The recent story of a homeless man’s dog freezing to death became a call to action for a pair of Montreal siblings.

On Saturday, Samantha and Sara Capobianco packed a van full of bags filled with ‘necessities’ to help the homeless combat the cold – blankets, boots, socks, jackets, and hats.

The sisters and a group of friends raised money to purchase the items, and also received donations. The goal, they say, is to ensure comfort for everyone – starting with clients at the new Open Door shelter on Park Ave.

“It’s not fair that one person is in their bed warm at night and another person, depending on their life circumstances, is on the street,” said Claudia Giovanniello, a volunteer. 

Included amongst the bags were items for dogs, inspired by a recent – and tragic – story about a homeless man and his canine companion.

“We saw an article a few weeks ago: a homeless man and his dog had nowhere to turn on a cold night, and the dog ended up passing away in his arms,” Samantha explained.

“Life on the streets is very lonely. You’re pretty much isolated from the rest of society in a way,” said Sabrina Sabbah, founder of Velvet Hearts Canada – a volunteer-based organization that helps out the homeless and their animals.

“Catering to their dog or cat becomes their priority, and they now understand that they’re taking care of something that is a living, breathing creature that has needs,” she added. “And it helps them afterwards address their own.”

But being homeless with a pet comes with its set of challenges. Many shelters in Montreal don’t accept animals, and getting around the city with a pet can be difficult.

“We have everything – we’re so thankful for our families, our friends,” Samantha added. “We have roofs, and we want to give other people things to be thankful for as well.”