The Record • Saturday, October 9, 2010 • A05
Homelessness Action Week raises awareness
BY THERESA MCMANUS REPORTER firstname.lastname@example.org
Artwork that’s been created by homeless artists will assist other individuals who are homeless. Homeless artists living in the Downtown Eastside or the bushes of Stanley Park created seven pieces of artwork that are being shown locally and being auctioned off at the New Westminster Homeless Coalition’s fundraising dinner in Inn at Westminster Quay on Saturday, Oct. 16. It’s one of the events taking place in New Westminster during Homelessness Action Week, which runs from Oct. 10 to 16. All proceeds from the sale of the artwork will go toward I’s on the Street, a new sidewalk cleaning service run by the coalition that is employing eight people who live with mental health issues and/or are homeless. “The funds from the dinner will go
directly to paying for the salaries of workers who are getting $10 an hour,” said Coun. Bill Harper. “This is the first time they have been working in a very long time, and they are getting paid for it. Five of the workers are now in housing. You can see the transformation. They feel more confident.” Harper said the program has been “wildly successful” in the downtown. The goal is to expand to other commercial areas. “We are trying at the moment to get sustainable donors so that we can increase the project from the downtown to uptown,” Harper said. “They come twice a week. They go out onto the street and clean up the street in a way a city worker can’t.” Ken Lyotier, founder of United We Can, is the guest speaker at the Oct. 16 fundraising dinner. Tickets are $75 at the door or by calling Lydia at the Purpose Society at 604-526-2522. The New Westminster Homelessness Coalition, which has more than 35 member
organizations, is organizing Homelessness Action Week events in New Westminster. The week focuses on increasing awareness and action around homelessness, with events for people who are homeless and for the general public. “It’s a good opportunity to promote the issues and even some of the success stories,” said Coun. Jonathan Cote, who chairs the city’s community and social issues committee. “It is definitely still a serious issue in Metro Vancouver. It’s an important week to raise awareness.” On Friday, Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church held a Homelessness Action Week prayer service, which featured music and readings on the crisis of homelessness. Other events planned for Homelessness Action Week include: ◗ Homeless Connect Day on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Holy Trinity Cathedral at 514 Carnarvon St. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Homeless individuals can connect one-on-
one with free goods and services including housing, dental services, mental health and substance abuse support, legal counselling, eye examinations and eyewear, and assistance to acquire identification, employment counselling, job placement and foot care. ◗ Open Mike for Social Justice is being hosted by Beacon Unitarian Church, in recognition of the final day of Homelessness Action Week. It holds Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. at Sapperton Pensioners Hall at 318 Keary St. “This year there are events for people who are homeless, including a record number of special Homeless Connect events happening throughout Metro Vancouver,” said Sue Noga, a community organizer for the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, which sponsors the Lower Mainland events. More information about Homelessness Action Week is available online at www. stophomelessness.ca.
Numbers: Fewer homeless people being seen on New Westminster’s streets ◗ continued from page 1
but they may be located in more concealed areas. Stark said it wasn’t unusual to find 10 to 15 people sleeping near Front Street two years ago, but that’s no longer the case. The city still gets reports of homeless people sleeping in uptown locations and near Clarkson Street in the downtown. City officials have noticed a drop in people living on the street and are getting fewer calls from
businesses that are concerned about people sleeping in doorways or leaving behind debris or personal items. “We did have private security in the downtown,” Stark added. “We didn’t renew that.” Stark believes the decrease in homeless people on New Westminster streets is due to the actions taken since a homeless action plan was developed in 2006. He credits improved collaboration among social service agencies, more outreach, a
regional response to homelessness, support from B.C. Housing and increased housing resources in New Westminster as factors contributing to the local situation. In the past year, new transitional housing beds have opened at Maria Keary Cottages and the Russell Housing Centre. More beds will soon be opening at the Rhoda Kaellis Residence. “I think we are starting to see the benefits of having those beds,” Stark said. “With the Russell and
Maria Keary Cottages, we have that increased capacity.” Stark also credits local social service agencies for catching people at risk of homelessness before they are homeless or soon after becoming homeless. Coun. Jonathan Cote, chair of the city’s community and social issues committee, believes the decline in visible homelessness on city streets is directly related to the opening of the Russell Housing Centre and the Maria Keary Cottages.
“It really speaks to the Housing First,” he said about a model for dealing with homelessness. “You deal with housing first, and then you can deal with the other issues that go along with homelessness.” According to Stark, the next homeless count is slated to take place in 2011. “If the housing count was to happen today, I think the numbers would be lower,” he said. “I think there’s been a lot of progress made.”
Published on Oct 9, 2010