A very unique Sunday meal was served on January 13 at l’Accueil Bonneau: a festive meal for the new year and the feast of the Three Kings, served by numerous volunteers, including Archbishop Lépine and Montreal mayor Valérie Plante.
A thundering applause welcomed the homeless people who entered the l’Accueil Bonneau dining room that Sunday. In fact, dozens of volunteers and the well known figures made a guard of honor salute to the Kings of the day, all those who came in search of warmth and comfort. “Christmas time and the holidays are particularly difficult times for people who are homeless: the cold, the solitude” said Aubin Boudreau, director of the organization. “This unique, newsworthy meal is a way to remember all those who live on the street, to remember the issues of homelessness and the street.”
“This festive meal makes it possible for me to get out and enjoy the beautiful decorations and the music for dancing” said Mario, a l’Accueil regular.
This was the 141st meal for the Kings offered by l’Accueil Bonneau! Since 1877, the organization has welcomed nearly 800 people daily, most of them men. In a spirit of unconditional welcome, l’Accueil Bonneau offers anyone who lives on the street or who is living in a precarious situation daily meals, a day center, formation, professional help for reintegration, closet space, a health center, accommodations, and a variety of activities: all this to allow homeless people to progress toward social reintegration and residential stability. “People who have lost everything come here and find volunteers and people like them: they find a family” stressed Msgr. Lépine. One beneficiary, raising his plate, said: “I needed to come here to see the people from l’Accueil Bonneau again.” Another added, “l’Accueil Bonneau gives us a real break”.
Valérie Plante and Most Rev. Lépine worked side by side with volunteers throughout the morning. The mayor passed out plates and our Archbishop served coffee: “It is cold outside, but it is also cold in the heart when we live on the street: coffee brings warmth and comfort to hearts that suffer in solitude”. While pouring coffee all morning, Lépine was able to speak with those who are alone … or simply smile!
Music from the Marois-Goulet family gave a festive atmosphere to the morning, and some people even improvised some dance steps. Even with the bustle of the media presence, the beneficiaries were able to enjoy a hearty meal served with meats, a variety of salads and potatoes. A nice piece of chocolate cake and candies concluded the meal, and many left, comforted, with a small box of leftovers!
And so, nearly 400 people sat around the tables that Sunday morning thanks to the volunteers who, with smiles and open arms, cooked, served, and cleaned up. “We are lucky to be able to count on organizations like l’Accueil Bonneau and many others, who take on this colossal task and who know the needs,” said the mayor; visibly touched by the volunteer workers, for whom she requested “a great hand of applause”.
“We are here for you: you are at the heart of our mission: so take your time, and we hope that now, at the beginning of 2019, all the projects that are most important to you may come to fruition”, said l’Accueil’s director.