How to help:
It’s the giving season, and as we roll out our series on Abbotsford’s homeless population, many people may be wondering: How can I help?
This is part of our series Finding A Way Home – tales of love, connection and relationships on the streets.
As the world grapples with how to cut emissions in the face of dire warnings of climate change, some lessons could be learned from the local homeless community – some of Abbotsford’s greenest citizens.
“I don’t think it’s a question whether or not they’re Abbotsford’s greenest citizens,” says Pastor Jesse Wegenast, harm reduction co-ordinator with 5 and 2 Ministries.
“They use minimal fossil fuels. If they’re travelling through town, they’re always using public transit. They are some of the most aggressive recyclers, including recycling things that other people don’t, that other people have improperly discarded. … It’s also the re-use of things.”
For example, Wegenast says his daughter’s tricycle was salvaged from a dumpster and cleaned and serviced by someone who was homeless at the time.
“There are a couple rust spots and whatever else, but it’s a fantastic toy.”
Harvey Clause takes his bike and trolley everywhere he goes. It’s hard to estimate how far he goes each day, but the 58-year-old says it can be several kilometres.
“We’re the best at the recycling business,” adds Clause, who formerly got most of his income from binning – going through garbage bins for recycling or items to use or sell.
“One man’s junk is another man’s present. When somebody else says, ‘Why do you have that broken lighter and that and that?’ Because I can fix it, and if I’m in a dire need of a situation, where I might need a campfire going, I can get this working. And if I don’t have a working lighter, I can make it work. Those are survival skills.”
Gary Hull says he finds his money by similar means, but rather than cans and items in the bins, he has a spot where he knows recyclables and items end up, which is farther out of the community.
“I’m always looking for the money, looking for what I can exchange for money, maybe. But I’m always counting on that $10 to $20 – I want the $20 every day,” Hull says.
Through this kind of work, Clause says he’s found just about everything he has.
“Sometimes you find neat things, like my speakers and all the things I have. All that’s been found; that was not bought. Barely anything I have has been bought. All found. My backpack was found, the jackets I’m wearing, the hoodies. My leather jacket, I found brand new, literally. I find brand new things that are in boxes still in bins.”