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Homelessness Action Week march in Surrey

Sources hosted the 12th annual Homelessness Awareness March in Newton
Lookout Emergency Aid Society’s Sima, left, and Jay Blaschuk (a Sources Advocacy Housing First Worker) leading the March. (Submitted photo)

NEWTON — Sources Community Resource Centres hosted its 12th annual Homelessness Awareness March in Newton last Friday (Oct. 13).

An estimated 80 people participated in this year’s march, which kicked off at 10:30 a.m. out of the Sources Newton Resource Centre.

The marchers weaved through Newton streets for about an hour.

“Cars were honking and pedestrians voiced support as participants donned signs with eye-opening and thought-provoking messages,” organizers say.

“We have over 5,000 people requesting our services each year,” said Soraya VanBuskirk, Sources’ Housing and Prevention Programs Manager. “Of the 3,000 individuals that our staff manage directly, over 1,200 are provided with advocacy and housing services. Over the year, the homeless count showed a 49 per cent increase in homelessness in Surrey, and the challenges in finding low-income housing continue to grow.”

A total of 602 homeless people were counted in Surrey in the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count this year.

That’s a 49 per cent increase (199 more people) than were counted in 2014, the last time the count occurred.

See also: More than 100 seniors living on Surrey streets: homeless count

See also: New strategies aim to make Surrey homeless count more accurate

See more: Count finds 49 per cent more homeless people in Surrey

“But all of us together are working hard to get people off the streets - shelters, mats, anything. I’d like to give my appreciation to everybody that helps us with all the work we do.”

Billy Redford is a homeless peer worker with the Sources Housing First Program.

Once homeless and an addict, Redford told the crowd he went in and out of recovery homes. Until he connected with Sources.

He told the crowd what an impact the organization had on him.

“Eight-and-a-half years ago I made a mess of my life,” said Redford. “I fell through the cracks.

“I met Susan Sellick at a recovery house. After getting clean and sober for three months, we set up appointments. I had to set goals and I had to start believing in myself. Sources Advocacy helped me with finding housing. Once I got housing, it changed my whole outlook on life.”

Redford is now come full circle, and as a peer worker with the organization, helps others living the life he once did.

See also: HOMELESS COUNT: The toll of Surrey streets

The Sources’ homeless march was one of many events help across Metro Vancouver during Homelessness Action Week, from Oct. 8 to 14.

Through campaigns and rallies, the initiative seeks to bring public awareness and solutions to the widespread issue of homelessness.

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Sources’ 12th annual Homelessness Awareness March in Newton on Oct. 13. (Photo submitted)
Sources’ 12th annual Homelessness Awareness March in Newton on Oct. 13. (Photo submitted)