timberland socks Homeless count finds more camps than people
AIDS Society outreach worker Ken Salter circled a 10 block area of the North Shore just off the Tranquille business district on a map on the agency’s kitchen wall.
Then he finds a corresponding map on the table in front of him that offers a magnified view of the blocks in question.
“That’s where we found the guy cooking the Canada goose over the fire last year,” he said as he handed the photocopy over to four volunteers ready to head out and count homeless people.
He checks that the foursome have everything they need: a few backpacks to hand out, a clipboard, pen, survey sheets, volunteer badges.
Off they went; another group of counters eager to hit the streets.
Eager they were on Friday morning. The annual homeless count usually nets about 80 volunteers to comb the streets, alleys, river shores and green spaces for people in need of permanent shelter.
This year, 120 showed up to help out, including students from Brocklehurst and Sahali secondary schools.
A trio of Thompson Rivers University human service students were assigned one of the stretches that’s all but guaranteed to turn up some homeless people: the south riverbank between the Overlander and Yellowhead bridges.
Sandra Desireau, Rhoda Tom and Wendy Chernivchan grabbed their counting gear and headed out.
Chernivchan, who helped out at the old New Life Mission when it was still in its ramshackle location on Johnson Lane, said the count is important.
Not only does it give the agencies that help the homeless some statistics to use for funding, it raises awareness about the problem in the community.
She still thinks back to her time at the mission with fondness.
“I had so many opportunities to share dinner and stories,
” she said as she walked through a cluster of willows between Riverside Park and the Overlander Bridge.
The three see signs people have been living in the area; a dirty baseball hat here, a couple of empty beer cans there, an old soggy blanket in the watery trail of a culvert.
Tom calls out, “We have a tent.”
Sure enough. A brownish pink domed structure can be seen among a patch of willows. The women move closer and call out.
“Is there anyone here?”
After a quick glance around, they move on.
“He has a book, two pairs of shoes,” Desireau observed.
The further west they travel, the denser the brush becomes. Two women heading east down the ramp to the bridge see them below and call out.
“Are you doing the count?”
She’s told yes.
She tells them she can see right down into the bushes that they’re having trouble getting to and there’s nothing there.
“Thank you for doing that. Good for you,” she says, congratulating them for their involvement in the count.
Further on, there’s another empty camp. A few crumpled, wet hoodies, a pair of flip flops, a garbage bag.