Seven Missionites spent a day homeless to raise money for Mission Community Services Society (MCSS).
Ginny Potter, former librarian Elspeth Bowers, Mission DBA president Rocky Blondin, Anthem Properties Group’s Cathy Swaddling, Fraserview Learning Centre principal Tom Nguyen, Parkside Church pastor Clint Nelson and City of Mission councillor Ken Herar all volunteered to take part in the 24-hour event.
The fundraiser provided participants with an immersive experience that showcased the causes of homelessness and some of the challenges associated with it.
“They’ve learned some of the realities of being homeless, some of the realities of being in poverty,” MCSS executive director Nate McCready said of the participants.
The fundraiser yielded $15,000 to help keep MCSS’s new medical RV on the road. Each participant collected money for the fundraiser through a pledge drive and donations can still be made for four weeks.
The RV will be equipped with medical supplies and offer basic medical care/social support to the homeless, vulnerable seniors and new immigrants to Mission.
McCready says the educational portion of the fundraiser was as meaningful as the money. Participants had two hours of naloxone training, received tips on how to survive on the street and listened to stories from people with lived experience.
“The equally important part to me is people learning what it’s really like [and] just how difficult it is to not just live in homelessness, but to learn how hard it is to try and break the cycle,” McCready said.
Participants began their experience on Thursday evening (Aug. 17) and wrapped up on Friday (Aug. 18). Each person was provided with a case plan that featured various tasks to complete during the 24 hours.
They filled out paperwork to sign up for mental health and addictions programs with Fraser Health along with paperwork for the BC Housing registry.
The case plans included bottle depot trips, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, cashing a $10 cheque at a bank, going to BC Works and looking for work at HubCo.
Overnight, participants slept in the Extreme Weather Shelter in Mission. No beds were taken from the actual shelter, which McCready says is almost always full.
Participants were instructed not to bring a vehicle, money, cash card or cell phone and were subject to the same rules as any person staying at the shelter.
When participants returned, they debriefed at MCSS headquarters after a meal provided by Embers BBQ.
One participant described the experience as being sent from one line to a longer line, just to get rejected.
“That is the path that a lot of our people follow,” McCready said.
The bulk of participants failed to complete their case plans. Challenges included a lack of identification and for Bowers, bringing along her dog.
Each participant was asked how they would change things. Nelson didn’t know where to begin.
“Everything is so segmented with different levels of help,” Nelson said. “To be able to navigate it all and all the paperwork and all the appointments — it’s like why can’t there just be streamlined connectivity to it all?”
The group voiced how difficult it would be to face those challenges daily.
“We were pretending,” Bowers said. “It didn’t matter if we didn’t get our ID card and if you go without lunch, oh well.”
McCready says the ability to act quickly and provide help during moments of clarity for those who find it is crucial.
“When somebody is living with addiction or living homeless, there are moments — and they are truly moments — when they go, ‘Something’s wrong. I want to change my life.’ And we only have a moment to act fast,” he said.
He says governments do a lot to address the issues, but there is a need for more.
“It’s a difficult cycle all around. It’s just a difficult cycle for everybody. Whether you’re a not-for-profit, a government agency, or the person on the street, it’s a difficult system to navigate if you’re trying to break the cycle of homelessness,” he said.