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Coronavirus: Should Ontario's second-hand stores be deemed essential?

Along the south sidewalk of Toronto’s St. Clair Avenue West, there has been a long line-up since the Salvation Army Thrift Store since reopening on Monday after the stay-at-home order was dropped for the region.

By entering the gray lockdown level in Ontario’s COVID – response framework, which has the highest level of restrictions, non-essential retail stores can reopen at 19 per cent of the approved capacity.

Among those waiting her turn to shop is a single mother of two children, who asked to be identified by her first name, Larissa.

“I was really eager actually for it (the thrift store) to open up again. As you know, COVID has hit low-income families and people the most, so having a place like this should be essential, ”she said.

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Larissa, like many lined up, said she relies on second-hand stores and noted the Salvation Army is the only place she can afford to buy clothing, home appliances and toys for her children.

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“I’m actually not able to afford to stop at places like Walmart, ”she said, explaining that when the pandemic started she had to give up her part-time job to stay home with the children and rely on CERB.

Stephen Jonatha, the assistant manager of the store, said Larissa’s situation is not unique and highlighted business has more than doubled since the thrift shop reopened on Monday.

“We normally take in about people a day. On Monday and Tuesday alone, we’ve seen about 200 to 500 people, so double what we normally see, ”he said.

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Jonatha said he also noticed an uptick in the number of people shopping for children since COVID – .

Ted Troughton, the manager director for Salvation Army Thrift Stores’ national recycling operation, said the shutdown has been difficult on the non-profit organization, which services the community.

“Without our doors open, we can not sell our goods,” he said, explaining that the thrift stores do not have e-commerce and that it’s near-impossible to provide service to customers.

“We were not able to do curbside. We do not have an online presence because our inventory is always changing. To go and create an online presence during a pandemic, that did not make a lot of sense. ”

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Troughton recalled how stores were getting phone calls during the 25 – plus-day shutdown in Toronto asking if they could reopen.

He said the Salvation Army appealed to the Ford government to declare thrift stores essential for people who depend on second-hand stores, but noted so far they’ve been unsuccessful.

“In Manitoba, back in November, December, they opened all the thrift stores for that exact reason – well before retail stores. They deemed [second-hand stores] an essential service, which really I think we are, ”Troughton said.

“ We tried to do that within Ontario, but were not successful through that process. ”

Salvation Army staff said donations are up, something that speaks volumes to the generosity of people – especially during a pandemic.

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“Our donations are bigger than they’ve ever been, which is great to see, ”Troughton said.

View link» © 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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