The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries and RainCity Housing pooled their resources Wednesday to help the homeless.
For the first time, the Spa Day and Health Fair were held together during Homelessness Action Week. The spacious basement in Maple Ridge Baptist Church provided room for a chili lunch, sandwiches and coffee, along with tables to check in with public health nurses, get their hearing tested, or get a haircut or manicure.
“I like that it’s one-stop shopping,” said Becky Wells, who’s been volunteering at the Spa Day for the past four years.
Previously, the Salvation Army hosted the Spa Day inside its building on 222nd Street.
But having the event at a neutral location such as the church made it easier for more people to drop by. People from the community at large, the temporary homeless shelter and Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter all stopped in for one reason or another.
About 30 people got a free haircut, with former hair stylist Brenda Maylor cutting about half of those.
“Just treat them with the respect they deserve,” she said before starting her last hair cut of the day.
“Everybody feels better after a haircut.”
Her last customer had just washed his hair and was awaiting a haircut before the event wrapped up for the day.
Maylor used to own two hair salons in Maple Ridge and also used to teach hair cutting.
Now, because of muscular sclerosis, she volunteers her services at the Salvation Army, where she also helps in the kitchen, with the Christmas Kettles and in the food van.
The Salvation Army helped her mom five years ago, advocating for her to government departments to ensure she spent her last year living in a nice place.
“They provide services that people don’t even know about. I do it for them, because they do good things.”
For Joe and his girlfriend, the Spa Day and Health Fair was a place to have lunch.
They are now camping somewhere between Maple Ridge and Mission and make daily trips along the Lougheed Highway into Maple Ridge, with refunding empty bottles as one of their regular errands.
“We chose to give that apartment hunting a break,” said Joe.
The couple got tired of dealing with landlords and basements suites in Surrey, so they have spent the past six months in a tent along the Fraser River.
“We’d rather live in the bush. It’s prettier,” said Joe.
They may have a place to go next month, but Joe’s not sure.
His girlfriend is worried about the approaching winter and said what would help the homeless is a severe-weather refuge for people to go to during major storms.
Cycling along the highway isn’t easier for either of them because both are laden down with shopping bags on both sides of their handle bars.
Joe said that he doesn’t stay at the Salvation Army shelter, but noted it no longer provides showers or laundry to non-residents. Instead, people are directed to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre for showers.
Mark MacLeod, from Grande Prairie, Alta., has also been camping along the Fraser River for the last three months after staying at the Salvation Army. Last week, he got back into one of the shelter beds at the Salvation Army.
MacLeod said he came to Maple Ridge in April to see his mom, but now he can’t afford to get back to Alberta. He receives $235 a month on disability here compared to $1,588 he was receiving in Grande Prairie. And income assistance will no longer provide bus tickets to out-of-town destinations. It’s becoming more difficult for him to leave.
He said he’s been camping, “all over the place, mostly down by the river.”
One complication is losing all his identification at some point.
MacLeod said having storage lockers so homeless people can safely keep their belongings would help a lot, instead of having to lug them around everywhere.
Food hampers for the homeless would help, as well.
He can’t get a food hamper because he has no fixed address.
“I don’t care if you’re homeless or not, you still have to eat.”