A once drab-looking camper is now a hub for hot food in Windsor for those in need during this cold season.
It's called the Soup Shack, and it's been put together by two local organizations — Feeding Windsor and the Street Angels. Together, they converted an old camper into a space to serve hot meals and drinks.
Organizers are parking the vehicle at the corner of Park Street and Victoria Avenue between 7 and 9 p.m. every night of the week.
"Our street friends are going hungry in the late evening hours," said Marnie Monrose of Street Angels. "They usually go hungry and they don't have anything to eat after 5 p.m. We just want to send them to bed with a warm, full stomach.
We don't want to see anybody in the community sleeping outside during these cold winter months."
Monday was the first night the camper headed out and organizers are hopeful people will take advantage of it.
One of the people requesting food was Maurizio Gidillini.
"Windsor is starting to understand that there's people that need to survive," he said.
Organizers plan to be there every night until April.
There are other food programs in Windsor's core, but one of the organizers said the mobile unit won't duplicate those existing services.
Hundreds in need
Merissa Mills, of Street Angels who helped launch the project, said there are about 400 to 500 individuals awaiting a bed in shelter in Windsor-Essex, with about 291 beds available at any given time.
"I think the demand is going to be high," she said of the Soup Shack.
The camper "looked terrible" when the project first began, said Mills, but it has since been gutted and painted after money was raised by the groups through a GoFundMe campaign.
Thanks to the $15,000 raised in total, the Soup Shack is set to be on Windsor's streets through this winter, and visiting the county too, said Mills.
Organizers put up posters and information at local shelters and daytime programs and other areas people in need may be, so they can learn about it.
Mills said getting the word out to Windsor residents has been tricky.
"It's by word of mouth," Mills said. "The individuals we're targeting for services, they don't have access to social media, they don't often watch the news or hear any of that kind of information."
Gidillini plans to be back every night and he plans to tell everyone he knows about the Soup Shack.
"Whoever I encounter is going to know about this," he said.
It's not just soup that the Soup Shack provides.
"We're going to provide anything warm in a bowl; soup, stews, maybe even pasta," Mills said. "We plan to have hot drinks. We'll also have a mobile phone available for free for any clients to use. We're also going to be giving out literature that has resource information for available shelters and other community resources."
Mills said there are plans to expand service into other areas of Windsor-Essex.
"The Soup Shack is mobile, so it can go anywhere we go," she said.