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Toronto woman creates winter survival kits for people experiencing homelessness

Not wanting to sit back and do nothing during these difficult times, a Toronto area woman decided to start her own winter survival kit initiative by collecting and handing out goods to help those living without a home make it through the cold weather.

On Dec 22, Vaughan resident Jessica Cuello and her family packed up three loads of 75 winter survival kits in backpacks and distributed them in Trinity Bellwoods, another encampment and shelters.

Cuello's brother brought his dog who helped them break the ice with people they hadn't met before.

toronto homeless

The family brought their dog who stopped and posed with Toronto Police. Jessica Cuello photo

"I was a little bit nervous," Cuello said, adding that everyone loved the dog.

Cuello gathered the kits after putting out a call for donations on social media through her business.

"A lot of people were willing to help," she said.

This was Cuello's first time putting together the kits.

"It was something I always wanted to do because I did mission trips growing up," said Cuello.

Before starting the project, Cuello went downtown and asked people what they needed. Women, in particular, told her they need pads, wipes and soap.

She received a lot of donations and Cuello bought 75 backpacks to fill with the items.

The kits had gloves, hats, socks, scarfs, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap.

toronto homeless

Cuello's family heads out to distribute the winter survival kits in Toronto on Dec. 22. Jessica Cuello photo

While handing out the packs, people told her more things they needed.

"They told us things we didn't think of…like batteries and flashlights," she said.

So she plans to continue putting together kits.

Cuello wanted to involve her four-year-old daughter in the project, so she had her help put the kits together.

toronto homeless

Cuello's daughter helped put the kits together.  Jessica Cuello photo

"She was very helpful and so happy doing it," said Cuello.

The pandemic has limited options for charity work but there are things people can do.

"I wanted to show her that there are ways we can still help people," she said. "It is so important for me to show my daughter that."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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