After Jeff Eberhardt lost his apartment, he found himself sleeping on a park bench in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. It wasn't so bad in the summer, but when winter comes around, things get tricky - and cold.
He has been living in the park for about three years and, in that time, became a recognizable member of the little community that surrounds it. Instead of getting him kicked out, neighbors have rallied around Eberhardt to care for him during the harshest months of the year.
One couple set up a storage bin in their driveway for Eberhardt to use, others give him meals, warm clothes and even a bicycle.
Why would a community go above and beyond to help him?
Besides just being kind people, they recognize him as one of their own.
According to an interview with the CBC, Eberhardt does his best to help out at the park when he sleeps there. He shovels the pathway so strollers can get through in the winter, he maintains the outdoor skating rink and he cleans up after baseball tournaments in the summer.
Pam Mundy bought a Rubbermaid locker for Jeff to store his personal things in.Kate Bueckert/CBC
This kind of action can really transform the way communities think about homelessness and the people affected by it. When we begin to see each other as members of the same community, real compassion can blossom and that's when change happens.
In Canada, a national campaign has been launched to permanently house 20,000 of Canada's most vulnerable homeless people by July 1, 2018. To learn more about 20K Homes, check out the website here.
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