Have you ever slept out on the street? For many, spending the night in cold alleys, doorways, and parks is a daily reality. With no home to call their own, others sleep in their cars, on the couch of their friends, and in crowded shelters. Homelessness is a pressing issue in Metro Vancouver. Poverty and lack of affordable housing are two of the reasons often cited for this growing problem.
In solidarity with homeless people, the St. Mary’s Parish in Vancouver organized a sleep out on March 6.
Photo: Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, and Rev. Jijimon Symon Vellakkada, HGN, of the St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver joined volunteers in a sleep out at the St. Mary’s Parish church parking lot in solidarity with homeless people.
According to Mildred Moy, coordinator of the parish’s street ministry, the event also raised funds to help the homeless. Almost 40 people slept at the church parking lot, including Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.
Archbishop Miller is the chief shepherd of the VancouverArchdiocese, which covers the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley. There are 450,000 Catholics in the archdiocese. Archbishop Miller celebrated mass in the evening of March 6 before the sleep out. Rev. Jijimon Symon Vellakkada, HGN, of the St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver also joined the activity.
Participants shared breakfast at the St. Mary’s Parish church basement on March 7.
It is not easy to provide an accurate number on the number of homeless people in Metro Vancouver. Counts are helpful but are likely to provide an underestimation. The annual count by the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness provides a measure on the extent of homesslessness in the region. According to the committee’s criteria, a person is considered homeless if they did not have a place of their own where they could expect to stay for more than 30 days and if they did not pay rent.
Based on the committee’s count conducted on evening of March 11 and the day of March 12, 2014, a total of 2,777 homeless people were found in the Metro Vancouver region. They included 2,689 adults and unaccompanied youth (under the age of 25). There were also 88 children (under the age of 19) who were accompanied by a parent during the count.
In its report, the committee noted that the number of homeless people identified in homeless counts in the region has remained fairly stable since 2008. The number increased by four percent between 2008 and 2014.
Survey participants were asked what is keeping them from finding a place of their own. Low income (47 percent) and high rents (42 percent) were reported as the main barriers. Respondents also identified having no income (21 percent) as one of the barriers. Addiction (27 percent) was also reported as a challenge.
At the St. Mary’s Parish sleep out, members of the local council of the Knights of Columbus took care of security. They also helped out in food preparation. Led by Bob Mayor mita, the team of the Knights of Columbus Council 13072 was composed of Grand Knight Lebie Curate, Reymond Bangayan, Jorge Berumen, Rey Mallare, Felipe Bautista, Paul Tan, Les Ocol, Chris Dayao, Jeylord Bia, Clifford Baysa, Joseph Perrault, and Manny Mendoza.