They spent 24 hours living without housing — and raised $16,000 for the Salvation Army in the process.
The nine participants in the charity’s 24 Hours Homeless event started their experience yesterday at 6 p.m., and in just one day they say they’ve learned plenty.
They learned homeless people in Abbotsford face complex, systemic issues that aren’t easy to solve.
“Everything is interconnected. If you don’t have one piece, everything is stalled,” said Bev Hasenpflug, who works for Quantum Properties. Her “case plan,” for the day asked her to sign up for housing assistance and temporary work — but with her ID left behind, she realized both were near-impossible.
“There’s nowhere to go for five or six weeks. You’re stuck.”
Participants spent last night staying in a re-purposed activity room at the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope on Gladys Avenue, separate from the centre’s regular intake.
Karina Urbanoski, who signed up through her church, recognized how things would’ve been different if she had needed a regular shelter bed.
“I was buffered. But if I was totally alone, I’d be scared,” she said. “It’s been an emotionally edgy day.”
The tension between everyday life and the on-the-margins roles they were asked to play was palpable for others, too.
Tina Stewart, the executive director of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, said she wasn’t always treated nicely when she sought out services — until others realized she didn’t actually need them.
“That was a bit of the real, authentic experience” she said.
Another participant saw an old friend who had fallen on hard times using the Salvation Army’s services. He’d been a successful businessman when they knew each other a quarter-century ago, she noted, and it confirmed for her how these issues can affect a wide range of people.
Dave Schmirler, the Operations Deputy Chief Constable for the Abbotsford Police Department, was allowed to keep his phone with him for the sole purpose of live-tweeting. Here’s the event chronicled on Twitter:
Nobody completed a full case plan, which is exactly what Nate McCready, the Abbotsford Salvation Army community ministries director, expected. He’d wanted to show the participants just how difficult it can be to find work, assistance and resources without shelter.
The participants walked away with more understanding, which he saw as a success.
“We had a really good response from the participants and the clients,” he said.
The $16,000 fundraising total for the Salvation Army was collected through individual pledges for each participant. “As a first time initiative, the fundraising was great,” McCready continued.
The event was put on as part of Homelessness Action Week, a campaign with the goal of solving homelessness throughout the province. McCready hopes to make it an annual fundraiser and share it with other Salvation Army chapters.
A full list of this year’s participants:
Dave Schmirler, Abbotsford Police Deputy Chief
Mark Warkentin, a board member with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce
Marion Keys of the Abbotsford Hospice Society
Bev Hasenpflug of Quantum Properties
Tina Stewart of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association
Kal Sidhu of FirstPage Marketing
Mike Welte of Farm Credit Canada
Donations are still being accepted. For more information, view visit blackpress4good.com or call 604-852-9305.