Discover the stories and hopes of Victoria’s homeless this season
Shelbourne Street Church of Christ – Victoria – Giving the perfect gift is such a great feeling, and every year we rack our brains and scour the malls for this very reason. It’s also a great feeling to help those who are less fortunate than us, and every year there are a myriad of wonderful ways we can make a difference. Well this year, we all have the opportunity to do both, with the Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List which is found atwww.homelesspartners.com.
A toque, some socks, a moment of your time… these are some of the simple things that would warm the hearts of our city’s homeless. The Victoria Cool Aid Society and Shelbourne Street Church of Christ are joining forces on this project where we ask the residents of several shelters to share their experiences and hopes with us, and select a few items that they would appreciate as Christmas gifts. These stories and wish lists are then put on the web (under the residents’ first names), where people can read them and decide if they’d like to buy a gift for one of the specific shelter residents. The gifts are then dropped off at the Church building and delivered in time for Christmas.
“The response last year was overwhelming,” said Monique Cummings, project coordinator from the Shelbourne Street Church of Christ. “Everyone was so generous and understood not only how much it meant to simply read the stories or send an encouraging Christmas card, but also what an impact it would have on the residents to give their son or daughter exactly what they’d asked for, or to get a pay-as-you-go cell phone and be able to put a contact number other than the shelter on their resume.”
The purpose of this initiative is to show the homeless that they are not invisible, that they are loved. It also allows people to see that the homeless are not a nameless, faceless, insurmountable issue, but individuals with different personalities and histories, that can be helped in this simple way.
Homeless Partners is a non-profit, self-funded program run entirely by volunteer efforts, in partnership with the staff at shelters where the program is offered. The program is coordinated by a small number of individuals, who assist volunteers from local churches in starting and running the program in their city. Since 2005, the project has brought thousands of gifts to the less fortunate and touched many more hearts in cities across North America. This is the second year Victoria is participating, and we hope to serve the 100+ residents of Next Steps, Sandy Merriman House and the new Rock Bay Landing shelter.
“We are hoping to connect people personally and directly with the homeless, to raise awareness of both the problem and the vast amount of work going into a solution by wonderful associations like Cool Aid,” said Cummings. “Even if we don’t collect a single present, we’ll have succeeded if people spend even five minutes reading the stories we’ve been fortunate enough to record.”
Members of the public can help by visiting www.homelesspartners.com to learn more, reading the stories, buying gifts or volunteering to interview shelter residents or update the website. Due to the short-term nature of many shelter stays, we’ll continue to add stories to the site until mid-December, so please check for updates as Christmas Day approaches.
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Monique Cummings, Victoria Project Coordinator, Shelbourne Street Church of Christ
Jennie Keeran, Project Founder
Christine O’Brien, Victoria Cool Aid Society
Coordinator of Sandy Merriman House & Next Steps Transitional Shelter