Winter warming bus for Edmonton's homeless reaches fundraising goal

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Winter warming bus for Edmonton's homeless reaches fundraising goal

Winter warming bus for Edmonton's homeless reaches fundraising goal

The winter warming bus for Edmonton's homeless will be back on city streets soon, after a spontaneous campaign to fund it reached its goal Wednesday.

The $100,000 needed to get the bus running again was raised thanks in a large part to a donation of $61,500 from the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.

"It's absolutely incredible," said Aidan Inglis, director of programs at Boyle Street Community Services, which operates the bus.

"We were not expecting that at all."

Inglis said it has been heartwarming to see so many people donate to the cause after hearing there was no money available to run the bus this year.

The president and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, Andrew Otway, said the organization felt duty-bound to help after finding out the bus was not going to be in operation.

Otway said providing a safe and warm place for vulnerable Edmontonians could prevent some people from showing up at the hospital with weather-related conditions.

"I really do think the work that Boyle Street does saves lives," Otway said. "We see patients presenting in the emergency room at the Royal Alex who are homeless and they are suffering the effects." 

The bus has been running for about a decade, providing people on the street with a place to warm up, and get hot soup, sandwiches and winter clothing.

The campaign to get the bus back on the road gathered momentum after A-Squared Communications donated $1,000 to the cause last week and challenged other local businesses to follow.

Coun. Aaron Paquette also called for organizations and coalitions to "do the right thing." The City of Edmonton already contributes $100,000 to the bus.

After a flood of donations, including one from a young girl who gave her own pocket money, Boyle Street announced it was about one-third of the way to its goal Tuesday, having raised $35,500.

The $61,500 donation from the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, along with a number of other contributions, has pushed the campaign to its goal.

The response from Edmontonians says a lot about their generosity, Julian Daly, executive director of Boyle Street Community Services said Thursday. 

"The kindness of people is both touching and overwhelming," he said.

Wayne Ash, who has been driving the bus for about 10 years, is now stocking it with supplies to have it ready for the road.

Bringing back the service will make a big difference to many homeless people throughout the city, Ash said.

"It's extremely needed because there are a lot of people there who do not come downtown. They sleep out in the bush, in garbage bins, wherever they can," he said.

Jobs for two support staff to work alongside Ash have already been posted. Inglis said he is hopeful the bus will be out on city streets again within a couple of days.

The bus service now has enough money to run for seven days a week for the rest of the winter.