Have you felt overwhelmed with the growing number of people who are ending up on our streets? Do you envision a more equitable society where homelessness is never inevitable, inescapable, or a way of life?
I sure have. Often.
In this episode I have an honest and confronting dialogue about homelessness with my friend Charlie Burrell, founder of The Humanity Project. Charlie believes a community can ignite social change and improve the everyday lives of our fellow human beings. Their organization’s objectives have been achieved by ensuring 100% of donated resources are put directly back into the community. They have fed over 500,000 people since 2014 and continue to expand their positive impact - all without a cent from the government.
In this episode we go DEEP.
A few key topics include:
The inception of The Humanity Project
Getting to the root of homelessness, mental health and addiction
The fragility of our existing systems - it can happen to anyone
Creating social structures and support systems that catch people who fall through the cracks
The challenges of working with government on addressing the root of homelessness
If you want to live in a vibrant community, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, this conversation is a MUST listen.
Connect with Charlie Burrell
Website | thehumanityproject.ca
Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/TheHumanityProjectCanada
Instagram | @The.Humanity.Project
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Thanks Charlie for taking the time to chat. I really appreciate it, man. I've been a big fan of the things that you've been doing and even from back in the days of when you started packing backpacks and doing this, I, I started catching on to things and just have been so inspired and felt largely helpless myself around these issues in our society.
And seeing the stuff that you started to do put some wind into my sales and some hope for my community. And it's a real pleasure to take [00:02:00] the time and talk to you today. Well, thanks for having
Charlie Burrell: me. Really appreciate it. To me, raising awareness of what's going on in our community is always number one.
So it makes me happy to hear you say that it inspires you to do more and to be out there and do your part because I'm the guy that at one time would walk by somebody that was homeless on the streets, and I would think to myself, I wouldn't say. But I would think to myself, I'd be like, Hey, why don't you get a job?
You're the same age as me. Why don't, you know and I wasn't educated on the issue. I wasn't educated in the fact that when you're sleeping under a bridge, it doesn't come with an alarm clock, a shower, and a place to make your lunch and nice bed to sleep in. It doesn't come with all the luxury that you and myself are lucky enough to have.
So I'm always awareness to me is number one, because the more people, like, there's a lot of people like me who were compassionate people who cared, but they sit on the fence cuz they're uneducated about the issue because they believe what society tells 'em. You [00:03:00] know, at onetime. If somebody said, homeless person and I closed my eyes, I would think of a guy pushing a shopping cart with a brown paper bag and a bottle, because that's what movies and TV in society had ingrained me.
That homelessness was. But it was only after I went out and I started finding people sleeping in banks, that sleeping in the bushes and sleeping in their cars, and people sleeping in their cars with their kids. That to me is where it's kind of shatter. The lie that society had graded me and I realized that homelessness wasn't a guy with a brown paper bag in a bottle.
It was so much more complex. It was my brothers and my sisters, it was my grandparents. It was my next door neighbors. And I think that's when I opened up my mind a little bit more. My heart was already opened and the two just combined and it just started this little movement of helping people one person at a time.
I never set a goal that I wanted to feed people, that I wanted to open a rehab or anything like that. My goal was always simple. It was just [00:04:00] helps help someone, help 'em. And as I started helping people, it just went from one person to another and then it just kept growing cuz I kept seeing more needs in our community.
Like when I seen people going hungry, I kept together with, you know what? Kids need monkton and a bunch of caring people in our community. We popped open tables and started feeding people. And then now where I see the mental health of the addictions outta control, it's another need that we have to do.
Stu Murray: you're getting down to the root man and one thing that comes up for me as you're speaking is this saying I, I'll probably butcher it, but a community is only as strong as it's most vulnerable people. And we only have as much integrity and character as we treat those who are most vulnerable within our society.
And it pains me, man. And I think I would relate to you in that where easily before I would walk by and. Would have ignorance about the reasons why some of these challenges exist and just [00:05:00] the dehumanization process that takes place and how far we have to get to dehumanize the individuals to the point that we can walk and somebody's asking for help and we can't even make eye contact.
The othering that has to take place there is just unbelievable. And I think that not only points to the challenges that we face with those vulnerable people, but the healing that we need to do within ourselves to remember that we're all in this together. And that's something that you, and the way you speak and the way you show up and everything you've done on this journey so far, fiercely stands in.
We're all in this together. And the, this ship's not turned around until everybody can get on and everybody can have a roof under their head and everybody can have a, at least a chance.
Charlie Burrell: Exactly. And that's it. People deserve a chance, right? Like you have like at the center now it's, it blows my mind because we're feeding two to 300 people every day and it [00:06:00] is literally new faces and it's not a bunch of new homeless people that are showing, cuz that's a thing.
Everybody in this city, there's like a rumor that went around that every other city shipping their homeless to Moncton people make it sound like you can go down to the bus station or the train station and sit there and the homeless people are just getting off the train or the bus. But that's simply not true. The people that are homeless here or people that were here working, they've had jobs they came here with for relationships. They came from smaller communities and something happened and they didn't have the support system and they ended up out on the streets. But right now, the crazy thing. The new number of seniors and families that are coming to eat at the center because of the cost of rent.
Because of the cost of people putting up the rent multiple times a year. You know, there's a senior family who just lost their place. Luckily. Luckily we've found them on place just in time, but they're rent went up, I think it was three times of one year, [00:07:00] and they had a vehicle they were willing to go to Hillsborough, Riverview with any surrounding area, Salisbury.
They didn't care. They just needed a place, but they had a cat and they needed a place that was affordable for their income. And they've had their cat for six years and they didn't want to get rid of. And I don't blame them. But even with a vehicle and able to find, I still had a really hard time trying to find them something that was within their price range that they could limit, or they were gonna be in the shelter system.
Like what are we doing here when we're pushing seniors out of their homes into a shelter system? There's something terribly wrong.
Stu Murray: There is, and it's such a fragile line. Like the fragility of our systems is being exposed more and more and more. And not only is the cost of rent going up, but our governments have spent incredible amounts of money in the past few years, and that's been ongoing for some time, but that's causing this massive [00:08:00] inflation and food prices and gases like this is getting out of control.
And we just don't have the social supports and the structures to create the catchment system. And so it's just unbelievably easy to fall through the cracks and the work you've done and how you've spoken and just opening my eyes and heart as you say, has allowed me to realize how easily that could have been me.
And how easily that could have been my friend or a family member. And watching that happen is just, it's so painful to see, but it's unbelievably easy to see how that can happen so quickly. Yeah.
Charlie Burrell: And here's the crazy thing too. It's that I wasn't hoping for it, but I kind of was, is during Covid, the a lot of people were without work and one of our fears was that, okay, if this continues and people aren't working, our lineup might jump from two to 300 to six, [00:09:00] 700 people at no time.
Our food supply, let's say we'll go from two months to two weeks, you know, when you're feeding more people. So we started to worry about that and then the government came out with the SE checks or whatever and help people. But I would've almost thought that all of those people who took that serve money, Would've realized how much easier it could happen to you, because nobody expected that to come.
And if they didn't get those sur checks, they would've lost their house. They would've lost their credits, They wouldn't have been able to feed their children. You know, I, I think that should have been a wake up call to everybody to go, Holy shit, like this could really happen to anybody. You can end up out on the streets.
If it wasn't for the government, cut me a check, I would've lost a mortgage on my house, or I would've lost my car. But that didn't happen. The whole last two years turned a lot of people against each other. And that in itself did a lot of damage.
But I was almost hoping that it would've brought people closer together because they would've realized how easy this could happen to you, you [00:10:00] know? Yeah. And now, like I said, with the increase of cost and rent it's insane. Like you got more people not even be able to afford to feed themselves.
Stu Murray: It's crazy.
You're right. And it has turned people against each other. And then I think it, those kind of moments, those pressure cooker situations where scarcity has increased, the perception of separation has increased all of these things, when that pressure comes on it, it can have two general outcomes that can come out of this and it can perpetuate fear and division within each other and drive us into more greed and more self-fulfilling ideas.
Or it can have us bridge the gap and come together and rally around. And I saw a lot of both of that over these last couple years. Mm-hmm. where there's been a perpetuation of this idea of sides, these ideas of who's right and moral superiority and just the excesses of greed have really ramped.
Which are there in our culture, but [00:11:00] have taken to new heights where we're arguing about hundred percent what somebody should or shouldn't put her in their body or doing all these things. And what we don't see is that fear and hatred have been pushed on us and we've been sold fear and hatred from all the gars and organizations that don't have our best interest in mind, but mm-hmm your needs and the needs of my neighbor and the person on the left and right of me have the exact same needs.
And regardless of where we land on a political spectrum or regardless of much how much money we have in our bank accounts, we all have basic needs at least of putting shelter over our head and needing food and clean water. And it's just so important to come back to that. And that's what you do.
You, that's what you stand for, is like, I'm just another human helping out other humans. And until we get that shit together, We're fucked. .
Charlie Burrell: Yeah, Yeah. Basically, man, because that's it. Like we're not looking [00:12:00] out for each other. And it like the greeting, like I'm really worried this year like the cost of food when everybody starts bringing in the produces of food because, you know, it cost us, I know, I think it was like for our pig food, like we buy by the ton, it was like $200 more a ton this year than last year.
And we went through quite a bit of it. Like the cost of pay and if you're butchering those animals and you're feeding them and putting them on superstores, so be shelves. You know, the cost has to transport them to feed them the extra cost of food that's gonna cost you a lot more come harvest season.
Same with your potatoes. If you're cost you an extra 10, $20,000 to put fuel in your tractors, the farmer can't afford to pay that $20,000 that comes out in mind, your pocket, the potatoes are gonna cost more. So I'm kind of worried about the future and that's why we started producing our own food on the farm because we have to become self-sufficient so that if something ever catastrophic happens, we have enough food to still [00:13:00] feed the people that show up on, say George Street, and to feed the people that are at our firm.
That's the plan to keep growing and to get big enough that we have greenhouses and stuff like that. We have enough animals. That we can fully produce our own food and we're no longer reliant on, the system, I guess per se. You know, for a few things you'll need, but most of it you'll be able to, if something happens, we have food because here's, during Covid, our donations dropped, I think it was 67% because, um, what happened is when you got people that are going to work one week not working the next, you don't know if you're in red, yellow, orange, what's going on.
You don't know if you can feed your own kids or pay your mortgage. You stop donating. And our donors are the average person, the average work in person. We don't have anybody coming in like the government giving us, a hundred thousand dollars a year or $200,000 a year. We, it's solely based on our [00:14:00] community and I'm very thankful for that.
But when our community's hurting and your donations drop a significant amount to be able to feed people, but then your number of people that you're feeding increases, it's a problem. So how do you solve that problem? And that's where. We looked at the farm because we've always thought of, I've always thought of like addiction recovery because even when we ran shelters, we only ran shelters so that nobody froze death in the winter.
I have no intentions of running a shelter. My intentions is setting people free so they don't ever return back to the shelter system. So they have the tools, the knowledge and the support system behind them to move forward in life so that they don't have to end up back in the shelter, you know? Cause I see people that are in the shelters 10, 15 years and I look at them and I think like, how are we helping you?
How are we helping you when you, we've been bouncing you around the shelter system for you, you haven't even had your mental health looked at yet. 15 years. Nobody's talked to you about your mental health. Like what are we doing here? Yeah. You know, so [00:15:00] to me it's about, that's why I want to put full addiction in mental health supports on our firm so that they can get the highest quality.
Cuz see, here's the thing, if you got $30,000, you can go to a rehab in Ontario and get the highest quality of care, no problem. If you got, 10, 15, 20, $30,000, you can go pay for private rehabs. But there's nothing like that for people that have no income or that are impoverished. So we wanna basically build something to put something there that we can offer the highest level of care to people that could usually not be able to afford it, and then have them move on in their lives and help.
Stu Murray: Mm. Yeah. It makes me think of this poem from a woman named Rupi Kaur who says, If you want to heal, you have to go down to the root and kiss it all the way up. And we live in a culture that just treats the symptoms. We be it our healthcare system, be it our addiction system, our whatever it is. We're just rearranging furniture on a Titanic right now.
And we need to start making life rafts that are actually going to be able to [00:16:00] transition us to something that's more sustainable and can help people down to the base. And that what people need to realize also is that's hitting our tax dollars. Because if we're not getting to lasting change, we're actually creating more money that needs to funnel.
For an industrial complex or more money that needs to funnel into all these other things that are really just bandaid solutions. Because as you said, at the root of so much of this pain and suffering that we're dealing with in our society is trauma, is wounds that have not been healed from an early age or.
Opportunities as you like the last, what Covid is exposes how fragile these systems that we have, you miss a paycheck. The amount of people that are surviving on that next paycheck and one of those drops, that's the difference between you having a shelter over your head and not, And that's a reality that many of us are facing.
And it's a really thin, [00:17:00] fragile line that we're straddling. And so for you guys to go and look at treating mental health and addiction and providing healthy, nutritious food at the same time, and creating a place where people can be of service, where people can stand in their dignity and develop self respect.
I mean, these are just such fundamental things that I am confident and assured that we need if we really want
Charlie Burrell: to fix this. Yeah. Well we all need that. You know? Yeah, I don't think, I don't think that there's anybody that doesn't need that. And that's the problem is we have people who aren't getting it, so it's like why shouldn't they be offered the same level of care and to feel like they're valued and they have a purpose in life and that there's more to life than what they've been going through the last couple years.
You know, you were talking about the cost of it. So we, It's crazy cuz it's mindset too, right? Like we have a city counselor who the other not a couple weeks ago, [00:18:00] set in a public meeting, let's take the homelessness shopping carts that will frustrate them. Let's take their tents, it'll frustrate them actually he asked if it'll frustrate them and the person said, I dunno, maybe.
And then he said, Well, let's start to frustrate them then. Well, here's the thing. Okay, so you wanna push the homeless along. You wanna move them from one corner to the other. You wanna make their life harder cuz you think they're gonna leave, but it doesn't work that way. They don't leave. I'll tell you what happens.
So the other day there was a gentleman who this is like a week ago, he comes to me at the center and he's a little upset and he's got his cart and he's got, he's got it covered with an orange tarp and stuff. And he's coming to get supper and he says to me, he's like, You know Charlie, he's like, I don't think I've slept eight hours this week.
He's like, Oh, the heat f in doing, it's moving me here, moving me there. He goes, I'm getting so goddamn tired of this. He goes, I'm fucking pissed. And he's getting mad and uh, he's getting really upset cuz he just sets himself down [00:19:00] and they move along, sets himself down, They move along two days later. Two days later on the corner of Main Street and Bon Harvey, the community safety officers, the ones that we just hired for a million dollars to move tents and carts and stuff around the city. Show up at eight, around eight o'clock in the morning, he gets out, throws a cup at them, they leave around. That was around eight o'clock, sorry, around eight 30. They show back up, he jumps out with a pipe and he starts smashing their truck and he damaged, broke every window in it. Dented the sides of it, wrecked it, everything okay.
Now, I don't condo violence and I don't condo destruction of somebody else's property. Not at all. But I understand why he did it. Mm-hmm. , I understand why he did it. Cause I talked to him two days before and I guarantee you he got out of that tent and he thought, Screw it. I'm just gonna get moved along again.
Soon as I move, I may as well get out. [00:20:00] I'll smash the truck and at least I'll have three meals a day and a roof over my head. Cuz this is crazy cuz he even told me the other day when I was stopping, he's like, If somebody could find me an F in place in this town, I'll take up place. He's like, But you can't even find anything that's affordable.
And he was mad. Rightfully so. And he was sleep, thrive and angry. And I guarantee you, when I seen that video, I knew it was him. But when I seen that video I was like, I don't condone what he did, but I understand why he did it cuz he's tired of being moved around and this is the results. So what's the cost?
You got the cost to replace that truck? Fix all offenders, The windshield, the lights, everything. Okay. And now you and me also have the past of having his ass sit in jail while he's waiting on his eight or nine charges and then he gets charged and then he goes to jail and then he'll be there six months, a year, however long and mean you pay that cost.
I can tell you what would be cheaper and easier than all of that. Housing house them. [00:21:00] It's a pretty simple concept. House 'em, given some addiction and mental health supports and you'd probably have much more positive results than a smashed up truck.
Stu Murray: Yeah, absolutely we would. Absolutely, we would. And that's just, it's a no brainer at that point.
And we have that injustice as well, right? We've got a punitive retributive justice system rather than restorative justice system. And so we want to see people punish, we want to see people pay for the pain. And it's like that this, all of these deep seated issues at that we're facing are really a reflection of these internal battles that were going on.
And we need to learn to be able to understand that humans are suffering and that people need help. They don't need to be punished, right? They don't need to be beaten down even more. You're not gonna beat that out of them at some point, and maybe for the odd person that works, but we have a high reincarceration rate, we've got a high re offender [00:22:00] rate, and we've got people who are just on a conveyor belt, a revolving door of suffering.
And yeah, we need to create some services and some supports here that actually help heal the trauma and help heal these deep levels. Well, like you said, at least providing some basic services and supports. You think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and how are you ever gonna get to self actualization or even some degree of decent relationships when you can't get shelter and food and water.
Charlie Burrell: Here's the crazy thing. Here's the crazy thing. So this is what we do. So this gentleman, let's say he's in jail for six months to a year. He's gonna show up at my door. Okay, He's gonna be about 60, 70, 80 pounds heavier. He's gonna look good and healthy, cuz this happens all the time. This is where we're failing people so bad.
It's catastrophic because people get outta jail or out of a detox center. They show up at my door. Like I said, they look healthy, they look [00:23:00] good, they're happy, they're hopeful that they're good, and go, Hey, how's it going? Okay man, how you been? Haven't seen, you know, blah, blah, blah. We'll shoot the shit. And then I always ask the one question, where you staying?
And 98 of the time, I get the same. They'll either go, Well, I'm gonna go over to the shelter and I'll get a place and hopefully I can get a place and get on my feet again. Or they'll say, I'm going back down to my spot down there. I, I got my tent set up, blah, blah, blah. Hopefully I can get on my feet again.
Blah, blah. As soon as they say that, I usually look at them and I say, I'm sorry. And they go, What? I go, I'm sorry we failed you. And some of 'em will be like, No you didn't. Some of 'em be like, What do you mean we just took you? When you are healthy and hopeful and you actually have a shop and we just put you into an unhealthy environment and expect you to stay healthy, so are you the crazy one for, you [00:24:00] know, being in that environment and getting back into drugs again, or when it's always around you or are we the crazy ones for putting you in that environment and expecting you to succeed?
Because that's where I see we're failing people. So that's why the firm for me is like if I seen somebody that I know that was out on the streets for a while and they got outta jail and showed up at my door and they're like, Hey Charlie, how you doing? I was like, Good, how you doing? Where are you going?
Oh, I'm going back over to the shelter. I'd be like, Hey, you want a shot at life? You wanna go to the farm? And I'd take their ass to the farm because I would give them a chance, because I'm telling you right now, like I, I had a guy walk up to me on, uh, it was on Dominion Street. It was during supper. I never seen this guy day in my life.
He was an older guy. He walks up to me, he's like, Hey, man. He's like, You getting meth to sell? And I looked at him and I was like, What'd you say? He goes, You're getting meth to sell. What? And a bunch of people sitting around, they're like, Dude, [00:25:00] What the fuck? They're like, Do you know who get the fuck outta here?
They're like, Do you know who you're talking to? But it's that sat, it's that easy. Like, he didn't even know I ran the place and this guy's just randomly walking up to me on the street trying to buy meth off me. Like it's insane. The streets are crazy. And the thing is, I am hearing more and more and more is the homeless, or talking about how dangerous it is.
Like how scary and how dangerous it is out there. Like there's a group of kids and according to one RCMP officer I talked to, the largest group they know of so far is 30 kids who are going out at night and bear spraying and beating up homeless people who are sleeping. Oh yeah. They're throwing bottles at them.
They're spitting on them. They're hitting them with sticks. And guess what? The RCMP have a video of it. They have a video of it because one of these little shithead took a video of them beating a homeless person and bear spraying 'em cause they were gonna upload it to YouTube or something for their social media or whatever the hell they were gonna do.
And the RCMP know about it. [00:26:00] They know this is happening and it happens almost nightly. These kids are out on bikes, driving around the city, beating up homeless people. Like it's crazy. It's crazy. And I hear a lot of people on the streets talking about how much the streets have changed because of drugs and especially because of meth.
Cuz people are unpredictable. Like it's scary, man. I used to go out at night by myself all the time. I didn't care if it was five o'clock in the morning. If it's under a bridge, I don't care what it's, If I go out now, I either have somebody with me or I have my dog with me because people are too unpredictable and there's so many new people that are hit our streets. The amount of people, ODing is insane. And it's not even just people on the streets that are ODing. There's people's, people in houses that are ODing. Like we have a serious drug problem in the city and it's not just a drug problem for the people that are hit the [00:27:00] lowest point that are already on the streets.
We have a drug problem for the people that can afford to sniff cocaine and go party at the bars on Friday, you know? Mm-hmm. it's both classes of people. There is an issue in our city one might just have a little bit more under control for now until they hit rock,
Stu Murray: but Right. I remember you telling me the other day too while you're in this, like some of that feeling of burnouts starting to come up too.
Not only cuz you're just tirelessly sacrificing your needs to contribute to this community, but having these emotional fatigue and burnouts where you said in one week you had eight people OD in three dead.
Charlie Burrell: Yeah. Yeah. And that's that. Like the other day I made a video the other day talking about what I just said to you about, you know, three people dying in, eight people od and the very next day someone died on our streets.
The next day, within 24 hours of me making that video, someone else is dead. [00:28:00] It's hard because you'll never hear me use the word client because these aren't clients to me. To me, client means you have some sort of financial transaction between two parties, and I have no financial transaction with any of these people.
I'm not here to make a buck off them. I'm here to help them. That's what we're here for. Me and the organization and the volunteers. So you'll never hear me call anybody a client. They're our friends and guest, and the only reason they're, they, I would call them my guest, is because we haven't become French yet.
But they're people, They're not a nu And I think for me, it's, I love a lot of the people that are on the streets, you know, They're great people and I care about them, and I talk with them and I laugh with them, and it's just, they're my friends. It gets hard. It's like taking, uh, It's like working for, with somebody, let's say for 5, 6, 7 years, three years, two years.
You know, a work colleague and you go to work on [00:29:00] Monday morning and they're like, Hey, you know, Bruce died. And you're like, Oh man, he was a good guy. You really cared about him. And, you know, you guys sat beside each other every day talking and laughing and you know you're friends. And then two, three days later, Donna dies.
And then a couple days later, somebody else dies in your office. It starts to take a toll on your heart. It starts to take a toll on your soul, but it also fuels me to fight harder. And push faster for change because I don't want the next person that I care about to die. You know? And I had a conversation with a lot of them the other day outside, and I said, The hardest part for me isn't dragging all the food here and doing, podcast and answering emails and meeting with government and trying to fundraise constantly to keep the doors open and help people that that's whatever.
It's talking to somebody and them telling me like they want help and they genuinely want help. And then finding out [00:30:00] that they're gone a couple days later. That's the hard part to me because it's not like people don't want help. It's not like they don't deserve the help. It's not like, you know, we all make mistakes.
When I hear people, the public like just saying stuff like, you know, Well you shouldn't have started doing drug stuff. Like, dude, you have no freaking clue. And I'll tell you what, When something happens in your life, you hit rock bottom and you turn to booze drugs or whatever it is, show up at 4 49 St. George Street and I'll still hug you and I'll still serve you with a smile and I'll still fucking help you. I don't care if you're my biggest hater, but I hope it educates you. I hope it humbles you because that's the thing. It can happen. Any of us, and I'm not here to judge anybody. I'm only here to love them.
We have a thing at the project where I tell the volunteers, and it's kinda like a little mantra. We don't ever tell anybody what they need to do. We only ask them what they need. I don't need to tell you what you need to do. You know [00:31:00] what you need to do. You know you have a drinking problem, you have a drug problem, you have this problem.
You just tell me what you need, tell me what you need to help you, if I can help you or find the resource solving. Wow. I
Stu Murray: love that so much as a model for life. Honestly, Charlie it's kind of like that analogy of every time you point a finger, there's always three pointing back. And it just allows that, that kind of mentality allows me at least to drop into a mentality of service.
And I was like, Who am I to put myself in a position of bettering myself than anybody? It was like, Damn, I've had some really lucky sets of circumstances in my life, and given these sets of conditions and circumstances that that person's gone through, it's very likely that I would be going through the exact same thing.
Yes. And who am I to think anything other than that? And as you said, like the only time we should be looking down on somebody is to [00:32:00] offer them a hand to pull 'em up. That's it. That's the only time. Yeah. And I was looking at some statistics actually on Your website and I noticed in 2021 alone, you guys fed over 87,000 people and in the last six years, over 500,000 people.
Charlie Burrell: insane, man. Yeah. Yeah. We're over half a million meals. Over half a million. And that's the crazy thing, is like people think like they think we feed the homeless and they're like, Oh, thanks for feeding the homeless. I'm like, We feed two to 300 people. Okay. Since Covid, you can see who's at our building because we serve takeout, so we serve two to 300 meals.
You might see 40, 50 people maybe sitting around the building eating where in the other two 50. Those people aren't homeless. Those are children and seniors and working for, those are [00:33:00] the people that are pouring our coffee and mowing our lawns that can't afford to eat, that are coming. Those are the people that they're rent increases has caused 'em to come to our building to get meal because they can no longer afford their food.
They might be still working a job. Only about 27% of the people we feed are home. 73% of them fall into the other category of seniors, homeless and working for, you know, So it's crazy. And I think when people start to realize that, they'll start to realize how much easier this can happen to any one of us.
And that's why we have to be here to look out for each other. Yeah.
Stu Murray: We have to. And so what happened for you, Charlie, like you said, In the past, you easily could have been that person to walk by and to be the one to judge and to cast blame or to cast the, that othering onto people who are in those challenging predicaments.
And something obviously shifted in you and you've went through some massive transformations as you created the Humanity Project [00:34:00] and decided to make a change. What shifted for you?
Charlie Burrell: Educated myself. That's really what shifted is. I was, it's all started. See, that's the thing. We should always be striving to be a better version of ourselves every day. Instead of closing doors and just looking the other way and going up. Not my problem. You know, educate yourself on something. Whatever it is, find something. And, I was driving down the street one day. It was like minus, it was, oh, I'll never forget. It was brutal cold. It was like minus the 34, 36 or something with the wind shell.
And I was driving down the street in the heated seats in my Jeep at the time. And I looked over and there was an older gentleman, he was probably about 60, 70. He was pushing a shopping cart and he had a pair of sneakers on and he had no hat, no bins. And I remember driving and looking over at him and thinking to myself, Holy shit, it's so [00:35:00] cold out.
I don't even want to get out of my car. And I remember like looking at him thinking, I gotta help that guy. And I kept driving past him and I drove past him at the time, not because like, I didn't want help, I just drove past him. Cause I didn't know what to do. I had no idea what to do in that moment.
So I went home and it kept bothering me cuz I kept thinking like, there's someone like my grandfather's age out there in this cold without even a hat mitten said like, I opened my drawer and I got like drawer full of sweaters, warm socks and all this stuff. I don't even need. Stuff I don't even wear.
Like what am I doing? And it just bothered me. And I went online and I wrote my friends and family. I said I'm working full time and I can't afford to help all these people, but I can't afford to do nothing. I opened up my closet. I had a bunch of book bags from my daughter every year going to school.
A bunch of 'em just piled up. I said, If you have old book bags, I'll take 'em. I said, If you have socks and hats and mints and sweaters, I'll [00:36:00] take em. And if you have canned food and this and that, hand warmers and I put a whole list. I said, I'll take it. I want to take these, make these bags up and go out and give them to people that are out on the streets.
And then I ended up, the first year, I think we made like maybe 36 bags or something. 32, 36 bags. It was over 30 bags. And then I'd get off work at night. I'd go home, I'd eat supper, I'd take a nap. And then I had about 10, 11 I below. I'd look for people till about two in the morning, three in the morning, and I'd go home, go to bed.
Get up about seven 30, go to work, work the day, and then do the same thing over and over again. And then like I said before at the time if I closed my eyes, someone said homeless person, I would think of a guy with a brown paper bag and a bottle pushing a shopping cart. And when I went out, I think it was the first winter I went out, when I found somebody sleeping in their car with their kids, that's where it was like my mind blew.
And I was like, [00:37:00] What is going on? Because then I understood like they didn't feel safe in the shelters. They didn't wanna take their kids to the shelter. They didn't want social development or anybody to find out they were sleeping in their parish. Cause they didn't wanna lose their kids. The father was working, he was looking for a place, but he, I remember he was working, but a lot of the money was just kept keeping gas in the parish so the mother could keep it running with the kids and stuff like, and anyway, it just, it blew my mind and that's when realized, I was like, Holy shit.
This isn't a guy with a brown paper bag, a bottle. This is my next door neighbor. This is my uncle, this is my brother. That's the thing, like when I went out first, those something and I out people, they weren't drunk, they weren't all high on drugs and all whacked out of it. They were literally cold and hungry.
Like they were so thankful. I'll never forget I gave one of those bags to a guy and up and I had a peanut butter in there and I like plastic [00:38:00] utensils or whatever. And when he opened it up and I'm sitting there talking to him, he's taking that peanut butter with a spoon and he's justing it in his mouth and it's two o'clock in the morning.
I'm like, This guy so hungry. He was thankful, but like soon as he seen that peanut butter, he cracked open. He just started eating spoon. He was hungry because at that time, again, we weren't feeding people. And at that time there was two soup kitchens in, Moncton that both served lunch at the same time.
And there was one place that did supper, but they charged $3 for a meal. So if you were homeless and you didn't have $3, you didn't eat. So, um, yeah. So there was a lot of people born hungry back then.
Stu Murray: No kidding. And so you started to really move through this humanization, this internal healing, this idea, as you said, it's too.
It's costly for you to do this cuz you need to keep a job, but it's even more costly to do nothing and to sit around and the cost of that is beyond [00:39:00] any kind of financial piece. But something really started to shift, obviously, where you started to connect and realize that we do need to come together and we need to take the charts.
And so you started providing these bags and then that led you to understand the problems better and you started providing.
Charlie Burrell: Is that right? Well, before even the food, it was, it, So it went from the book bags Yeah. To developing relationships. I didn't just go give somebody a book bag. Once I knew where they were at and I knew them and I could talk to them, I would go back like every couple days to see if they needed stuff or I would go bring them stuff or if they needed to go to an appointment or whatever.
And I developed friendships with people. I developed relationships to the point where I was showing up at places because at that time I didn't know where to find anybody that was homeless other than the shelters. And I didn't want to give the bags to anybody in the shelters because they're sheltered.
I [00:40:00] wanted to make sure they went directly to people that were sleeping outside that really could use and benefit from the stuff. Cause I warm gloves and everything and I wanted to make sure you old, mine is sporty. You're out here, you need to be more than the guy sleeping at the shelter. So, As I started develop friendships with people, they would tell me where to find other people.
And then it got to the point where I would come up onto a camp and I'd be like, Hey, there's anybody in there? And they'd like, Yeah, hear them. And I'd be like, My name's Charlie And, uh from The Humanity Project. And they'd pop out the tent. They'd be like, Oh, you're Charlie. And I'd be like, Yeah. Then they'd be like, How you doing, man?
Because one of their friends that I had talked to were somebody else because it's like a small knit community. So once I started dealing with some of them, the rest of 'em were a lot easier and receptive to me showing up and bringing up stuff and stuff like that. And it just, friendships developed, you know, it felt relationships over time.
Mm-hmm. I did that for a while, and then it went to, Oh well, [00:41:00] I have internet, I have a computer, I can write you up a resume, I can help find you a place to live. I can help you with the things that I could do. So then it started with trying to help house the homeless and get them into house and find apartments and find places for them.
And I would raise money for the damage deposit or the rent or whatever, and then I would get him into it. But, then it was one summer and the food bank and the soup kitchens both decided to take vacation for two weeks at the same time. And at that time, Every person in the city who was homeless had my personal cell phone number.
And I started getting phone calls and messages from people and I'd see people on the street and they're like, We don't know where we're gonna eat or what we're gonna do. We have no place to eat for two weeks. So then I got a hold of Amanda, what kids need. And I've got a couple of my volunteers, a couple per volunteers.
And we popped open tables in the [00:42:00] old, high fields square parking lot and started feeding people. And it's funny because even then the city tried to stop us. So even then I have a message from someone who sit pretty far up in the city of Moncton right now. That when I started feeding people wrote me and told me that if I did it, it wouldn't be a good idea and threatened me not to do it.
And I went on Facebook, you could look back at my Facebook and I wrote a post telling the city of Moncton that if they're not gonna feed their citizens, we would. And at five o'clock they could have RCMP sitting there waiting for me because I will be there five o'clock to feed people. Even back then was my first pushback trying to help people.
And I think that's where I realized, I was like, this is so I'm trying to feed people cause there's no [00:43:00] words to eat and I have government officials threatening me, telling me it's not gonna end well for me if I feed these people. Like, what? What are we doing here? And then.
Flew in after that, how sneaky and disgusting this whole game is with these people. You know, it's Cause that's what it is. It's a game. They play politics with people's lives. The other day, I made a comparison and they said, If you think that the city of Monkton and the majority of those counselors care about you, then you're the same type of person who goes to a strip club and thinks the stripper wants to be your girlfriend.
Mm-hmm. . And the reason, and the reason I made that comparison, I'll tell you is this, because it's the best analogy I could think of. You see, you can go to a strip club, you have a stripper, a bunch of money, and lots of people go there and they fall in love with them. And they give them money and give them money.
But soon as you run outta money, the moment you run outta money, [00:44:00] they're gone. Okay. So, like I said, we have a city council member who wants to make life harder for the homeless. Okay? You pay taxes. You live in Moncton, Let's be under a clear understanding. If you today go homeless, whether it's job loss, divorce, mental health addiction, doesn't matter.
The moment stew that your ass hits the streets of Monkton is the moment they wanna make your life harder. So you as a tax paying citizen, pay your taxes. You give them money and they're okay. But the moment you stop giving them money and the moment your ass hits the streets, you no longer matter to them.
So they're like a bunch of strippers. Mm-hmm. That's
Stu Murray: a good analogy. It's,
Charlie Burrell: it's only I think of
Stu Murray: Matt. Yeah. . Well, it's accurate, right? And it's j it's just, And what's that say? Right. What's say that say about the world that we're [00:45:00] choosing to live in and are we going to collectively put up with this?
Idea of reality where what I see in our world is we live in so much of what I would call a transactional world, where there is an exchange of things that are happening, but it's founded upon money, or I'm gonna give you this, but I need something in return. And what you embody and what we need to step into as a relational model where what happens to somebody else directly happens to us, and whatever happens to our community impacts us.
And we need to step into that kind of dynamic where, again, if there's somebody in our community that's hurting, that hurts all of us. And it blows my mind, man. Like I, I just, honestly, I don't even understand how it can be confrontational when somebody in our society steps up and wants to put food on people's plate, who can access [00:46:00] that?
And then our tax dollars are going to be put. Spent time and energy and money is spent to stopping that. Like what the hell is going on?
Charlie Burrell: When I was feeding people out of a parking lot, I went to a meeting with the city of Moncton and probably I'd say between, easily between five to 10 different organizations were sitting in that room.
And one of the organizations asked me if I was trying to put them out of business, this is what they asked me. And they feed people, This is exactly what they're worth. They call Charlie, Are you trying to put us out of business? And I looked at them and I said, What the fuck are you talking about? And they said, Well, you're gonna be going after our funding and you're gonna be taking our volunteers.
And I was like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I was like, let's, let's back this up a second. I was [00:47:00] like, There seems to be a misunderstanding, and I'll never forget to tell them that. I said, There seems to be a misunderstanding. I said, You seem to think I'm coming after your volunteers. I said, Most of your volunteers are seniors.
I said, I have people coming with their kids. I have seniors. I have a totally different group of people that never even ever volunteered for you. I said, Second of all, you think I'm coming after your government funding? I said, I haven't even applied for government funding. I said, I'm in a parking lot busting open table serving, so sandwiches and it's only with the help of my community.
I said, But thirdly, there's something you're missing here. I said, You think I'm coming after a piece of your pie, right? That's what you think. You think I want a piece of your pie? But what you fail to realize is I don't even fucking like buy. We're making a completely different cake. Cuz at the end of the day, I want people to be able to eat for themselves and not rely on this system, have enough food security for all of them.
So that was the moment in that meeting where I knew that corruption and greed and disgusting. [00:48:00] We're sitting in organizations in our city the same as they sit in every other business in this world, you know? And so I've been accused. Mostly by the mayor. If you look at any time I've gone to City Hall, she kind of repeats the same thing.
That charity, you need to work with other people. You really need to work with other people. I'm actually flattered that she feels like I've been able to feed half a million meals and house over 200 people and you know, grow all that food on the farm and help everybody that I've helped all by my loan.
So I'm actually flattered that she thinks I'm that good that I've been able to pull all this off by myself. But the truth of the matter is, it's all been pulled off by my community. I've worked with hundreds of people and hundreds of businesses. So is it that I don't work with other people or I don't work with people you feel like I should be working with?
And maybe the question you should be asking is, Charlie, why don't you work with these people? Because I've sat in back room meetings with these people and these people, some of them, and don't get me wrong, there are some freaking amazing [00:49:00] people in this city that are absolutely stellar. They care, They go above and beyond.
But there are people. At five o'clock, if somebody was dying on the other side of the road from heat exhaustion, as soon as they clock out for the day, they wouldn't walk across the road and give 'em a cold bottle of water. I can guarantee you that. So there are people that know I won't work with, They don't have the same values, they don't have the same integrity, and they don't have the same intentions at all for the people we help.
My intentions is to go out of business. That's my intentions. If you guys call this a business, I want to be out of it. Like I want everybody to have enough food in their own homes. I'll tell you right now, if everybody in this city had enough food in their own homes that we were only feeding 30 people a day, instead of 300 high fives all around, man, we'll find something else to do.
We'll go rescue puppies. I don't care. You know, there's lots of things you can fight for and do, but why don't you try to solve the issue so you can put yourself out it so you don't have to do it? But [00:50:00] unfortunately, there's a lot of people who. This is a revolving cycle for where they, they want that government funding every year.
Their, their job depends on it. Them going on vacation depends on it. You know, it, it's a pond. It really is. And that's why I tell everybody, I don't give a shit if you donate to me. I don't care who you donate to, but what I do care about is please educate yourself on where your money's going. Because if you educate yourself on where your money's going and you give your money to somewhere that you believe it should be going, instead of somewhere you think it should be going, you'd see a lot better changes and a lot bigger changes in your own communities because you've educated yourself on where that money goes.
Stu Murray: Wow, man, that's some powerful stuff to sit with. And it's, it's interesting how, again, it's back to that transactional model where you are going in and you're profiting off of somebody else's suffering. And anytime that's happening, anytime. You are getting an upper hand [00:51:00] because somebody else is suffering.
We need to reevaluate our systems and our models, and that's really coming down to that fundamental level. And I think that's why you're such a disruptor. You're honest, you're compassionate. You have a core set of values that guide you, but you're really disrupting and challenging the status quo and the ways that in which society has operated in this transactional model that has benefited certain people at the expense of others.
And it's unbelievable though to me at times, I still have to check myself and shake my head and say, What the fuck are we doing where we think it can be normal? That a bunch of people who have the privilege can come around and sit at these tables and make decisions on politics and on human affairs, and just be able to disregard individuals as statistics.
At the end of the day,
its heart man.
It really does. It really does. And so you guys have since been able to, with community support, been able to [00:52:00] get enough money to be able to create a center downtown where you're now no longer in a parking lot, you're now's taken over an old church and it's an epic spot, man. It's really awesome.
Charlie Burrell: And since we've gotten that location, we've gotten with the help of our community, we've put over I think $400,000 in renovations in that place. From building a commercial kitchen to a walkin cooler, to redoing the roof, to insulate the whole building, like to redoing the whole building in l e d lights.
Like we've made it as cost effective as humanly possible because of the help of our community.
Stu Murray: Wow. Yeah. And that's it, right? It's not because of these government stipends, it's this, it's other people who believe in that shared mission. Other people who share the same fundamental values and who are inspired by the fundamental cause that you're aiming to take, which that part inspires the shit outta me,
Charlie Burrell: Well, that's the thing about the farm, right? Like the farm, I look at the farm the same as the [00:53:00] center. Like I started with a backpack and a couple pairs of socks and you know, it developed into that to feeding people to a parking lot, to having a building to sheltering people in the wintertime, to now having a farm.
To me, that farm is like that backpack in another location. It's just a foundation to grow and to build off of. I know it's not a matter of if the firm's gonna happen, it's a matter of when it's gonna happen, when it's gonna be up to the numbers of people we want it and help. And having the full services offered that we want. It's just a matter of time.
But the sad part is how many people die in that time. What we wait and what we try to fundraise and try to get the help we need. Hopefully not two more, but we're working on it as fast as we can and as hard as we can, and that's all we can do.
Stu Murray: Yeah. And it, the farm seems to be this, from my outside perspective, this kind of, not a culmination, but a progression of everything you've learned in your conversations, of listening, [00:54:00] of connecting, of deepening your relationships with people who are suffering from all different backgrounds, from all different ways that they came to this.
And where you're looking at getting down to that root cause, talking about mental health, talking about addiction, talking about access to food, talking about building deeper relationships and a deeper sense of meaning and contributing to something bigger than yourself. Like you're, this farm seems to be this amazing place that brings all of that together.
Is that really kind of the intention that you're bringing to this?
Charlie Burrell: Yeah I'll tell you right now, if I never handed those book bags out, if I never stood on a street corner feeding people, if I never ran a shelter in the wintertime. All the stuff that I've done and all the stuff that our volunteers have done over the years and helped with and made happen.
If we didn't do those things, we would not have been prepared for what we're about to embark on next. It's totally prepared us for it. It's gotten us ready [00:55:00] because we have those relationships with people, those deep seated relationships from years and years. So like we have 90 people on our list for the firm.
Like we have not approached anybody. We have not gone to a single person, been like, Hey, you wanna go to rehab? Oh, that's all people who, we've gained their trust enough that they've come to us and said, Hey man, listen, I don't want to die out here. I don't wanna do this anymore. Can you put me on the list?
I know it might be a while, but I wanna be on there. I want to go, I wanna change my life. So to me it's like everything has came to this point. Has led us here. Like it's not coincidence. This is where we're meant to be and this is what we're meant to do. This is the next chapter for the Humanity Project and for our community to turn it around.
Stu Murray: I feel that deeply. I feel that deeply, and I've been meditating on these things as well, and I just, I think it's such a really fascinating and innovative, [00:56:00] culminating project that can address so many of those fundamental needs and it really addresses and looks at healing the root. And I know that last time we were chatting, you had mentioned that you would actually requested after moving into this space and realizing and putting forward what this could do for our community.
You asked for 3 million from the city. How'd that go? Yep.
Charlie Burrell: But I haven't even gotten 3 cents . But, uh, it's, uh, again, you got a bunch of people who, if it was a priority to them, we'd see action. Before I went to the city, the city knew I was coming. I was talking back and forth with members of the city for probably five, six months before we went to, for the official ask.
I was gonna actually ask sooner, but they [00:57:00] told me I missed the budget for the year, whatever. So I had to ask again later on. So come October we go and ask and uh, they told me to give him a business plan. And my presentation. So I went to the committee of the whole, uh, no, sorry, I went to the public committee cause you only have five minutes to speak.
So I went to the public meeting. I told them that I was coming back to ask for 3 million and that I would have my business plan, but I want to speak at the committee of the whole because I needed more than five minutes to explain. So they agreed. So then I made a meeting at the committee, the whole, I went in, I spoke our addiction, c spoke, our mental health counselor, spoke, you know, great job's.
Awesome. You doing well, going keep off the hard mark. And then from one of them it was like, Oh, you got a firm. Is this something you planned on getting? It's like I came to a public [00:58:00] meeting, I came to a. Meeting of the whole and explained it. I gave you a business plan where in the business plan it says, acquire property, check mark complete beside it, and this is the third time I'm hearing you're asking me if I even have a firm. Are you guys taking this serious? Are you reading it? What are you doing here? So I look at it and I see things in the paper in this time. I see like, you know, we asked the city for 3 million.
They know that half of it is going towards infrastructure for the tiny home, stuff like that. And that 1.5 million was going directly towards mental health and addiction staff to staff the place and have it 24 hours. And they know this, okay? In that time, I read somewhere that they gave, I think it was the ad center, a $900,000 forgivable loan.
And then they went and bought a bunch of other stupid things around the city that really we didn't need. And then now they're allocating a [00:59:00] million dollars to nine new community officers to walk around and remove tents and shopping carts. Ok? So I asked you a year ago, for seven months, I would write them and I would mess 'em.
I'd be like, Hey, is it a yes? It is a no. Is it a go screw yourself? What is it? And oh, we're waiting to hear from the province. We're waiting to hear from this, waiting to hear from that, it was just run around after seven months, I write them and I say, Hey, I'm gonna walk into city hall in a public meeting.
I'm just gonna ask you guys to your face. Oh, no, no, no, Charlie, we'll we'll meet with you. Yeah, we, we'll have a meeting next week, Blah, blah, blah. So I go to city hall, I meet in a upstairs office with some city staff members and their finance guy, and nice enough people, and it's just, Well, we need more information on this.
We need more information on this. We need more information. Well now we're a year later and now they need more information on the cost of our toilet trees, toilet paper, whatever. The cost of our food cost doesn't, seems not to be right. And [01:00:00] like we're going back and forth, like literally, how about you go, here's a hundred thousand dollars build some rooms, put some people in it. Winners comment and we'll sort out the rest as it goes. You know, let's keep working on it. Or how about do this? We're not gonna give you the money. No but what we are gonna do is we're gonna take the money and put it into mental health and addiction anyways, just to help people.
How about do that now? Now you don't wanna do that either, so what is it? What are we doing? Are we gonna spend a million dollars this year on nine officers, a million dollars next year on nine officers? Because something you said earlier is back, is kind of back to this point is I was in Toronto not long ago, a couple weeks ago, and it blew my mind.
Last time I was there, there was 50 tens underneath the overpass by the Roger Center. This time there was none. But this guy I know who lives in Monton. That used to live on the streets of Toronto. He used to live in this park and he used to smoke crack there. He told me, he said, Charlie, you wanna see homeless people on drugs?
He said, Go to this park. So I go to this [01:01:00] park, it's called Allen Gardens. Allen Gardens, something. Anyways, I go to this park and my mind is blown. I am in total shock at what I seen. I could not believe my freaking eyes. So I walked into this park and there's 32 tents in this park. It's a beautiful park, 32 tents.
There's seniors walking by with their dogs. There's people walking by with their kids. There's not a piece of garbage anywhere, not a chip wrapper, nothing. The tents are all clean, everything's all tidy. I'm like, Whoa. What the hell? There's no needles anywhere. Not even evidence, no needle caps, nothing. I don't see anybody use drugs.
My mind is absolutely blunt. I'm like, What is going on here? So I talk to the homeless, I talk to the police officers, I talk to the outreach workers. I talk to the city workers who are there, and they tell me that, uh, well, a police officer tells me he says, You know, he said, Toronto figures something out.
And I said, What's that? He [01:02:00] said, If they want to appease these people over here, the taxpayers, he said, Then they need to appease these people over here in the tents and treat them like human beings. He goes, going in it two o'clock in the morning with Billy clubs and moving them along. Doesn't work. He goes, We have a new tactic.
And I said, What's that? He goes, We talk to them, we get to know them. He goes, You see that guy over there? He goes, If that guy came and told me he wants a place to live, he goes, I could take him to a place and probably get him in housing by the end of the day. I was like, What you mean like a shelter? He's like, No, housing.
I was like, How the hell would you do that? He said, during Covid, the city of Toronto put a lease on five or six hotels. I don't mean like small, like the motel aid. I mean like 30 stories high. And they put a five year lease on five or six of them and after five years they're gonna renovate them top to bottom to fix any damages or anything wrong with them.
And they put their homeless refugees or families and their seniors in them. And he said it took probably about 80% of the homeless off the streets. So here's the thing, Toronto has a mindset of let's help [01:03:00] them, get them off the streets, get them into places. Okay. I walked around Toronto, My hotel was on the corner of Young Street and Dunes, which is like one of the busiest spots.
And I was there for four days actively looking for people that were homeless. I drove around, I went through back alleys. I was out from eight in the morning until two at like. And the whole time I was there, I seen one person having a mental breakdown, yelling at the clouds or whatever he was yelling at.
I seen one person smoking out of a glass pipe, whether it was meth or weed. It was from a distance or whether it was crack, I don't know. But it was from a distance. I seen zero needles, zero evidence of needles whatsoever. And like I said, I hardly seen anybody out on the streets. I can't walk four minutes from my building on St. George Street down to the shoppers without seeing someone shooting up, smoking, meth, fighting, screaming, hollering, or some crazy shit going on. So how is it a city, 2.6 million people in a downtown [01:04:00] course seems to have a better control over what's going on than a city here that has what, a hundred, 5,000 60,000 people, What is going on? I could not stop thinking about this cuz I'm like, how is this impossible? My mind of it is blown and the police officer told me, he said, you know why this park's clean? He said, You should be able to come visit our city and walk through our park and feel safe.
He said, You should be able to come visit our city, walk through our park and not, you know, worry about dirty needles. He said, You wanna know why this is clean and why it looks like that? I said, Why? He said, You see those guys over there? He said, Those are those city of Toronto workers. He said, They're in here every day cleaning up the garbage cans.
And they had three great big garbage cans, like every 20, 30 feet strapped to these poles. He said, You see those outreach workers? He goes, They're in here every day asking people what they need, directed number of services. And he said, You see those homeless people over there? He said, They're using those garbage cans.
He goes, It's a joint effort between all of them to keep this place clean. And [01:05:00] when I got back to Moncton, I thought to myself, I could see what it's, one city realizes that. If you wanna make your taxpayers happy, so there's less crime, less drugs, less people screaming and hollering on the street, assaults, all the other stuff, then you need to take care of those people.
Because once you take care of them and they're no longer on the streets, you don't have to worry about it. And they're not sitting in jail. You're not spending your money to house 'em over the winter for jail time because now they got the help. They need it and they're on their own team feet.
Maybe they're even working their job and tax paying citizens. Again the end of the day, we gotta change our mindset because Moncton has this mindset. Like I said, the counselor that got up there and said if we take their shopping cars, will that frustrate them? If we take their tens, will that frustrate them?
If we frustrate 'em enough, will they leave? Okay, well let's start to frustrate them then. That's what he said. But here's the thing, I don't even fault the guy. [01:06:00] He's the only one that had balls enough to say it in a public forum because he's not the only one that thinks or feels that way. And that's the problem.
We need to change our mindset. We need to change our mindset to realize that we start taking care of the people in our society who are out there that have issues. The whole community gets better as a whole. It all gets safer, it all gets cleaner. You know it, it gets better for everybody. But Moncton has this mindset of let's push them along.
And now that's why Riverview and D, you see a lot more people grow homeless in both areas because you're just pushing them. You gotta go somewhere. Whereas Toronto changed their mindset to they're not going anywhere, almost people aren't going anywhere. We need to help and if help, it'll help our whole community.
Stu Murray: That is a story. And I mean, Toronto's been. Perhaps they just ran into that same brick wall enough times. You know, it's like they just [01:07:00] step backwards a few more times and ran harder. And you think, Okay, well we'll just keep running harder or frustrating them more and frustrating them more, and then that's gonna solve this problem.
But you get to a point where you say, Well, okay it's not doing anything. And you say, Okay, next year you'll spend another million dollars on nine community service officers, but what, that could be 12 and then it could be 15 and it could be 18. Mm-hmm. Because this is just going to keep increasing, especially with these, the pinching that's happening with the housing and the rent and the cost of food and cost of living.
We're gonna need more officers on the streets here soon if we're gonna keep taking that same approach.
Yeah, it's, it's crazy, man.
Charlie Burrell: It's not gonna get cheaper. That's the thing, because that, this is where we're, where like we're at this problem because we've been just pushing people along using these bandaid solutions. Like I guarantee you, you watch in another month and a half, there's gonna be headlines in the paper.
Oh [01:08:00] my God, it's snowing and there's homeless people outside. What are we gonna do? Someone needs to open an emergency shelter, and every year they ask me if I'll turn my building into an emergency shelter. We just keep doing the same thing over and over and over again. Like that money is better spent on addiction and mental health services so people aren't living in a shelter period.
Get them out of the shelter system, you know? Yeah. Put it into a housing, like It's ridiculous.
Stu Murray: Yeah. We need to get proactive and so if somebody's listening to this right now and they're really resonating. They're feeling that alignment and really want to do more, but they've been struggling with it too, and they're not really sure where to take this.
What kind of advice or thoughts from be it mindset change to the actions that we can take? What would you offer somebody?
Charlie Burrell: I think there's two things. Like obviously it's our mindset. Like I changed my mindset from walking by somebody going, Why don't you go get a job? Or thinking, [01:09:00] even think, not saying it, but thinking it like, I'm the same age, I'm working, why aren't you working?
Changing that mindset to realize, Whoa, I woke up in a bed this morning with an alarm clock and food in my fridge. This guy didn't. But that only happens by educating yourself. So to me it's, whether it's at the Humanity Project or another organization, whatever, go get involved in your community.
Go spend an hour a week, two hours a week, go talk to the people. When you come to our building, like that's a one big shock for a lot of people. They come and they're like, Holy shit man, I thought you guys spent the homeless. They're like, You guys have a lot of seniors here. And it's like, yeah, because they came in and educated themselves and seeing what's going on, seeing that this is a bigger problem.
And I think that is probably the most important thing for people to do, is to get involved somewhere, whether it's with us or another organization. Find somewhere to give back your time and to educate yourself and to take the time to talk and more importantly, to listen to others and listen to what they have to say in [01:10:00] their stories.
And it humbles you. It really does. And it's, I think that's important. But the other thing I think that we need to change is like this mindset? Like they just want to be homeless. You know, they don't want help. Really? So you're telling me out of a hundred people, a hundred of them all wanna be homeless.
That's what you're telling me. Go stand in front of a mirror, say that to yourself so you can hear how stupid you sound. Because at the end of the day, that's just ridiculous to literally paint a whole group of people with one brush and go, Yep, they're all the same. Yep. None of them want help. Yep. Nothing you can do. No. What that is, is that is a reason and an excuse for you to justify in your own head why you're not doing anything to help. That's all that is. It's just a reason that you can turn the other way and feel better about yourself for not doing. Cause that guy didn't want help. You didn't ask him if you wanted help.
Hey man, you want help? I don't care. You don't want help. I'm gonna assume you [01:11:00] don't because I'm gonna turn this way and feel better about myself. It's like when I see people about the shopping cart, Well, those shopping cart are stolen anyways. Okay, Maybe, but do you know who? I don't hear complaining about it.
I don't hear Walmart Superstore, Sobey's giant tiger. I don't hear them filing police reports complaining about their shopping carts going missing. No. Do you know who I do hear complaining about it? Members of the public. Why? Because you use that as another excuse to justify the wrong behavior of taking somebody's stuff.
Maybe the shopping cart's not theirs, but all that shit in it is. And now that they just take it, you go, Well, it wasn't their shopping cart anyway. No. You use it as an excuse to justify the action is what you do. And I think that's where we need to change our mindset, you know? And I think that only happens by people getting involved in their community, going in, checking out what's going on, talking to the people that use the service to really see the need.
And I think when more people start doing that, you'd see start [01:12:00] seeing a lot more changes in your community because you'd know where you fit in, you know where you can help or where your expertise or your knowledge could maybe help in a certain area here or there and help move things along a little further for your community.
Stu Murray: really is a place for all of us to be able to come to the table and help turn this shit around. And if somebody is interested and particularly wants to help work with the Humanity Project because. Of the crazy amazing work you guys are doing and like the infinite trajectory of potential and possibility, what, where can they go to find out more to get in contact to just start that opportunity to get involved?
Charlie Burrell: I'd say come into four forty nine George Street. Call the office. (506) 382-6840. Go to our Facebook page, send us an email. Just get your ass in there. Come on in, come talk to the volunteers, to myself, to whoever, and see what you can do to help. [01:13:00] It might just be some knowledge you have in your head.
It might be some old pair of shoes you have. It might be you got two hours a week to donate. We all have something to give to make this a better world. Every single one of us, you know? And when I hear people say like, Well, I don't have the time.
I don't think you don't have the time. I think it's how you value your time. Because like me, I know doing the Humanity Project, I watch a lot less TV than I used to, my time was taken up watching frigging each seasons of Game of Thrones. Now I'm out there frigging helping people. So it's what you do with your time really, and how you wanna allocate it.
Stu Murray: Yeah. And it's time to prioritize helping out our community and like you said, it's confronting when we have to look at these wicked challenges and these wicked problems. And it's easier to blame and externalize and place that out on individuals because there's a pain in seeing how broken and how challenging these problems are.
The only way it's gonna change is if we take individual and collective responsibility and we come [01:14:00] together and we put in that work and put in that time and look at ourselves in a real hard way in the mirror and do what we need to do. And each of us tap into our own gifts to be of service and change this story.
It's the only way.
Charlie Burrell: That's it. I could have just drove by that old guy that day on the street and go, Not my problem. You know? And what did that change? That changes nothing. There be 200 more people sleeping on our streets now, and you'd have a lot more hungry people over the last couple of years.
And same with the other volunteers. If it wasn't for them going, No, maybe I need to do something, instead of driving by the lineup at supper time, look at all those people. Some of my volunteers went, Look at all those people. I'm gonna stop and, and help. And they pulled in, they helped. And whether it was an hour or a week or whether it's three, four days a week, whatever, they're there.
It's a community effort. It's a group effort. It takes all of us. Like that's the one thing I am very, very, very, very blessed for is one, I have a freaking amazing supportive family. I could [01:15:00] not ask for better parents. I could not ask for better siblings. I could not ask for a better support system than my family.
And I have been made aware of how absolutely frigging kick ass maze my family is over the last couple years because I have heard stories from people who never had the same opportunities I had or the same love in their life that I was lucky enough to have. Or the same caring parents or family members. I hear some pretty bad horror stories where it makes me very grateful that I had the love and guidance that I had in my life. And the other thing that I am very. Very thankful for, and feel super blessed for is the amount of people that I have around me from my community who care about others who take that time every week or once a month or however much time it is to actually care about somebody else. Whether it's dropping off an old pair of shoes or drop off 300 pounds of potatoes, or whether it's coming in and [01:16:00] given an hour of your time. I appreciate it. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know. This has all been done by my community, for our community, you know, Like a lot of people, I guess I'm like the head talking point guy of the organization, but it's not me.
Like right now I'm having a conversation with you and we've been talking for an hour and a half. Supper will be ready tonight. At five o'clock. I have a team of people at that center right now who are chopping up food and cooking to make sure that people don't go hungry tonight. And I couldn't do what I do without those people, you know?
So I feel very fortunate and blessed and thankful.
Stu Murray: Mm. It just speaks to the amount of power of what some compassionate, caring people who, who wanna come together and work together can do. I mean, half a million people fed in these last few years is just speaks volumes, man. And it warms my heart, [01:17:00] it inspires me, It lights me up. I feel more hopeful. Like I said, every time I tune into this and I, every time I, I know my community is rallying around to care for those most vulnerable. It brings me hope. It brings me a lot of hope, man. So thank you for, for what? You've been doing and the inspiration that you've pulled out of others who've also helped care because deep inside of us, we all have that.
And when we can tune into that and when we can feel that being pulled out of us, like, look at what we can fucking do. It's unstoppable. Yes. And it's just gonna keep growing. If we can keep lighting that and fanning that flame of inspiration and just reminding each other that it's possible and that we are in this together, man, there's no end to what we can achieve together.
Charlie Burrell: I know, and that's why I get so happy when I see kids coming in and donating. There are kids taking their own initiative to [01:18:00] do something and I'm like, Man, we're in good hands. So we have kids like that in the future, like that those parents are doing an A one job. That's what we have to do.
Because if you want your future to change, what you do now is gonna affect your future five to 10 years down the road. So, you know, teaching your kids about, love and understanding and compassionate and kindness and things like that, and to not look down on somebody unless you're helping them up.
That's what will change our future, you know? Cause we need more kids like that, that become good human beings. And then when you have enough of them, it changes the direction, which we That's
Stu Murray: absolutely right, man. I couldn't more. And as we go to wrap this up now, is there any last message or thoughts or anything you'd like to share with people?
Charlie Burrell: No. I think, like I said, I never started off with some goal of going I need to feed half a million people, or I need to do this, or I need to do that. My goal has always been just helping [01:19:00] one person at a time, and by having that goal, I've never been fearful of risking at all. I will say things that are in the best interest of the people that I help.
They might not be in the best interest of people that hold power. It might rub shoulders the wrong wave, some people, but if it's in the best interest of the people that we help and we serve each and every day, then it needs to be said. And I think by letting go of that fear has pushed us further ahead as an organization.
Because I'll tell you, like I say things sometimes and people from other organizations will write me or call me and say, Oh, I'm glad you said that. You know what had to be said. I'm thinking to myself like, Why don't you say it? If more of us stood up and said it, you, you change a lot more. But they're scared of losing funding or losing support or losing, you know, things like that.
Where as [01:20:00] me, if we lose everything tomorrow, let's say we lose the firm, lose our building, I'm still gonna help people and do book bags outta my house just because that's who I am. It's never been about it being bigger, large, It's always just been about helping people. So the one thing I would like to tell everybody out there is, you know, the power for change starts from within us all.
But the power for change is also within us all. You know, that's where it starts and that's where it goes. It starts here in your heart, and then you take that and you put it into action and you push forward towards that change. And that doesn't have to be with homeless or poverty. It could be with whatever you are passionate about in life. How did a guy with a book bag and a pair of sock. End up building an organization. Now, an organization 90. Last time I checked, it was a [01:21:00] couple years ago, I'd have to check again, but it was like 90 to 95% of charities, nonprofits fail within the first five years. The reason they fail is because unlike a store where I'm asking you to come in and buy something to eat or get your favorite pair of socks or whatever you're coming in for, I'm not asking you for anything like that.
What I'm asking you for is your trust. And trust is a hard thing to ask people for in today's world. So a lot of them don't up funding or the, whatever the reasons they end up closing. How did I start with a pair of socks and a couple book bags and end up with a building on St. George Street feeding 300 people a day and a firm that we're trying to turn into a therapeutic community?
Simplest answer is love. I just put love into action and I moved it forward. I did not give up on the people we help and we just kept moving forward. So I think like you hear people say that you need to see it, believe it, achieve it. I think that's [01:22:00] true, but I think it's also bullshit because I think like you gotta see it so much that you almost obsess about it.
Like when we were in a parking lot, all I could think about was get in a building for like, I mean, day and night. I obsessed about it. The second part is like, believe in it. Believe in that it's possible and that you can achieve it and that it will happen. But the third part that nobody ever talks about it, nobody ever puts in there.
If you gotta put in the work, and I don't mean like you gotta every day take a giant step ahead, but every day of your life you get up, whether it's the smallest step or whether it's the biggest step. If every day you wake up and you put one step towards your goal. You will achieve it because I'm telling you, we've achieved the impossible.
We started with a book bag and a pair Ofta feeding half a million people to housing these people and having a firm now and all this stuff. But it's all been done [01:23:00] by seeing it, believing we can do it, putting in the work every day, and then hitting our goals. And I think the power for change, like I said, is within all of us.
And no matter what it is that you're passionate about in life, don't let anybody stop you. I have my fair share of haters and I have my fair share of people that told me, You can't run an organization like this. This'll never work. That'll never work this. No, because you don't believe in yourself enough and you don't think you can do it.
That's on you, bud. But don't stand in my way. We're just gonna keep motoring along and I think that's what people need to do. Don't let others get or stop you doing the things you care about or you love in life. Just seize the moment and push.
Stu Murray: Amen, brother. Yeah. That kind of passion and courage is contagious.
And the more that we can root into that ourselves, the more we can provide that [01:24:00] space for others to do the same. And I can tell you, thousand fucking percent, you're doing that for a lot of people in our community and. Thanks man. Those numbers and these things are there to speak for that and honestly I think we're just at the start of something even more beautiful, so let's keep it.
Charlie Burrell: so, . I hope so. Thanks
Stu Murray: so much for taking the time, Charlie. I really appreciate it though. No problem,
Charlie Burrell: mass. Thanks for having me. My pleasure. It's good talking to you
Stu Murray: Thanks for tuning into this episode. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok at Stu Murray podcast. Check out the Stu Murray podcast available on all streaming platforms and leave a comment or a review.
Let me know if this episode resonated with you and what you want to hear more of as we move forward in the future. Thank you so much, and I'll see you next [01:25:00] Monday.