Founded in December 2014, Project HOTS (Helping on the Streets) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those living on the streets or in shelters have the basic necessities of life. Organizer Kayla Forrest, who works a full-time job as she prepares to head back to school to study Emergency Telecommunications, kicked off a series of fundraising events in November 2015 with Get Off The Streets, an evening of music/spoken word/comedy at the Horseshoe Tavern (which I had the great pleasure to perform in). The mission is to raise funds, food, clothing and survival gear for the coming weather, and the Horseshoe show was followed by a second event in December at The Painted Lady, hosted by The Celebration Army. I spoke with Kayla about Project HOTS and their upcoming events.
LWMC: Hey, Kayla. Thanks for taking the time to talk about Project HOTS. How did this organization come about?
KF: You’re most welcome, always happy to spread the word about inspiring people to do random acts of kindness and help others. This organization was started by a friend, Lizzie Violet, and it was originally named Project Warmth. After my own project of putting together bags of food and survival gear for the homeless on the streets, and collecting a bunch of donations for the homeless shelters Horizons For Youth and also Fred Victors – Helping People Find Place And Purpose, Lizzie invited me into being a part of the organization of hers. This is something that means a lot to me, as we are all humans at the end of the day and it doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have, it’s about what kind of person you are to one another.
I ended up really getting into it and ran with the whole thing; she was super awesome and after a while let me take over the whole thing. So I ended up beginning to look into really taking it to the next level; when I researched the name to proceed with getting it certified and licensed, I found that there was already an organization in Alberta with the same name that began years before we did. So I went back to the drawing board and played with some name possibilities that were catchy and memorable. It was decided upon Project HOTS (helping on the streets) because in the winter you want to get warm, hey Project HOTS, and in the summer it’s pretty hot/warm, hey Project HOTS.
So we kicked it into high gear with the name, had a friend of mine create the logo for us, and began to look into having merchandise created along with organizing fundraisers for the food/survival bags for the homeless on the streets.
LWMC: And what made you decide to launch the music/spoken word fundraising events?
KF: Lizzie suggested doing fundraisers, as I was paying for everything along with a few other volunteers for the food/survival bags and that we’d be able to make more of the kits if we did fundraisers. I avidly support the local arts (music, spoken word, etc.) scene, so asking the local performers if they’d like to be part of it along with choosing local venues was the next step.
LWMC: How has the response to the events been so far?
KF: The fundraiser events turned out amazingly awesome, with so many people supporting helping the homeless stuck on the streets and those in shelters that were lucky enough to get into them. The shows consist of bands, solo singers, spoken word, poets and comedians; along with raffles for gift bags put together by myself and the performers that volunteer for the show, along with other band merchandise donated to us by the incredibly awesome local performers. So far, we have had two events and currently a third one is being planned. We are also working on having a home base venue as well, so there will be semi-annual fundraiser shows a year for the semi-annual street donation drives.
LWMC: Tell us a bit about what happens after you receive donations. How does the food, clothing, survival gear, etc., get distributed?
KF: The donations are collected and accumulated at my place, then it’s all packed into my car and brought to the only homeless shelter (to my knowledge and as informed to me by the staff there) in Canada that take in homeless with animals, Fred Victor – Helping People Find Place And Purpose. I’m a complete animal lover, so this is something that really touched my heart. They furnish the residents rooms and also help them out when they get places of their own.
As for the food and survival gear that’s donated, I put together grocery bags with one or two of everything that was donated, or that we buy with the money raised from the fundraiser shows along with my own. I’m an avid believer that a non-profit organization should actually mean making nothing at all from the donations given as I spend my own money on the food/survival items along with buying merchandise for the fundraiser shows. To me, it just doesn’t make sense taking someone’s money for dedicating my time to a cause that shouldn’t have to be a cause since everyone should just care for and help one another no matter who you are in the world.
Then the volunteers are split into teams and given maps of the city I print out for different zones, load their cars up with grocery bags of food and survival gear, then they’re off to drive/roam the city streets looking for homeless to hand them out to.
LWMC: You’re mounting another event this spring at The Painted Lady. Do you have a date set yet?
KF: We absolutely love this venue as the staff and owners are absolutely incredible, so we’re working with the owners to find a date/time that works for everyone. It’ll be held in May though, as the next street donation drive will take place in June, but everyone can keep up-to-date with events and street donation drives on our Facebook and Twitter pages since the exact date has yet to be chosen.
LWMC: Can you give us a sneak peek as to who will be performing?
KF: It’s currently being worked on for the set list, but one of the performers that will for sure be there and opening for us will be the wonderfully awesome Supertash; who also is the writer for our organization’s theme song (which we totally snagged with her permission) “Listen To Your Heart.”
LWMC: Anything else coming up that you want to shout out?
KF: I want to let everyone know that we are always looking for new and upcoming performers for our shows. So if anyone has any interest in being part of one of the fundraisers, please feel free to contact us, as we will be having semi-annual shows, one in the spring and one in the winter every year.
LWMC: Anything in particular you guys need in way of donations right now?
KF: We are always accepting donations of clothing, household items, pet supplies (food, treats, bedding, toys, etc.) and survival gear for the streets and non-perishable food for the food care bags. We can either arrange a pick-up or drop-off point for the donations, or people are urged/welcome to bring them to the fundraiser shows as well. We do periodic drop-offs to the homeless shelter year-round every three to five weeks when we’ve accumulated a carload of things from people around the city.
LWMC: What do you do when you’re not working on Project HOTS?
KF: I work a full-time job, so any free time from work and the organization is spent at the gym, at local venues watching friends perform, reading, painting, writing, or randomly road-tripping and seeing where I end up.
LWMC: I like to close my interviews with the adapted Pivot questionnaire that James Lipton asks his guests on Inside the Actors Studio. What’s your favourite word?
KF: AWESOME!!!!!! You can’t help smiling when thinking/saying this awesome word.
LWMC: What’s your least favourite word?
KF: Hate. Such a strong angry word. <laughs>
LWMC: What turns you on?
KF: <laughs> This is really truly random, but definitely vanilla and intelligence. Intelligent vanilla? Is it a thing? It is now!
LWMC: What turns you off?
KF: Animal and child abusers… just no soooo hardcore!!
LWMC: What sound or noise do you love?
KF: Kittens purring, rain, kids giggling… but not in that like creepy children of the corn kind of way.
LWMC: What sound or noise do you hate?
KF: Any kind of sounds that come from a clown’s mouth. They should never be allowed to speak. Ever.
LWMC: What is your favourite curse word?
KF: Fuck. It’s so ridiculously versatile, plus as my mother taught me, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it! Thanks mom! 😛
LWMC: What profession other than your own would you like to pursue?
KF: When I was a little girl, I used to want to be a lawyer so I could put away all the bad people, but now I realize that if I were a lawyer and the bad people got let go, I wouldn’t be able to hold myself back if it had anything to do with children and/or animals. Really, though, anything that is about helping people or animals would be super awesome to work as.
LWMC: What profession would you not like to do?
KF: I would definitely not like to work in a circus (other than it’s barbaric for the way they treat animals), but because they have clowns, and clowns freak me out to the absolute fullest amount. They should be outlawed. For good. Like forever banned.
LWMC: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
KF: Hmm… he’d probably laugh and say “It surprises me too that you actually made it up here.”
Want to volunteer or donate to Project HOTS? For more info, email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org