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Windsor, Ont., Family Creates Pandemic Support Network For City's Homeless

Their house burned down last year. Now they're giving back to vulnerable locals.

The Antone family knows how life-changing generosity during hard times can be. After their Windsor, Ont., house burned down last year, their First Nations community rallied around them. Now, they’re inspiring locals to help those without homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joseph Antone, from Oneida Nation of the Thames, started the Facebook group “Innercity Hope” to document his family’s homelessness relief efforts and inspire others to pitch in to their cause: “Creating smiles and letting [homeless individuals] know people care,” he told HuffPost Canada.

Dad says daughters are learning life lessons

Antone, his wife Sarah and their four daughters have made and delivered meals in his red pickup truck, CBC reports. On Facebook, Antone writes that they’ve fed over 400 street-involved Windsor locals downtown since starting two weeks ago.

The acts of kindness have taught his daughters about the spirit of giving. They’ve helped pack fruits and other snacks.

Antone's kids pack cured meat, bananas, oranges and bags of chips into paper bags for Windsor locals.
Antone's kids pack cured meat, bananas, oranges and bags of chips into paper bags for Windsor locals.

His children also wrote “Don’t Give Up!” and other inspiring messages on paper bags filled with food and drinks.

Antone's kids write inspiring messages on paper bags holding meals for recipients. 
Antone's kids write inspiring messages on paper bags holding meals for recipients. 

“We have made friends down there, so we have no intention of stopping,” he told HuffPost Canada.

Recognizing the humanity of those living on the margins is an important lesson to impart for Antone, especially since he and his family are currently experiencing housing insecurity as well. They were fortunate to have a roof over their heads because family members opened their doors, he explained, but have struggled to find a place of their own.

“The housing market is bad in Windsor, let alone for anyone on the street,” he said. Giving to others less fortunate is helping his family “stay positive,” he added.

Antone's eldest daughters Hope and Shoshannah help their dad load supplies in his pickup truck.
Antone's eldest daughters Hope and Shoshannah help their dad load supplies in his pickup truck.

“They need all the love and support they can get ... They are not invisible. They often become the forgotten people during times like this,” Antone said.

Neighbours are becoming pandemic helpers, too

The Facebook group has inspired the city’s residents to assist in whatever way they can. Donations, gift cards for Tim Hortons and grocery stores, Costco visits and homecooked meals have all been offered.

One helper shared how touched she’s been to see the outpouring of goodwill.

“I was overwhelmed watching you both in action and so grateful to know that angels walk among us,” a group member wrote to the Antones.

For those looking to become pandemic helpers, Antone welcomes donations and support with open arms. Currently, access to personal protective equipment — both for his family to wear while making deliveries and to distribute to those they are helping — is a priority.

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