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HOMELESSNESS: Making connections & helping

Local businesses, government agencies, church groups and volunteers are coming together next Tuesday to provide support and services to people who are homeless or living on the margins.

Local businesses, government agencies, church groups and volunteers are coming together next Tuesday to provide support and services to people who are homeless or living on the margins.

With winter on the way, the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group and its partners are organizing the Oct. 18 event to connect people with services such as health care and counselling as well as to give them hair cuts, food, winter clothes, bike repairs and other necessities.

"If we are going to hold it once a year, this is the time to do it," said the chair of the task group, Sandy Burpee, who expects about 75 people to turn out to Tri-Cities Connect Day at Grace Church in Port Coquitlam. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and follows Homelessness Action Week Oct. 10 to 16.

This is the third year the group has organized the event and Burpee said this is the largest so far, with several agencies reaching out to help people struggling with issues such as poverty, homelessness, mental health and other issues.

Among the service providers that will be on hand that day will be Fraser Health, which will provide vaccines; Tri-Cities Mental Health, which will provide counselling services; and the Ministry of Social Development, which will help people with income assistance problems.

Douglas College will also be on hand to provide eye health exams and glasses to those who need them; Dr. Helen Chang will provide foot care; and Norco will provide bike repairs. Local schools are also involved, with students from Our Lady of Assumption elementary serving lunch and those from Dr. Charles Best secondary assisting as greeters and escorts.

The local Soroptimist group will do make-overs for women and Share Family and Community Services will have a legal advocate on hand. Food hampers will be provided by Grace Church while Telus will give out hygiene kits, counselling will be provided by Tri-City Transitions and Coquitlam Public Library will offer library services. Many other local businesses are also helping out, including ABC Printing, Sandpiper Signs and Decals, Speedpro Imaging, Starbucks, Universal Flagging, Save-On Foods, Safeway, Marble Slab Creamery, Vancity Savings, Underground Hair Salon and Canadian Tire.

Connect Day will augment the work of local churches, outreach workers, community volunteers and the mat program to create pathways out of homelessness, Burpee said, and experience has shown participants appreciate the services.

While homeless numbers are down in the Tri-Cities, food bank use has risen since the economy stalled, Burpee said, and there are still many people living on the margins who need help connecting up with services.

"They're still on the street, they're still around, they still need our support, our understanding and compassion."

To let people know about Connect Day, outreach workers, the RCMP and food bank volunteers will be handing out business card-sized invitations.


A guide to help homeless people find food, clothes, shelter, government services and jobs is making it easier to connect people with resources in the Tri-Cities, says the chair of the Society for Community Development.

Cathy Burpee said her group produced the Tri-Cities Street Survival Guide to answer questions for people who fall on hard times and those who want to help them.

"It's more for people who deal with homeless people," Burpee said, noting it's a handy guide for people who have friends or relatives facing difficulties, too.

The two-page document lists resources ranging from community policing offices to government agencies, from outreach services to clothing and food banks. The latest edition is being produced in time for Homelessness Action Week this week.

Those interested in obtaining a Tri-Cities Street Survival Guide can get one at local libraries or download and print a copy at Local police also have them in their duty bags and hand them out as necessary, Burpee said.

A street survival guide for families is now being developed and should be available by next spring.

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