Carey Muir sat expectantly inside the McDonald’s on 70th Avenue and Scott Road. On his chest was a yellow button and in front of him a pile of forms.
A young man, grey peppering his dark hair, approached him.
The pair were waiting for the Metro Vancouver homeless count to start. Muir, Delta area coordinator Barbara Westlake’s right-hand volunteer, had participated in the previous count in 2014. The experience, he said, was eye opening.
“I kinda had an idea of the homelessness in Ladner and Tsawwassen. I had no clue about the homelessness in [North Delta],” he said. “A lot of the Ladner homeless I know by name, and I have known for 30 years.”
He met a lot of them after high school, getting to know them while hanging out in local pool halls.
“They weren’t homeless back then. But over the years—”
“So sorry,” Westlake interrupted, bustling into the McDonald’s, her curly red hair and purple jacket conspicuous at the long table. “Armando, nice to meet you—”
“Excuse me, I’m talking,” Muir said, laughing as Westlake busied herself with new volunteer Armando Geraldes.
“So yeah,” Muir continued, “it was just drugs and alcohol that ruined their lives. And it just spiralled out of control.”
Watching his friends become homeless gave him a feeling of helplessness.
“I mean, it’s their choices and I couldn’t do anything to stop it,” he said. “Just choices that they made, right or wrong. And it was sad.”
He’s maintained his friendships with South Delta’s homeless over the last three decades. He’s kept up a friendship with one woman in particular, who had a difficult time moving past her mother’s death.
“Some days I don’t go home until I find her. You know, just to say hi.”
Over the years, Muir’s seen the homeless population grow, in part because of Metro Vancouver’s skyrocketing rents. But sometimes it’s because of events outside the person’s control.
Muir knows that firsthand.
For 27 years, Muir worked repairing appliances. Then, he started having health problems.
“At one point I couldn’t work,” he said. “So before the finances ran out, I grabbed myself a motorhome and that is now home.”
That was three years ago, the same year Muir took part in his first homeless count.
Now, Muir’s job description is “anything I can,” and he still lives out of his motorhome. It’s shelter and a roof over his head, but according to the very survey he asked Delta’s homeless to fill out on March 7 and 8, he’s homeless.
But that hasn’t dampened Muir’s passion for helping people.
In the late 1990s, Muir was in South America, helping people in poverty. “My heart was really challenged,” he said. “It’s great that we’re doing stuff overseas, but who’s going to love and care for the people at home?”
When he got back, he started feeding the poor in Vancouver, bringing them clothing and toiletries with a group of people who were already working in the Downtown Eastside. In 2008, he started his own non-profit: Freshwave Ministries.
Every Monday night, on the corner of Davie and Richards Streets in downtown Vancouver, Muir hands out hot meals, groceries, clothing and toiletries. He’s kept that up even after becoming homeless himself.
“The people I serve downtown, I’ve gotten deep respect from them be- cause I live the homeless lifestyle, and yet I’m reaching out to the homeless people,” he said.
Of course, it’s not always easy. But his solution for dealing with the difficulties is simple.
“I pray lots,” he laughed.