Jestony Pagdunzolan says it’s the least the restaurant can do.
As manager of the Salmon Arm A&W, he’s referring to the way the restaurant treats homeless people, treatment that has been noticed by community members.
When homeless folks come in and have a coffee at A&W, they’re welcome to stay as long as they like in order to stay warm.
“It’s the least we can do to help those guys,” Pagdunzolan says. “When it’s extremely cold you’ve seen them sitting out there. I’ve heard some stories they won’t allow them inside restaurants.”
He says he’s never been homeless, but he knows what it’s like to struggle. He came to B.C. from the Philippines in 2012.
“In the Philippines, my two-month paycheque here was my one-year pay. I know how hard life can be.”
Most of the homeless folks who come to the restaurant want to pay for their own coffee, and then get the free refills offered after that.
“They don’t want to be treated like the homeless one, they want to be a regular customer.”
Pagdunzolan explains that he’s told them that as long as there are no issues that bother other customers – such as being loud – they’re welcome to stay as long as they want. He says they’ve been good, wanting to return the favour.
There was an incident involving someone coming in from outside and starting an altercation – he thinks maybe a drug dealer. He called police to get rid of him.
“Those homeless guys, I realize it’s not their choice that they’re homeless,” he says, noting that such a fate can happen to anyone.
He’s noticed that the homeless folks who come in help each other.
He and his staff were moved when they received a big Christmas card thanking them for their kindness, signed by The Homeless Family.
“Simple things like that, make your job better.”
The kindness has inspired other customers at A&W. A selection of toques were brought in that the restaurant could distribute. Someone saw one of the homeless people drawing, so the customer brought in colouring materials to donate.
Pagdunzolan said he’s spoken to staff about making sure the homeless customers are treated like anyone else, that their perspective is considered.
“Would there be someone to help us (if we were in that situation)?” he asks. “It’s good to help others.”