Close to a hundred people stood in the rain in a parking lot Friday morning in front of Sources Newton Resource Centre in Surrey. Hoodies, rain jackets, umbrellas and tarps kept people dry as they waited for the 9th Annual Homelessness Awareness March to begin.
Marchers wore colourful signs on their fronts and backs, with boldly lettered statements like “Poverty Is The Worst Form Of Punishment,” “Everyone Deserves A Home” and “A Bench Is Not A Bed.”
Sources outreach worker Susan Sellick helps “hard to house” people find stabilizing housing. “The long term stabilization and reintegration into the community is a key step and a key piece of keeping people from homelessness,” she said. “And it’s more than a joy to see people come back with a successful story. It’s better than a paycheck.”
Before the 30-minute trek began, attendees listened to stories from people who have received help from Sources’ programs and successfully transitioned from homeless to housed.
Debbie Abdul-Ghani and her husband Adam were the first to speak. Debbie wore a colourfully striped head scarf and bright smile as she took to the podium. The couple first met Susan in 2009 when they were in a recovery house.
“We had no place to go, we were living cheque by cheque,” Debbie said. “Susan helped us out a lot. She put us in contact with the people we needed to at the time, and now that I’ve come full circle, I’m here to help the people who don’t know how, to ask for help. That’s why I’m standing here today. For all those people out there who don’t have a voice, I can stand here and say, I know where, I can help you!”
“We were homeless many times,” Adam added. “From my experience, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who you are.” He paused as tears began building up in his eyes. “It doesn’t matter who you are! We’re Canadian. We’re proud. We fall, we stand up. We’re gonna make it!”
Albert Van Den Brink, another graduate of Sources, also shared his success story. Over the last 13 years, he suffered health complications, family conflicts and addictions. He said it took three years to “climb out of the abyss.”
“It’s extremely important to note that without the continued selfless acts of kindness demonstrated on a daily basis by the staff of these organizations, I would not be in a position to speak to you today as a graduate of their efforts.”
“Most people in Surrey are in fact unaware of the high level of homelessness right here in our own community,” said Sources CEO David Young. “I think that what’s important for everybody who lives in our community and throughout Canada is that they have a place where they can go home, feel comfortable, feel safe, feel secure, and have the opportunity to live their life to its fullest. That’s what we all want and that’s part of what this march is about today.
“You may ask yourselves how many marches you have attended and how many more you will need to attend, but we will continue to do this to try to raise awareness within the community and try to encourage those who have funds and resources available to support people who are looking for a place they can call home.”
THANK YOU to EVENT SPONSORS Envision Financial, The Tent Guys and Bear Creek Market.