As the City of Vancouver labours towards ending street homelessness by its self-imposed deadline in 2015, Homelessness Action Week is back to raise awareness of the issue.
From October 13 to 19, Vancouver is joining other municipalities across the region to mark the week in an effort to help the homeless, those at risk of losing their homes and investigate solutions to the issue.
Celine Maboules says interest and participation in the week has grown over the last eight years.
“It is important because it is an opportunity to provide direct services to the homeless and those at risk of homelessness,” says the City of Vancouver’s housing policy representative. “It is also an opportunity to meet and network with the many organizations and service providers doing this work year-round.”
Vancouver city council approved more than $35,000 in grants for city- based community groups that wanted to host an event or do a project “with the spirit” of the week, according to Mauboules.
“Participation in [Homelessness Action Week] has grown significantly over the last eight years,” she adds. “It’s an opportunity for dialogue and understanding about the causes and solutions to homelessness. Homelessness is tragic for the individual, and also for our communities. Understanding and having a dialogue about the causes and solutions is an important first step in addressing the issue.”
Maboules says what both surprises and inspires her are the number of volunteers, organizations and service providers working within the city that help make the week a success.
“The logistics of organizing a number of events can be challenging,” she adds. “And getting out to see and participate in the significant number of events happening at the neighbourhood level.”
Vancouver is organizing several events, including a Homeless Connect event in partnership with Vancouver Community College on October 18 from 11am to 3pm at the college’s downtown campus. It’s a one-stop health and service fair, which will feature 50 different service providers and community agencies to help with outreach, advocacy, housing, physical and mental health care, income assistance and more.
The event will also have on-site free services such as haircuts, food, foot care, bike repairs and things for pets.
The city is partnering with the college and Streetohome Foundation for another event, Out of the Rain: A Week- Long Art Exhibit. Art works and painted umbrellas created and donated by local artists will be displayed, along with works done by homeless, at-risk and recently housed artists.
The week-long exhibition also provides a venue for dialogue about homelessness, health and housing in Vancouver. The art will get auctioned off and proceeds will support both the artists and Streetohome.
Homelessness Action Week is a regional campaign coordinated through Metro Vancouver’s Homelessness Secretariat. A number of events are happening locally and across the region with the aim of engaging homeless and those at risk of it. Other events can be found at Vancouver.ca/homelessness-action-week. For more information, visit StopHomelessness.ca.