Toronto-based Project Winter Survival is expanding their outreach for the first time with the help of its sponsor Hain-Celestial Canada, the leading natural and organic food company in North America and Europe, to homeless people in the Vancouver area with their essential winter survival kits.
Having assembled and distributed more than 18,000 kits to homeless throughout the Greater-Toronto Area in the last 14 years, Project Winter Survival will assemble 4,300 essential supplies into 145 knapsacks for the homeless in Greater-Vancouver area after a media conference hosted by Hain-Celetial Canada at its office in Delta, British Columbia. These knapsacks will be distributed to the homeless through The Salvation Army and two other agencies.
The essential supplies include items such as sleeping bags, winter hats, winter gloves, towel, tooth paste and tooth brush, bottled water, water bottle, playing cards, winter scarves, socks, food snack, body and hand lotion, shampoo and conditioner, insulated cap, etc.
According to stats from City of Vancouver, the total number of homeless in the 2012 is 1,602, compared to 1,715 in 2010. There are 1,296 sheltered homeless and 306 unsheltered living on the street.
Dr. Michael Krausz, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Professor of Psychiatry, UBC and UBC Providence Leadership Chair for Addiction Research, spoke to the Vancouver Council to outline the results of his survey on the health of the homeless in British Columbia.
Krausz found that 85 per cent of the province’s homeless reported moderate to severe emotional, physical or sexual abuse in their childhood. Ninety-three per cent have a current mental disorder and 83 per cent exhibited a substance abuse order, according to City of Vancouver.
“Our study shows that the majority of homeless people experience some kind of trauma during childhood. Given that, it is really important to start discussing earlier interventions to cope with mental health challenges,” said Krausz to the Vancouver Council. “We should try to prevent homelessness through better, earlier low-barrier access to quality mental health and addiction care.”
The City of Vancouver started annual counts of homelessness in 2010, where volunteers would visit shelters and locations in the community such as parks and drop-in centres and briefly interview homeless people regarding their age, background, general health and where they slept the previous night.
The 2012 homeless count report can be found at vancouver.ca. Krausz’s study, British Columbia Health of the Homeless Survey, can be found here: www.cheos.ubc.ca.
Vancouver Mayor Greg Robertson said that although there has been strong progress in the last four years to tackle homelessness and that low-barrier shelters have been incredibly effective, but much work remains to confront the challenge. He also called for “significantly more provincial support for stable low-barrier shelter beds and permanent supportive housing.”
In addition to the churches, Union Gospel Mission and The Salvation Army are two of the historical Christian ministries with services helping the homeless recover to a normal life. Although their services and programs have provided hope to countless number of homeless men and women, the problem remains.
On Jan. 21, the City of Vancouver released a data collected by Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, which shows that in after the Emergency Winter Response homeless shelters opened in December 2012, compared to November 2012, downtown-area open drug use dropped by 88% (from 33 to 4 recorded incidents); panhandling was reduced by 34% (from 467 to 309); trespassing cases dropped by 21% (207 to 163); and there were 49% fewer people observed sleeping on the street in the downtown core (276 to 163).
“The Emergency Winter Response shelters provide a safe place to sleep, warm meals, and access to crucial services for those who have nowhere else to go,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “These results make it clear that the two shelters on Seymour and Richards are in areas that need them, and demonstrate why we need more housing to meet our crucial goal of ending street homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.”
Earlier this month in Southern California, four homeless people were found died the next morning after the weather dropped to near freezing temperatures.
“During winter, although volunteers and faith communities and others that are interested in helping the homeless, but at the end of the day, nobody really has any beds to place them into.” Jim Palmer, president of the Orange County Rescue Mission (OCRM), told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
In the memorial service of Scott “Scooch” Miller, a Vietnam veteran and one of the four homeless who died, Max McGhee, ministry leader of Breakfast Together, a Christian ministry that serves the homeless in Orange County Southern California, implied that the resource most underused is the Christian community itself.
"If the Christian community was to really rally for the homeless population you would still have some people that would be stubborn and not get off the streets, but all those that really wanted to get off the streets would find the support they needed to get off the streets," he told The Christian Post.
According to The Christian Post, when asked what it might look like if Christians "really rally," McGhee said, "It looks like actually being friends. Christ said himself, 'I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).'
"Who are we to say that we are unwilling to call someone that's homeless a friend? That's really what's going to make a difference. If they really truly believe that you are their friend they will have much more incentive and a reason to live a productive life," he said.
To learn how to help by purchasing a survival kit, please visit Project Winter Survival's website.