University students, friends organize ‘Helping Hand Initiative’ to help people experiencing homelessness

Organizer Jonathon Cook started the initiative after seeing a photo of people sleeping outside in Prince Albert

A group of university students and friends served warm food and drinks to people in need on Friday. (Kelly Skjerven/DailyHerald)

A group of university students and friends came together this week to organize care packages and serve food for people who are in need on Friday night.

Jonathon Cook, a First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) student started a GoFundMe page earlier this week to raise money for the initiative.

He said seeing a photo of a group of people sleeping on the street recently motivated him to start collecting donations and reach out to friends for help.

“When I saw that I just really needed to do something,” Cook said.

Another organizer, Ashton Naytowhow, says the issue is personal for him.

“I had an uncle who lived on the streets and he passed away outside 7/11. They wouldn’t allow him to warm up, and he froze to death out there, and for me every year I would try to look for donations but it wasn’t until these guys, they took the initiative and it just blew up and it’s just pretty cool.”

Naytowhow said his uncle’s story isn’t unique, it’s something that happens every day to people experiencing homelessness and living on the streets.

The group spent Wednesday handing out care packages to people and say they counted nearly 50 people on the street.

This is nothing new for the group, who say, individually, they spend their personal time handing out food and clothes to people who are in need.

Reina Morin, said that as a former university student and single mother she understands other’s struggles.

“In my personal time I just drive around at night, I give out coffee or give out food or clothing or if they need somewhere to warm up I just let them sit in my vehicle with a mask. They tell me their story, it just chokes me up,” Morin said.

“It’s touching to hear their story. It really is,” Shelly Laliberte, another organizer said.

“They really just want someone to listen to them, that’s the main thing so it’s really moving.”

The group purchased food using money from their own pockets and from the GoFundMe page.

They hope to continue collecting material and monetary donations. They also plan to open a bank account as GoFundMe takes a percentage of money raised.

I think we want to set ourselves up as a non-profit organization if we continue to grow and stuff like that and we want to work on getting grants, getting a location for people sleep, for people to eat,” Cook said.

The group can be reached on Facebook at for those wishing to contribute or learn more about their cause.