Carleton University students hand out care packages to homeless and impoverished

A student-run group from Carleton University is looking to combat homelessness and poverty through small gestures of charity, one care package at a time.

On Nov. 27, the group —called “Carleton Castlestone”— went down Bank Street in Centretown and handed out eight care packages to those struggling with homelessness and financial strain.

“It feels good. But at the same time, it’s only a short-term solution,” said Saambavi Paskaran, president of Carleton Castlestone.

“We want to bring a few minutes into their lives where they feel accepted. But we want to do more to help them get out of that situation.”

The care packages contained granola bars, water bottles, lotion, socks, and female hygiene products.

Recipients also received a copy of the second issue of a local community newspaper called The Wrench, which focuses on issues around homelessness and poverty in Ottawa.

The Wrench was founded by University of Ottawa student Joey Clavette, and the first edition of the paper came out in September. Carleton Castlestone works closely with The Wrench  to help shine a light on issues surrounding poverty and homelessness in Ottawa.

The first care package was given out to a homeless woman named Kim Hughes, who sat outside of the Massine’s Independent Grocer, located at 296 Bank St.

Hughes said that she was already struggling to scrape up some spare change from people that afternoon, and was delighted when she received a  care package.

“What they’re doing is a good thing. It’s heartwarming because you know that they mean it,” Hughes said.

Carleton Castlestone launched just over two years ago, and members describe themselves as “a youth-run organization that is working to alleviate poverty and homelessness in Canada.”

Antoinella Dam, co-president of Carleton Castlestone, said the group has been handing out care packages for over a year now.

“We just want to help them. It’s really rewarding,” Dam said.

In total, Dam estimates that the group has done “just under 50” care package trips across the downtown area.

“It’s a good way to show them that their community actually cares about them — even if it’s a small thing,” Dam said.

In past care package trips, Paskaran and Dam would do some story-scouting missions for The Wrench by asking the homeless a series of questions related to homelessness, such as topics like the welfare system. These answers would then be relayed back to the The Wrench, where the issues would be explored in the paper.

Funding for the care package items came from Carleton University Students’ Association, the non-profit corporation that represents the school’s 25,000 undergraduate students.

During the summer however, Dam said that funding for the care packages came out of Castlestone members’ own pockets.

“We want to get more funding from CUSA so that we can help address homelessness in the long-run,” Paskaran said. “There’s not much we can do with a budget of $500,” she said.

The care package trips were initially a bi-weekly routine, but that has since changed due to busy schedules.

“We try to do it once in a while. The last time we did this was after (the October) Reading Week. But we plan to do more once everything dies down,” Dam said.

Aside from delivering care packages and food to the homeless, the group occasionally takes some of the homeless people out to grab a bite at a local restaurant.

“Sometimes we take them out for lunch. It’s really nice. You learn so much about them. You don’t expect how similar they can be to you,” Dam said.