Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are marking Homeless Action Week with a number of events meant to raise awareness of homelessness and the challenges of finding secure, appropriate and affordable housing.
In the 2011 Homeless Count that took place across the region in March, 102 people were found in Maple Ridge without a roof over their heads, and 29 of those were youth.
Service providers in the community agree that there are many more in the community who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
For the past six years, Homelessness Action Week has been celebrated in conjunction with World Food Day, Oct. 16. this year
Events for the week are jointly planned by Golden Ears FEAST, various organizations and service providers in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie community network who come together to form the local Homelessness Action Week committee.
Golden Ears FEAST is an acronym for “Food Education & Action Strategy Table.”
The purpose of the partnership is to raise awareness about the lack of affordable housing and the challenges of growing homelessness in this community and across Canada.
“The joint focus on homelessness and hunger is natural: it’s hard to separate one from the other,” says Stephanie Ediger, one of the members of the Homelessness Action Week committee. “The Salvation Army’s Caring Place serves close to 9,000 meals a month. Because there is such a shortage of affordable housing in this community, many people cannot afford to pay for both food and housing, and, even when they remain housed, are forced to access food banks and meal programs. We need to find solutions.”
Homeless Action Week will be marked by a two events that organizers hope the entire community will support.
• Maple Ridge Has Talent is a fundraiser talent show that will take place on Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Salvation Army’s The Caring Place, located at the intersection of Lougheed Highway and the Haney Bypass. Admission is by donation. Proceeds will benefit the Caring Place meal program.
• The Caring Place will also host a health and wellness clinic, and will offer flu shots and other health care services on Wednesday, 5 p.m. onwards.
• The Caring Place hosts a spa day on Friday. A bus provided by the District of Maple Ridge will bring participants from the spa day to a community lunch at The ACT.
• The community is also invited to participate in the community lunch on Oct. 14 at the ACT Theatre, 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
In its ninth year, this event, co-sponsored by Golden Ears FEAST, serves a nutritious chilli made with ingredients donated by more than two dozen community organizations.
The purpose of the event is to bring people together to demonstrate support for a community that includes those who are impacted by the challenges of finding housing, and works collaboratively to find solutions to homelessness.
For those attending, a donation to the food bank is welcomed, but not required.
• If you would like to volunteer or donate to Homeless Action Week events, call Erin at 604-463-8296.
No place to call home
In Maple Ridge, 102 were counted in the 2011 Homeless count. 29 of these were youth. There are many who are homeless and at risk of homelessness who were not counted. You do not have to be sleeping on the streets or in a shelter to be considered homeless.
You might be homeless if you are:
• temporarily staying with friends Living in very overcrowded conditions;
• at risk of violence or abuse in your home;
• living in poor conditions that affect your health;
• living somewhere that you have no legal right to stay in, like a squat;
• living somewhere you can’t afford to pay for without depriving yourself of basic essentials, such as food;
• forced to live apart from your family, or someone you would normally live with because your accommodation isn’t suitable.
It takes three things to end homelessness:
• an adequate income;
• affordable housings;
• support services for those who need them.