The Homie Project started with a little white dog named O’Ryan. When the SPCA believed O’Ryan wasn’t being properly looked after, his owner, Gill Hastings, needed to provide forms from a vet and pay fines.
Angela Hopkins, owner of Alice’s Trail Waggin’ Pet Services, offered her pet grooming services free of charge. She didn’t think it was right that people facing financial hardships have their animals taken away.
After the experience, Hopkins started The Homie Project — a charity that helps low-income individuals and their animals.
“She created it, originally, pretty much in support of my dog, O’Ryan,” said Hastings. “I was homeless at the time and struggling with mental health and drug addiction.”
Until recently, the focus was on pet services, and the charity would hear from someone once or twice a month. Hopkins and Hastings now provide hot meals, propane, sanitary products and clothing to the homeless population of Fredericton.
On winter nights where temperatures often drop into the negatives, Hastings and Hopkins drive to the three tent cities of Fredericton with hot soup and bread. Weather permitting, they also visit other locations like ATM vestibules, alleyways and clothing donation boxes, which are places where homeless people often take shelter.
After their visits, they often post pictures and updates on their Facebook page. Through this page, they connect the general public to the homeless population of Fredericton.
The donation-run project took off in November 2021 and was met with support from the Fredericton community.
“Within a month, it just exploded,” said Hastings.
Hopkins believes one reason their project took off so fast is that people can see where their donations are going.
“Everybody has a struggle, and everybody just needs to realize that we’re all just trying to get through this and be happy and feel love and give love,” she said.
In addition to physical goods, Hastings wants to provide a feeling of connection for the individuals they help.
“Try to remember that people are people,” he said. “A kind word goes a long way.”
Items in need, like large brown paper bags and takeaway containers, enable Hopkins and Hastings to organize and distribute food and donations. She said used cell phones are a big need for the organization.
Cash donations are also essential because Hopkins said filling 30 propane containers multiple times a week costs a lot of money.
Hopkins said while individual donations are wonderful, she would love to see groups come together and start doing things in a larger way.
But, as the small charity grows, so does Hopkins’ dedication.
“That’s just who I am, I do it with everything,” she said.