of their time, is asked to email [email protected]

Donation and volunteering information for Hope House can be found at, including a monthly list of the most needed items.


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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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