Homelessness and poverty seem like insurmountable problems that need three levels of government to help. But on Thursday, Oct. 18, and in the run-up to it, the people of Richmond can help.
It’s a chance to make a difference, one pair of socks, shoes or a back pack at a time. Items that all come in handy when you have to carry all you own with you and when you have to walk everywhere. Poverty makes many decisions for you.
Richmond Connects Day is based at St. Alban Church, 7260 St. Alban’s Rd., but is the product of many people and groups working toward a common goal, making life better for those who don’t have a home or who live with precarious finances.
“For the day, this location becomes a one-stop shop of services, starting at 9 a.m. with a pancake breakfast followed with access to direct services such as such as haircuts, clothing, meals and healthcare as well as information and referral to services that can be accessed year round,” says De Whelan of the Richmond Community Connect Planning Group.
For the pancake breakfast, if you can help, show up. If you just want to eat, show up and meet neighbours from around our community.
Richmond is making progress. 40 people who need a home will have one when the new modular homes are built on the corner of Alderbridge Way and Elmbridge Way, across the street from the Rona store.
This year represents a name change and wider focus, according to Whelan, “Here in the tenth year, the Homeless Connect team is reflecting the reality of our residents by holding a ‘Community Connect’ event with the same features of Homeless Connect. There are more and more people needing housing and services in Richmond, due in part to rising rents, low vacancy rates and incomes not keeping pace with costs. Therefore, the event aims to reach anyone in Richmond who is living in poverty or in precarious circumstances.”
Whelan continues, “Over the years, St. Alban Anglican Church and the Richmond Salvation Army on Gilbert have become hubs of services for people who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. Outreach workers from local service providers connect regularly with homeless individuals, providing necessities of life and personal connections to help make sustainable changes. People can also drop into Turning Point’s Resource Centre and Chimo’s lunch program to enjoy a lunch and referrals to needed services and programs.”
In addition, various places have low cost and no cost community meals, such as Gilmore Park United Church’s community meal on Thursdays, and St. Alban Church’s meal on Tuesdays. The fact that those two churches are 4.3 kilometres (2 miles) apart shows the need for good shoes, clean socks and a backpack when you have little or nothing.
Saturdays, from 8 to 10 a.m., St. Alban also offer a shower to anyone who would like one, along with a hot breakfast, a bagged lunch, and internet access.
Whelan says, “None of these services have regular funding and rely on both in-kind donations and financial support.” For those donations, the community looks to the community to help. If you can offer your labour, your goods, or your money, even if meagre, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to offer help.
“The support of Richmond residents is needed and greatly appreciated. Any monetary donations will go to purchase supplies for the Richmond Community Connect event. The planning committee will also accept donations of new socks and underwear as well as gently used winter boots and backpacks.”
The committee asks this year that Richmond residents consider giving a little extra so that donations can be forwarded on to the year-round services that do not have regular funding. Those services include outreach, life skills counselling, community education, the extreme weather shelter and the outreach meal program.
Says Whelan, “This financial support can make all the difference during the year for people who need help to get off the street and change their lives.”
And there is concrete proof that Richmondites can and are making a difference according to Whelan, “After nine years of holding Homeless Connect events, the volunteer team is happy to see leadership in housing our homeless residents in Richmond. Approved by City Council, the 7300 Elmbridge Way development will open its doors to 40 of our approximately 120 homeless folks in the months to come. This is good news.”
While poverty and homelessness are far from gone in our city, Whelan lists the way you can make a difference, “To help:
1. Please send monetary donations c/o Richmond Food Bank Society, #100-5800 Cedarbridge Way, Richmond, V6X 2A7. Make cheque payable to Homeless Connect.
2. Please drop off new socks, underwear, boots and backpacks at the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store in Steveston. Tell them this is to go to St. Alban for Richmond Connects.”
Whelan quotes American historian, playwright, and social activist Howard Zinn, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world."
An act as small as donating one pair of socks can make a big difference in the life of a Richmondite who must live outdoors, in the damp, on their feet everyday.