Homelessness Action Week
By Andrea Arscott, Senior Columnist
According to the Canadian AIDS Society, people living on the street or who have unstable housing “have been associated with higher rates of HIV.” People are more likely to start using harder drugs if they’re homeless and are more likely to share paraphernalia if they’re addicted to drugs. Sharing needles is one of the more common ways HIV and hepatitis C are transmitted, but HIV can also be passed on through unprotected sex and through other activities where bodily fluids are exchanged. Sharing other drug paraphernalia, such as crack pipes and snorting equipment to snort cocaine can lead to hep C too.
Fortunately, there are some amazing organizations in New West that offer help to people living under these circumstances. The New Westminster Homelessness Coalition Society and its members have been busy planning various events for Homelessness Action Week (HAW), which starts October 12 and runs through to October 16. Everyone is welcome to attend the events, and I hope students take an interest. Everything that’s happening is within walking distance of the New West campus.
One of the Coalition Society’s member programs is Stride with Purpose, which is an HIV and hep C program at the Lower Mainland Purpose Society. They offer clients access to support workers, a weekly food bank and lunch, a resource room, laundry and showers, hep C support group, and organized activities.
One of these activities is coming soon to a shelter near you! Stride with Purpose is gearing up for the “Art of Darkness” art exhibit in the basement of the Russell Housing Centre during HAW. Artists from the Street Troupe Art Group and local shelter residents have been preparing for the show. They have the option of showcasing or selling their art, and all proceeds go directly to the artist.
There will also be a few pieces on display by a very talented painter who died before she became well-known. Kathrynne Sabrina Wong, a.k.a. Sabrina, painted dead celebrities in black and white who she thought she could relate to and who were also caught between two worlds—good and evil. Wong battled addiction, but found peace in painting. In the end, she too died before her time at the age of 34. Come check out her paintings and other art from Tuesday to Thursday. Visit the Facebook page to get all the dates and times at www.facebook.com/stridewithpurpose, or call Stride with Purpose at 604-526-2522 ext: 234.
Also, on Tuesday October 14 Connect Day kicks off with breakfast at 8 a.m. and ends with lunch at noon at Holy Trinity Cathedral. Nurses will be available for rapid point-of-care HIV testing, and various organizations will be set up to share information about their programs. This is a great way to connect with all members of the community. It’s also a good networking opportunity, especially if you’re taking the Child and Youth Care Program or trying to get into social services. Come by the art show afterwards for something sweet!
If you’re interested in visiting organizations and shelters that help marginalized and street-entrenched populations, you can go on a tour, which starts at the Purpose Society at 9:30 a.m. on October 15 and ends at the art show around 1:45 p.m.
There are two night events you can attend, if you’re busy during the day. On October 15, a movie night will be held at the Rhoda Kaellis Housing Centre. At 6 p.m. there will be a showing of Celebrate What’s Right with the World, and at 7 p.m. a showing of The Pursuit of Happyness. Popcorn included!
On the final night of Homelessness Action Week, October 16, there’s a spectacular evening planned. It’s a fundraising dinner for the Coalition Society, and two very interesting speakers are lined up. Sergeant Toby Hinton from the Vancouver Police Department and Odd Squad Productions is pairing up with Joe Calendino, ex-Hells Angels member and founder and executive director of Yo Bro Youth Initiative to talk about prevention-based strategies to keep kids off the street and out of gangs. Tickets include dinner and some of the art will also be on display and for sale at the affair. Tickets are $75, and can be purchased through the previously-mentioned phone number.
Hope to see you there! End homelessness and stop HIV and hep C now.