When co-founders Wimmy Miller and Maya Reingold began volunteering at The Open Door Montréal (TODM) during the summer of 2020, they observed a fluctuating number of volunteers despite the constant needs of the shelter to run each of its key hubs. With this in mind, Wimmy and Maya began McGill Students for The Open Door Montréal (MSTODM) to provide TODM with a more consistent source of support and to foster a stronger connection between McGill students and the local community. After applying to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) to become a club in August 2020, SSMU approved MSTODM for Interim Club Status in April 2021. MSTODM has been fully operating since the fall of 2021 and reached Full Club Status in the winter of 2022.
MSTODM has proudly helped TODM better support its clients, as well as enriched both the lives of student volunteers and executives in the club. Through our training process, we provide our members with an educated perspective on issues surrounding the socioeconomic reality of homelessness. Volunteering at the shelter grants students the opportunity to support the underhoused either directly by working at the front desk and the serving window of the kitchen, or more indirectly by washing and folding clothes in the laundry room. The shelter also immerses students in an environment where French is regularly spoken, which can be rare in McGill’s largely anglophone community. Overall, interaction with clients humanizes the underhoused population of Montréal to volunteers and directly contributes to destigmatizing homelessness.
Our members find volunteering at TODM grounding and rewarding. One student explained that it was intensely fulfilling to realize their direct contribution by watching a client enjoy the meal they had just prepared and served. We believe that the impact our members make is threefold: students connect with their community and actively practice empathy for homelessness; TODM can function smoothly and provide all necessary services to the underhoused community; and the gap between the McGill community and the greater Montreal community is bridged. Furthermore, our executive members learn leadership and gain important skills such as social media management, community engagement, website design, and event planning. Even students who are not active volunteers can contribute by donating clean, seasonal clothing through our clothing drives.