Julie Tessier, interim director at the homeless shelter, l’Abri de la Rive-Sud, shares her perspective on how a simple bar of soap can make a world of difference in the lives of the homeless people who come to the shelter. In particular, the regular donations from Savonnerie le Chat Noir Nu, a small, Longueuil-based soap company, are making a big impact on the road to rebuilding their lives.
“Homelessness is complex,” says Julie. The causes are multiple, sometimes due to finances, or a breakup of a relationship. Others have problems with drugs, alcohol or gambling. It’s not rare that some have lived on the streets for years.
Living on the streets often means the new arrivals haven’t had the opportunity to shower in months. Upon arrival, each individual receives a gift of their own personal bar of soap, much of which is donated by Savonnerie le Chat Noir Nu. Julie says a hot shower is comforting and helps them regain their dignity. “Without access to a shower, self-esteem takes a hit. Soap is the basis of regaining control over their lives,” she explains. “Once they take have taken a shower, they feel better,” affirms Julie. She says that soap signals the step towards taking care of themselves, beginning their journey to recovery.
L’Abri de la Rive-Sud offers emergency shelter in Longueuil for adults seeking to get out off of the streets. The shelter is not just a safe place to sleep out of the elements, but a place where they find compassion, support and guidance to start rebuilding their lives. The interim director says the goal is to help them eventually get on their feet. Sometimes it’s a slow process that can require a great deal of understanding and patience. But Julie is emphatic, “Never give up hope!”
She says that behind their exterior appearances are exceptional people, but they don’t always have the skills to change their behavior on their own. Sometimes, they can’t find the words to express themselves. For those with addictions, withdrawal is painful. “Often, they are people who never were valued in their lives,” says Julie. Nonetheless, she describes the people who come to the shelter as “Resilient people who are still alive, in spite of their suffering.”
The shelter is a safety net, offering their services free of charge. With a restricted budget, donations of all kinds are essential. But soap is a pivotal first step. Julie sums up the importance of the soap, both practically and figuratively, “We clean the past. We feel the present.”