Bill Pietschmann tells how he first started volunteering for Fred Victor Housing at the Queen and Jarvis Street corner.
One winter day, an ambulance was called and the medics had to get into the building with a stretcher. There was so much snow that the path into the building, it was hard to negotiate. Bill had an “Aha!” experience at that point. He thought, no more waiting to work, time to start working where I’m needed.That day, Bill started shovelling snow and from there carried on to other Fred Victor sites, shovelling snow and helping out.
Bill became a tenant in Fred Victor Housing in 1999 thinking he’d be there for six months only. He was sleeping outdoors at the Armouries right across from Housing and was trying to get a Union job instead of the day jobs he had been picking up. He was used to hard work, was able-bodied, but a series of employment lay-offs had left him with no savings. Depression had taken its toll, too, days when tears just streamed down his face and as he says, like flu, he couldn’t stop them.
Now a volunteer at Fred Victor Women’s Hostel for six years, Bill describes his role at the Women’s Hostel as an honourary one in which a lot of trust has been built on both sides. He shows up each day to work with Dorothy Paul, Fred Victor Women’s Hostel Cook by stocking shelves, hauling boxes of food from storage to the kitchen and offering his generous-hearted efforts to many other activities: sorting second-use clothing, feeding the birds, hammering the odd chair back together, and spreading goodwill. His volunteer work frees up staff to grapple with government forms and find permanent housing for shelter residents.
Hostel staff offer Bill a place where he is respected, a place where staff say, “He is dear to all of us here. I have never met a more humble person.” He is welcomed as part of the whole team at the Hostel.