Local resident Heather MacKechnie began the discussion at the Sept. 3 meeting. As an employee at Exeter United Church, MacKechnie said in the past three years the church has seen an increase in the number of people requesting assistance because they are struggling to meet basic needs such as food and shelter.

MacKechnie said it’s a common misperception that people who are in these situations are making bad choices and are unwilling to work or are on drugs.

“When you take the time to sit with people and hear their stories, it is a very different picture,” she said.

She said she knows one individual who ended up homeless because of a relationship breakdown. Another lost her apartment after prolonged illness and hospitalization resulting in her not being able to pay her bills. Another suffered an accident and was unable to work.

“There are so many stories,” MacKechnie said. “Families with children, youth, seniors, both men and women. But the important thing to remember is this isn’t a choice for them. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I really want to be homeless.’”