Mike Hodgeson

Mike Hodgeson

Salvation Army ‘24 Hours Homeless’ event raises funds, awareness

Nine locals get to experience challenges of living without housing

This evening, nine people in Abbotsford left their homes and checked in to the Salvation Army for the night.

They’re getting a taste of the challenges faced by homeless people every day, as part of the charity’s “24 Hours Homeless” awareness fundraiser.

Participants came to the Centre of Hope on Gladys Avenue without money, cars or cell phones, and intake workers checked through their belongings and did an extensive interview before showing them to their beds.

“It felt a little bit intrusive,” said Tina Stewart, the executive director of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, who joined the event to better empathize with some of her friends and family who have experienced homelessness. “You lose a little bit of your privacy.”

Dave Schmirler, the Operations Deputy Chief Constable for the Abbotsford Police Department, was allowed to keep his phone on one condition he’ll only be using it to live-tweet the experience, using the hashtag #homelessAPDcop. But leaving behind his keys, cash and wallet still left his pockets feeling empty.

“I started to feel a little bit vulnerable,” he said.

While participants are housed in a separate room from the Salvation Army’s regular intake, they’ll be asked to face some of the same challenges. Tomorrow, they’ll try to complete six tasks from a case plan, like applying for housing assistance or temporary work.

Nate McCready, the Abbotsford Salvation Army community ministries director, said it’s unlikely anyone will be able to complete their entire plan.

Some will go to Abbotsford Community Services or Labour Ready to submit applications, processes which take hours. Without their own phones, they’ll have to queue up to use the Salvation Army’s line to call service agencies. McCready hopes this will help participants understand just how many hurdles many face when trying to get back on their feet.

“It’s not just as simple as going out and getting housing,” he said steps like finding addiction treatment, social assistance, income and affordable housing are stressful, time-consuming bureaucratic challenges.

Tomorrow evening, they’ll meet again at the Centre of Hope to de-brief and discuss what they’ve learned.

This event, the first of its kind in Abbotsford, was put on as part of Homelessness Action Week, a province-wide campaign with the goal of solving homelessness all over B.C..

Each participant is collecting funds for the Salvation Army through a pledge drive, with the goal of together raising $30,000. Donations are still being accepted. For more information, view our previous story, visit blackpress4good.com or call 604-852-9305.