Campbell Riverites came out from all corners of our community for a dinner on Oct. 18 to raise awareness around homelessness in the River City.
More than 250 people attended a gala evening at the Thunderbird Hall, including local politicians, leaders from community and health agencies, the school district, faith-based organizations and members of our homeless community. Invited guests sat side-by-side with those who are homeless in our community.
“We want to change the way people see those who are homeless in our community. To take away the labels people use when they see someone living outside. We want to help change those labels into names, faces and personal stories,” said Leanne Wingert, event organizer and counselor at AIDS Vancouver Island. One of the many highlights of the evening was the ‘lived experience’ panel. Past and present members of our homeless community shared personal stories about their path to homelessness and the challenges associated with both living on the streets and finding the way out of living on the streets. For some, these challenges may include struggles with addictions and mental illness.
“We want to remove the stigma. To remind ourselves that any one of us could fall on hard times,” said Paul Geoghegan, Homelessness Outreach Worker for the Advocacy Services Centre. “And that with awareness and understanding, comes the very human response of caring. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve here. That we all care just a little bit more about our neighbour. And to remember that while some of us are down on our luck, we all have hopes and dreams.”
Students from Robron, Timberline and Carihi also helped throughout the evening. As follow up to the evening, students invited members of the homeless community to meet with them to further share their stories and discuss how best to address the issue of homelessness in Campbell River.
Campbell River’s talented arts and entertainment community volunteered their time to help make the evening a success. An exceptional line-up of local entertainers included: Weiwaikum Culture Group; Inclusion; Heather Gordon Murphy and Doris Wagner; Maddy Erickson and Matthew Krell; Jeff Drummond and John Hyde; Mary Murphy and Paul Keim; and Kenneth Paul Cooper.
The evening included a gourmet catered meal by Maggie Henderson. Use of the Thunderbird Hall was donated by the Campbell River Indian Band. Current research on dealing with homelessness in Canada promotes a ‘Housing First’ model. The Campbell River Homeless Coalition is currently seeking older RV trailers or fifth wheels to be employed as transitional housing for our homeless.
If you have an older rv trailer that could provide safe, warm, dry housing that you would like to donate, contact Paul Mason at the Campbell River Housing Resource Centre at 250-287-2421. For more information, visit their Facebook page – Campbell River Housing Resource Centre.