Where The River Runs

 

I have been reflecting about home a lot lately, and what that concept means. Despite living in the lower mainland my entire life, I’ve never felt a deep connection to any place of residence. My comprehension of home is much more abstract. My home is my mum; she is the durable foundation of my being, her support creates the beams that hold me up, and her praise allows me to always feel valued. But if I was to think of a more concrete setting, the space that I have built a meaningful friendship with is the New Westminster Quayside neighbourhood. When I was a kid, my mum would take my little brother Andrew and I to the Quay Public Market (now known as the River Market at Westminster Quay) several weekends a month. The moment our car crossed the Pattullo Bridge over the Fraser River, I would shake with excitement.

These visits were more frequent during the summer when warm weather typically equals consistent ice cream treats. Andrew and I would press our faces against the glass and try to decide what flavour to get; it was always mint chocolate chip or blue bubble gumthe two flavours that generated the most prismatic mess. After ice cream, we got to play on the stationary tug boat. Our sticky fingers from residual ice cream blended with other children’s as we eagerly pressed the boat’s buttons together. Kids love pressing buttonstangible ones as well as their parents’.

Face painting was another activity that we were enamoured with. Bubbles the clown would be there on most Sundays with her collection of pigments, ready to take requests. My cheeks either became decorated with glittery rainbows or striped cats; a declaration of love to my tabby Lucky.

But the memory that is most clear to me is the trek to the “cool playground.” As an adult, that walk is approximately ten minutes from the market, but as a child, that walk feels like for-ev-er. On days that my grandma joined us on our riverside adventure, she would teach us the names of the ever-changing botanical arrangements that lined the boardwalk: rhododendron, fuchsia, chrysanthemum. My curious fingers always gently touched their petals, my way of saying hello. These greetings temporarily took our minds off of the time. After what felt like hours, the playground became visible to our impatient eyes and we ran. We were in a rush to make friends and collect scrapes and bruises: a sign of a successful summer. We’d play hot lava and sincerely believed the ground was viscous and would melt our light-up sneakers. This firm belief allowed us to jump far, swing long distances, and shriek; imagination is a powerful tool.

I am now in my late twenties. I walk riverside every weekend on my way to work. The walk is made exciting once again as I reflect on my childhood memories. Each time a community member waves, smiles, or nods hello, I momentarily pause my nostalgic thoughts. I like to start my stroll from Pier Park where I stop to sit on a hammock and watch the mighty Fraser move. As I grow older, I am critical of selfishness. The Fraser watched me grow up, but it was, and is, a sustainable friend to many before me and will be, after me. I think about its tributaries and the Indigenous communities it has traveled through since time immemorial: the Coast Salish, the Nlaka’pamux, the Tsilhqot’in peoples and so many more. The river communicates through movement.

How can I practice reciprocity to this prosperous body of water? I reflect on author/poet/activist Rita Wong’s relationship and camaraderie to water, her poetry, and her collaborative paper with Dorothy Christian’s untapping watershed mind: which encourages folks to embrace the intrinsic value of water instead of practising commodification. I can begin by offering my stories and express gratitude. I stand by the river and introduce myself: who I am, where I am from, and what I want to be. I promise the river that I will always acknowledge the land and do my best to take only what I need. Land extends to the plants, trees, animals, water, the wind, the sun. This land has allowed me to collect countless memories that I so deeply cherish. My mum will always be my home, but Quayside and the river will always be where my memory resides with countless other stories.

 

When We Go For A Walk

 

 

Photos Courtesy of the City of New Westminster

With the weather we’ve had this winter, writing an article about the benefits of walking in New Westminster feels a little awkward! However, it is the New Year, a time full of opportunities as well as challenges, and prioritizing walking is a big theme for the City of New Westminster in 2017. So, off we go!

The simple act of walking somewhere together brings so many benefits to the family. It’s a chance to get some fresh air and clear everyone’s head; a bit of exercise to boost everyone’s energy (without sugar or caffeine!); opportunities to make choices and share tasks (such as choosing which way to go and carrying groceries); the chance to make new discoveries about your neighbourhood; the chance to actually talk (always easier when there are no screens ); and, the opportunity to teach or learn new skills, such as road safety. And these are just some of the benefits.

Walking is what your four-legged family members also enjoy most, which makes it an ideal multi-tasking activity that packs a great dose of daily learning and enrichment for everyone involved. It’s also free, which makes it one of the most family-friendly activities there is.

In New Westminster, we are lucky to have a highly walkable city. Walk Score (www.walkscore.com) is a data-driven program that analyzes “walkability” information for destinations such as grocery stores, parks, schools, and cultural and entertainment destinations. Analysis of this data produces a Walk Score between 0 and 100. New Westminster has an average Walk Score of 70, which means that most errands can be accomplished on foot, and we also have good public transportation.

Walking is free, family-friendly, fun, and challenging all at once. It is also fairly easy to build into our busy lives, because the city is quite compact. Walking can take many forms in New Westminster; walking to school, walking to local grocery stores, walking to the park, or just walking around the block in your neighbourhood after dinner. The city has lovely destinations to walk to (think the Quay and River Market, Sapperton Landing, or Port Royal’s Riverfront Walk) and it can be easily combined with other ways of travelling, such as taking transit or driving, but parking further away from your destination.

We lament the transportation situation and threats to the liveability of our community, complaining of noise and air pollution, traffic gridlock, and transportation inconvenience such as a lack of parking, and rightly so. The stress and strain of getting around can be bad in New Westminster, and indeed in the Lower Mainland as a whole. But how about cutting one car trip a week and walk together instead? You could also just shorten a car trip and walk the rest of the way. “Weird!” you may say, but this is mindful walking and it is good for you, for your family, and whole community.

It is ironic that we are so excited when our child learns to walk, but we very often spend the next 18 years driving them everywhere; to the shops, to school, to appointments, and activities. Children sit passively in the car as we drive to all our own obligations as well. How can traffic gridlock, stress, and pollution be a fair trade-off against family health and wellbeing and setting both you and your kids up for a successful day? What defines “quality time” in your family? You have to concentrate on the road when you are driving, so you cannot focus on your kids. But when you and your family are walking, you can all take in the sights and sounds along the way, notice other people and connect a bit with the greenery (or the snowy vistas) around you.

There is already lots of walking going on in New Westminster. About 17% of commuting trips (to work or school) are on foot, as opposed to 14% in Metro Vancouver overall. Likewise, 25% of errands are completed by walking or cycling here, as opposed to 20% in Metro Vancouver overall. (*Source: New Westminster Community Health Profile, my Health my Community survey, by Fraser Health Authority/Vancouver Coastal Health/University of British Columbia, 2014). And yet we can walk more.

You may say that it is impossible for you to walk more because you are too busy or it is too inconvenient. However, if you want to get a little closer to that wonderful goal of being a healthy, happy, grounded, and connected family, you should look to increasing the walking you do in your community. With a long list of health and wellness benefits such as increased fitness and flexibility, stress reduction, and feeling more connected to the people and place where you live; simple walking should not and cannot be ignored as a worthwhile activity to build into your family’s daily routine. There is coverage everywhere of how our sedentary lifestyles are making us sick and weak. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity are inactivity-related, as much as they are related to an unhealthy diet and other factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, stress and genetics. Today’s car-centric patterns and behaviours can and should be challenged at every level for the good of us all. What do we need to be able to walk around more? Is it more flexible work hours, some infrastructure improvements, a good shopping trolley, a helpful map, or just a genuine intention? Find out by walking somewhere with your family and get involved in the walking conversation that is starting in New Westminster at  www.walkerscaucus.ca.

New Westminster could become the walking capital of the Lower Mainland if we fully engage with being pedestrians here. Putting pedestrians first makes roads safer, public spaces more numerous, and promotes public transport for everyone’s benefit, young or old. This is exactly what the City of New Westminster is focusing on through our Master Transportation Plan and Official Community Plan during 2017 and beyond (www.newwestcity.ca/transportation).

So what is the City doing to make the city more walkable? Last year, we worked on improving routes to school and made several intersection and pedestrian crossing improvements. In 2017, curb extensions/letdowns, sidewalks, and spot improvements to improve walking connectivity are just some of the projects planned. Alongside Fraser Health, the School District, and the community, we want to raise walking awareness and engagement in our city, starting in February with a Walking Mythbusters series, followed by an eight-week Walking Challenge in the spring, that we hope everyone will take part in.

It takes courage to commit to a set of values and actually live by them, to “be the change you want to see in the world,” as Gandhi said. But as individuals, parents, and caregivers, isn’t it time to start doing things a little more mindfully, for the benefit of ourselves, our kids, and our future? There’s a simple way to make the first step towards changing our world for the better: discover walking in New Westminster this year.

 

The Great New West Fitness Quest – Part 1

Are you making new year’s resolutions that involve fitness? Here’s the perfect series for you. Two women, one epic search for the perfect fitness regime. Will they meet their match? Or will they be left watching infomercials about fitness equipment, dreaming of fitter days?

The Heroines:

Laura Sunnus has lived in New Westminster for 3+ years and is looking for her fitness soul mate. Previously an avid soccer player, Laura is looking for a fitness routine and facility that will keep her entertained while keeping her fit enough to chase after her German Shepard-mix, Goose.

Nadine Nakagawa dreams of one day being a ballerina. But in the meantime, she enjoys an intense workout or a leisurely stroll out of doors. She needs a fitness routine that can keep up with her busy schedule.

The Quest:

Our two heroines journey through the wilds of New Westminster and best a number of obstacles, including kettlebells, gold $ necklaces, and cycle straps. They then rank the obstacles on a number of factors: the exquisiteness of the facility, the muscle-building capacity, getting your sweat on, and becoming agile like a peacock.

The Obstacles: 

The new kid on the block: Viva Tu Vide Fitness

viva

http://www.vivetuvidafitness.com/
#202-627 Columbia Street
First timer cost – $5
Drop-in cost – $15
Have a variety of monthly and punch-pass options

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-23-55

Laura says—This class would be perfect for a “rest day.” It woke up my muscles without much strain. I will definitely be back for a drop-in class to try their disco light Zumba.

Nadine says—I like this yoga/dance studio and would definitely try other classes here. Prices are pretty good, it’s a beautiful heritage building, and the location is good. The class was relaxing and I enjoyed it.

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-01 Laura says—This class had my muscles working harder than the Glowdess class as we leaped and twirled across the studio floor. A great class for people looking for a low intensity workout.

Nadine says—My not-so-secret fantasy is that one day I’m going to be a ballerina. As a result, I enjoy ballet classes of all levels and feel like a graceful swan. This class was a bit too simple for my liking (hem, hem intermediate level over here) but would be great for a total beginner. There was some leaping and there were some sit-ups so a little bit of dance, a little bit of fitness.

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-09 Laura says—This class was so fun I didn’t realize how great of a workout I was getting! The instructor pumped the studio with Latin music that encouraged shoulder shimmies and hip thrusts. Add multicolour lights and you have a winning formula for a party-infused workout.

Nadine says—So…this was really fun! I thought the disco lights would bother me (sensitive to lights), but they really did make it more fun. Totally will do this again. We grooved hard.

The women’s boxing gym: 30 Minute Hit

gloves

https://www.30minutehit.com/locations/gym/new-westminster-kickboxing-boxing-fitness.html
425 E Columbia St
First timer: free!
Monthly and ongoing packages

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-18Laura says—This facility eliminates many of the barriers that might keep me from working out: workout anytime within their hours of operation, free parking in front of the gym, and the workout only lasts 30 minutes. I enjoyed the workout and found the trainer encouraging when my muscles felt weak. I wish they had a drop-in option as I’m not willing to invest the $65/month (plus $99 registration fee) for a month-to-month membership. Too bad, I could have been the next Ronda Rousey.

Nadine says—The noise level was a bit jarring in the morning, but I got used to it once I was giving the punching bags a hard time. I really dig that they have spaces for little ones while mom is working out. They are near transit and having free parking out front – a big plus in New West! The trainer was really encouraging and I felt energized after the workout.

The ratatouille option – a little bit of everything: Move Yoga Pilates Dance

movenewwest.com
237 Nelson’s Crescent
First-time 2 for $30
Monthly & punch passes available 

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-24 Laura says—Mariah. Mase. Missy. Need I say more? This class started as a dance-infused workout then turned into choreography that was hilariously attempted by yours truly. The instructor, Sergio, had a great personality that made you feel comfortable with the unfamiliar dance moves. I’ll definitely come back to this class, if only for the music.

50cNadine says—This is definitely outside of my wheelhouse. But since Laura wanted to pull out her 50¢ gold chain, we decided this would be on our list of classes to try. There’s a warm-up then we moved on to choreography. I had more fun than I expected. I definitely recommend stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes – I might even go back for more grooving to 90s tunes.

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-30 Laura says—I was wary about the pilates class as I previously found pilates boring but tough. This class completely changed my mind about the boring part…unfortunately (fortunately?) it is still tough. The instructor, Jenni, engaged with the class as if she was catching up with friends after spending some time apart. Although my muscles were burning, Jenni talked the class through the moves, including calling out the nasty looks that we inadvertently gave her while pulsing our legs an additional 20 times. Great workout in a comfortable environment.

Nadine says—I like pilates and I really like the owner/instructor Jenni. She makes the classes – even the painful ones when your abs are burning – really fun! This pilates class isn’t quite as intense as some I’ve taken in the past, but it’s definitely good for building some core strength. And I always feel taller after pilates.

 

Stay tuned as Nadine and Laura try on other activities and classes in New West! 

This is Your Time

it-is-your-time-39For years, I denied myself. I walked around wounded, feeling like a victim, not nourishing myself spiritually. Recently, this came crashing down on me as I realized I’m not getting younger and my life isn’t going to figure itself out, unless I help myself. Take responsibility. Claim my happiness. Claim my time. Celebrate my awesomeness.

I’ve always been a very creative person. From an early age, I crafted, took pictures, painted, drew, knitted, sang, and danced. You name it—pick any form of art and I was into it. Then something happened. The opinion of others sank deep into me, like an anchor. It remained lodged there. It told me I was mediocre, told me to study business, to work in government, and that art does not make money. It encouraged to “go with the flow” and be “normal,” just like everyone else. I died inside, in a way. I became a shadow of myself. I walked around knowing I could be so much more, yet I refused to allow myself  to open up and embrace the possibilities that lay before me.

One day, I visited the craft fair at River Market at Westminster Quay, and saw talented artisans and artists selling their goods. Some incredible, some ok, but most very doable. It suddenly struck me: I can create like this! Why am I not?

I realized it’s fear. Fear of being criticized. Fear of not being “good enough,” of not “making it,” of failing miserably. Yet here I stood, surrounded by simple beauty. I asked myself, “is it not time to step into the darkness, towards the unknown, the uncertain?” A long-silenced voice whispered, “perhaps it is…”

it-is-your-time-40I planned on starting small, but then I did a big thing—I applied for an arts job, just … because. I didn’t think I’d get it—-art school was 21 years ago. Fast forward, six months later and I’m now an art teacher. I create and things are flowing, I love who I am again and I’m filled with a constant stream of ideas. I’m starting to celebrate every little thing I create because—let’s face it—a few short months ago I did nothing. I am celebrating my own strength, the journey that led me to here, to the point where I am feel I can do it. It is my time. My light will no longer be dimmed. It is my time to celebrate all that is alive within me and let it shine.

Even when I was anchored down, I collected pretty things. I’m using them to create collages. Deep down, I must have known I would resurface. I started taking pictures again, I started crafting again.

I love living in New West. It’s so beautiful. A lot of my photography is local and the inspiration just keeps on coming, from the epiphany at the quay, to every market I attend, every Pinterest page I visit, every photo I take. So much of it comes from nature, and so much of it comes from within. I’m finally on the brink of something big. I’m finally celebrating what I’ve always been, but was too afraid to show—an authentic, creative me.

 

One in Five

1-in-5-19I am one in five. A statistic so familiar to me, it’s as if it has become part of my identity. Thanks to my seven years battling depression and an eating disorder, I became one of the thousands of Canadians who personally experience mental illness in their lifetime. One in five.

The ‘why’ behind my mental illness is fairly typical. Shifting from high school to university, low self-esteem, and a family history of mental illness was the perfect storm, allowing depression to rule my life. I’d miss classes, cancel plans with friends, and even forget to shower. I began to turn to food in order to self-soothe and numb my feelings. I went through the motions of life but never really lived.

It’s true what they say about depression feeling like a heavy fog. It weighs down on you until you feel as though you can no longer breathe. The eating disorder was just as bad. I would blindly eat until I felt sick, and then continue to eat some more. My days were a continuous cycle of sleeping and eating, eating and sleeping. It was an attempt to protect myself from pain, but ultimately it was just hurting me further.

The decision to heal was not easy, and I didn’t come to it quickly. Mental illness, no matter the specific diagnosis, has no logic. Wanting help didn’t mean I would get myself help. Getting help didn’t mean I’d put in the work required to heal. Finding help wasn’t easy.

1-in-5-20The stigma surrounding mental illness was the biggest obstacle I faced in overcoming my depression. This wasn’t because I was ashamed every time someone invalidated my lived experience by telling me to “just snap out of it.” It wasn’t even because I had been told I “simply lacked willpower” or needed to “just exercise more,” despite having completed a half-marathon while battling my disorder. The real problem was the lack of education, awareness, and social stigma, which made it so difficult for me to move forward.

I didn’t know where to get help, and I didn’t know what help to get. The idea of medication frightened me because of stigma. Counselling intimidated me because of stigma. Because of stigma, I thought those were my only options.

The reality is there are countless ways we all can care for our mental health—and there is no shame in doing so. One problem is not many people talk about how mindful methods can work in conjunction with supportive counselling and/or medication. We close off from discussing what supports the most important part of ourselves: our minds.

Ultimately, the first step I took was counselling, as terrifying as it was for me. But after two or three different counsellors, I knew it wasn’t enough. No matter how hard I seemed to try, I put up a wall the second I entered a counsellor’s office. To be completely honest, I never really knew what to talk about. I had numbed myself for so long, I had become completely disconnected from who I was.

1-in-5-21To truly make a difference in my mental health, I had to reconnect with myself. This realization was the turning point that completely changed my quality of life. I started to explore so-called alternative methods, from yoga to meditation to essential oils. I began to see life through a holistic wellness lens, and how I felt about my life finally began to change.

1-in-5-22In 2013, I was put on medication, with my doctor and I in agreement that I would maintain a low dose that simply worked to support my brain chemistry. I use medication as one part of my overall treatment to this day. But a very effective tool—one I couldn’t go without in caring for my mental health—surprised me in the end: acupuncture. I never saw that coming!

My battle with mental illness lasted for seven years–30% of my life. There are still days where I struggle with old emotions, but they are becoming few and far between. I wouldn’t change that period of my life for anything. I no longer allow my mental illness to define me, but I cannot deny how it influenced me, shaping me into who I am now. Because of my experiences, I began The Vibrant Lives Foundation, a non-profit that engages youth to end the stigma.

Because one in five will experience mental illness, but five in five have mental health.
1-in-5-23

 

Homelessness Here

Think about this: how would life change if you or your partner were injured or became ill and could no longer work? What would you do if the depression you were diagnosed with became unmanageable and you no longer had a doctor?  What would your life look like if you were a senior with no family and were experiencing dementia? Although the outcomes of such scenarios are unique to each of us, one thing is certain: aspects of our personal well-being will be challenged.

Our wellness encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Keeping well means looking after each of these at the same time. Sometimes, life throws curve balls that knock us off our feet and we find ourselves relying on other supports to help us through.

Not having resources to support our basic needs can lead to poverty and homelessness for short or a long periods of time. Declining or a sudden loss of wages, inefficient health care, increases in rent, and domestic violence are all contributing causes. Because of the  countless factors and scenarios that can lead to homelessness, it cannot be ‘fixed’ with one fell swoop.

So what is ‘homelessness’? The Canadian Homeless Research Network defines it as:

“[…] the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. It is the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination. Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, unpleasant, stressful and distressing.”

Between 2002 and 2008, the unsheltered homeless population increased by nearly 120% in New Westminster. (“Sheltered” homeless are considered people who sleep at emergency and temporary shelters, or are staying with friends: “couch-surfing”. “Unsheltered” refers to people who sleep on the streets.) Starting in 2005, the City undertook a number of actions, including developing a Needs Assessment and Strategy, establishing the New Westminster Homelessness Coalition Society (NWHCS), hiring a Social Planner and partnering with BC Housing to develop 28 emergency shelter beds and 84 longer-term transitional and supported housing units, that were eventually occupied in 2009/10. Based on the homeless count in 2014, it would appear that the efforts of the City, BC Housing, and the NWHCS is making a difference. Between 2008 and 2011, there was a 43% reduction in unsheltered homelessness and by 2014, a further reduction of 17%.

The NWHCS is a collaborative effort. It brings together representatives of service providers, community-based organizations, and residents who want to support initiatives to fight homelessness in this city. The Coalition has created subcommittees to oversee initiatives such as Homelessness Action Week (HAW) events, and a community street-cleaning social initiative called, I’s On the Street.

A case manager at Union Gospel Mission notes; “I think there are various distances from couch surfing to the street. I believe the term ‘homeless’ can be used in a literal way and there is also a more broad way of using the term that covers various aspects of the experience of being homeless. Not having a fixed address can be quite a headache day in and day out. In a scenario where an individual has work and is working full time, he/she needs to drag every piece of belonging he/she owns to the place of employment. That is obviously going to raise some questions with employers, but the difficult thing is that there are not a lot of storage resources in areas that have a higher population of people who are homeless. Then there are issues like mail, communication, and other logistics that most people take for granted. I have not even brought up the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of not having a home to return to each night.”

homeless-11“From different accounts,” the case manager continues, “I often hear there is the feeling of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and powerlessness. It is undoubtedly one of the most challenging and difficult experiences anyone can go through in their lifetime.”

The case manager stresses that each individual and situation is unique. Each person must have their needs assessed individually and with respect.

“We should take the time out to walk alongside each person and his or her situation.”

In addition to the emergency shelters (two for men and two for women and children), New Westminster’s service providers focus on a wide spectrum of needs. Carole Neilson, a Deacon at Holy Trinity Cathedral and coordinator for their weekly community breakfast club shares; “I am impressed with the many services and programs available to the homeless and at-risk persons in New Westminster. The city, the community, and churches are working together to assist those in need.” Just a few of these services include:

  • Fraser Mental Health offers counselling and addiction programs
  • Canadian Mental Health Association supports youth and adults experiencing mental illness with various levels of housing
  • Family Services of Greater Vancouver has a range of counselling services, and works closely with the New West Police Domestic Violence Response Team and offers programs for newcomers and their families
  • The Purpose Society‘s Stride with Purpose team cares for those living with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C (including youth) through outreach and case-management, health workshops, clinics, and distributing harm-reduction supplies
  • UGM New Westminster Resource Centre serves community meals, offers client services (including free hearing tests, haircuts, and income tax assistance), programs, and resources
  • Along with their shelter, the Salvation Army has programs for children, adults and seniors, and provides community meals and distributes produce
  • Quest Food Exchange makes it possible for people struggling to access healthy, quality food  
  • The Seniors Services Society focuses on programming and housing for seniors  
  • The Lookout Emergency Aid Society aims at providing emergency and transitional housing
  • FraserWorks BC prepares and connects people to employment
  • Elizabeth Fry works with women in the judicial system and their families
  • The Westcoast Genesis Society offers transitional housing and programs for adult male federal offenders on conditional release  
  • The Spirit of The Children Society serves the Aboriginal community

This is not a complete list! There is an excellent interactive map called the Community Service Asset Map developed by the City of New Westminster that provides a very comprehensive list of low-cost and free community services and supports: www.newwestassetmap.ca

In addition to these social services, churches have stepped up by tirelessly preparing community meals. Other low cost and free community meals are available, too. In addition to meals, there are a few places where people can access free groceries—the Food Bank that operates from Shiloh Church on Wednesdays is one of them.  Breakfast and lunch is available on various days. 

 

Day Breakfast Lunch
Sunday The Redeemed Christian Church of God (third Sunday only) Salvation Army Church
Wednesday Queens Avenue United
Thursday Holy Trinity Cathedral St. Barnabas Anglican Church
Saturday Salvation Army Church

Bill Wong, who has managed the UGM New Westminster Resource Centre for 18 years, says; “There are many good things all of us can do to help the homeless including the most obvious that is to give to proven charities that focus on helping the less fortunate. People can also give toward immediate relief resources such as food, clothing and hygiene products.”

homeless-10Neilson believes giving financial support to organizations that help those in need is crucial to every outreach program; “it is my hope that the citizens of New Westminster will support outreach services in this city by learning about them. In this way, both the volunteer pool and financial aid will increase.”

So how can we help? Organizations are always looking for volunteers. Perhaps you have specific skills you want to use. Are you a professional hairdresser, an accountant, an attorney, a cook, a driver, or a retired teacher? There is a strong likelihood that your expertise can be used to help others. Buy tickets to fundraisers that support these initiatives. Donate, if you can.

The one thing, however, that makes the greatest impact is giving those around us—the woman who walks up and down the street talking to herself and the man who pushes a cart full of empty bottles—their personhood. We dehumanize and marginalize these people by making them feel they are a burden. By seeing past a person’s exterior, we can help them reclaim something that was taken. We are all so much more than a label. Steve (not his real name), said to me recently; “I know I look shabby on the outside, but I wish people could just see through to my heart and realize I am a good person and I’m fighting every day to go forward. It feels good when people look me straight in the eyes and call me by my name. It might seem like a small thing but it’s everything.”

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Homelessness Action Week in New Westminster: October 10 – 14, 2016

Union Gospel Mission’s Community Thanksgiving Meal October 10th 12pm and 2pm at UGM New Westminster Resource Centre, 658 Clarkson Street

Connect Day at Holy Trinity Cathedral October 11th Free community breakfast, service providers “one stop shop”, and free clothing. Plus! A delicious meal prepared by the Sikh community. 541 Carnarvon St.

9th Annual Fundraiser Dinner and Silent Auction on October 13th Hosted by the NWHCS at the Columbia Theatre located at 530 Columbia St. Tickets: $75. For general enquiries and information about tickets, donating items for the silent auction, please contact Martha at 778-847-4468, admin@nwhomeless.ca