Why would the police want your shoes? Maybe it’s for an investigation? Research? You might find it’s for a reason you wouldn’t expect.

RCMP Members have diverse jobs; they are committed to community safety, and sometimes safety isn’t as clear-cut as protecting someone in a bad situation. Supporting safety can be as simple as helping someone start off on the right foot. In this case, it’s providing the unhoused population of Nanaimo with a good pair of shoes.

Cst. Josh Waltman, a mental health liaison officer with the Nanaimo RCMP, is at the centre of getting shoe donations and helping those in need find the right fit through the Project Happy Feet 9-11 program.

How does the RCMP get involved with providing shoes to the homeless, you ask?

With a deep understanding of the challenges faced by marginalized and unhoused individuals in Nanaimo, Cst. Waltman knows that many of the unhoused spend their days on their feet, navigating the city’s streets.

Why shoes? How is that helping the unhoused population?

We asked Kim and Christine from Frontrunners Nanaimo, a local organization that donates running shoes, to explain:

This isn’t a one-person show; it’s a community effort.

At the core of Project Happy Feet 911 are the dedicated outreach support workers, nurses, organizations like Frontrunners, Island Health MHSU/COR, Canadian Mental Health Association Street Reach Team, Play Kelowna and Members of the RCMP, just like Cst. Josh Waltman. 

Not just about shoes, but breaking down barriers between the unhoused and the RCMP

Bayley Russell, who works on the community outreach response team for Island Health and was instrumental in starting Project Happy Feet 9-11, has experienced the positive impact of the project when it comes to relationships between the unhoused population and the RCMP.

What do community partners think about the RCMP being involved?

Project Happy Feet 911 is a shining example of how collaboration between dedicated individuals and organizations can make a profound difference in a community. It doesn’t stop at shoes, though. Mental health workers’ positive interactions with police are essential to mental health support work in the community. 

Want to give the RCMP your shoes?

Project Happy Feet 911 is not just about providing shoes; it’s about promoting safety, one step at a time. If you want to hand over your lightly used running shoes to the RCMP, donations can be dropped off at the Nanaimo RCMP Detachment, located at 303 Prideaux St., during Project Happy Feet 911, on the last Friday of each month, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT, or in the donation box in the RCMP detachment’s foyer any day of the week.