Nonprofit organizations are scrambling to come up with alternative ways to serve Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of people living on the streets during the COVID-19 era.
Many organizations are providing Thanksgiving dinner through takeout, including the Humanity Project, which provides free meals for people experiencing homelessness in Moncton.
"It's not the same at all," said Charlie Burrell, founder of the Humanity Project.
"It's honestly depressing to me because we're back at square one. We've worked so hard for a beautiful home for our community."
For the past five years, up to 300 people would rely on the Thanksgiving dinner prepared by staff and volunteers at the St. George Street location. Before that, meals were being served in the street and in parking lots.
While some people will eat their meals at home this year, many will be digging into their turkey dinners on the street.
"There is no place to go."
No longer a 'dining experience'
On Thanksgiving Monday, up to 50 volunteers would typically dress up and serve people coming off the streets. They would be fed a four-course meal over the span of several hours. The building would be trimmed in festive decorations and music would be playing in the background.
"It's a dining experience," said Burrell.
"It's like a five-star restaurant and they're on holiday."
Burrell realizes he could host up to 50 people inside the Moncton building at one time, but he was bothered by the thought of hundreds of people forced to wait on the street for their turkey dinner.
"It's eat your meal and then go," he said.
But people will still be able to partake in the holiday favourites like turkey, stuffing ,cranberry sauce and dessert.
"They [the cooks] go all out," he said. "Nobody goes hungry."
Volunteers have been handing out takeout meals since COVID-19 broke out in the province back in March.
Burrell said that will continue until the government increases the number of people allowed inside a building at one time.
Volunteers will be handing out Thanksgiving meals on Monday between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Thankful for bubbles and takeout
Warren Maddox, executive director of the Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., said clients will still be able to partake in Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Typically, people staying at the men's homeless shelter would eat Thanksgiving dinner at the neighbouring Fredericton Community Kitchen.
But, the community kitchen has been providing takeout meals only to the city's homeless since the spring.
"Ultimately, what we're looking at is a normal Thanksgiving for us, with us being incredibly thankful for the province that we're in," Maddox said. "And for the most part, the Atlantic bubble has done extremely well so we can have a certain degree of normalcy."
This year, up to 18 men will be receiving Thanksgiving takeout meals they will pick up and bring back to the shelter to eat.
"We're sort of in our own little bubbles here," said Maddox.
Since COVID, the shelter's capacity went from 26 down to 18.
Meanwhile, the six women at Grace House, Fredericton's women's shelter, will be eating Thanksgiving dinner inside the local building.
Organizers will be relying on food and gift cards donated by local residents and businesses.
"We're definitely going to have some turkey. And some stuffing. And some cranberries and eat too much," he said.