Re-posting new link
Walking around Vancouver this past week, I was interested to see the large number of homeless calling downtown Vancouver home. There were folks literally setting up living areas on the sidewalk, some with book shelves, comfortable looking beds, and one even had a little bedroom set up including a side table with a vase and flowers. It solidified my thought that home is where the heart is and got me thinking more about how best to assist individuals whose home and family is and has been the streets. I also gave thought to homelessness and public perception, which led me to putting my thoughts around this on paper.
Having worked with the homeless now for many years, I am constantly met with “they just need to work”, “they just don’t want to work”, “they choose homelessness.” To this, I can unequivocally respond that in my almost decade of working with the homeless, I’ve yet to meet one person who doesn’t have a story, leading to the, ohhhhhhhh, I get it moment.
In engaging with the homeless, we have found that most have been met with circumstances well beyond their control, and unsupported trauma, abuse and neglect eventually takes its’ toll. So many people have never had access to the support needed to gain forward momentum, and this, combined with today’s critical housing shortage, makes housing for some seem next to impossible. Mental health is prevalent, and often leads to self-medication and addiction, which is another aspect of homelessness understandably misunderstood by those who have a different, more fortunate story to tell. Hearing a rough sleeper’s story increases awareness around mental health and addiction. I recently challenged one of my clients around his alcohol use. He responded, “you try getting sober when you are living on the street.” I get it.
Piers has been very fortunate to have been awarded the opportunity to help community members struggling with housing challenges in West Kelowna. In April, we started the Homeward Program, funded through Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy. We work with individuals on matters around housing, employment, and life skills development. We have been thoroughly enjoying working in partnership with the amazing Westbank United Church, who hold Community Lunches daily, to mention only one of the services they offer West Kelowna residents through this busy facility! We are enjoying getting to know West Kelowna’s business members and service provider partners. We are finding a strong unity and family feeling in West Kelowna, and we are very thankful to work towards becoming a part of this community!
We are excited by the challenge ahead of us and look forward to reporting good news throughout the duration of this project. 😊 Thanks for welcoming us West Kelowna!