Recently, I returned to my old stomping grounds in Burnaby. It had been awhile.
I miss my girlfriends there who I have known for decades, through many a trial and tribulation raising our collective gaggle of kids (fellow mom friends are the best, am I right, Squamish Moms?).
As I was driving up a main thoroughfare in Burnaby I was feeling nostalgic for these friends, the nearby mall, movie theatre and Costco.
Then, when I stopped at a red light, a woman in what can only be described as rags hobbled up to my window with a cardboard sign, that read something to the effect of, “Single mom, mouths to feed.”
It had been so long since I had seen people begging in the street like that. It was so sad and desperate. Old me, bigger city me, was used to this, I realized, as traffic started to move again and I watched the woman in my rearview mirror. I had driven or walked by this type of scene often — offering what I could — when I lived in the city.
For many in Squamish who still commute to the city (my spouse included), this remains part of the city landscape.
Of course, in many places around the world things are much worse, but spending most of my time in Squamish over the last several years has made seeing people help each other the norm.
GoFundMe campaigns spring up like flowers along Elfin Lakes trail in summer whenever someone is in need here.
The bigger issue is that no one should be reduced to this in Canada. Effective, well-funded government programs, affordable housing, food security, mental health supports and accessible childcare, are all solutions that are needed to ultimately eliminate poverty.
But until those solutions are found, letting someone walk the streets in rags begging for money for her children isn’t acceptable here.
Soon, Helping Hand’s Under One Roof will be open and even more people will be able to live, work and eat with the dignity we all deserve.
We are small enough to care for each other in a more intimate way than in bigger places. People don’t become faceless strangers. They stay neighbours in need.
According to Squamish Helping Hands, the number of people seeking a safe place to sleep at the shelter has gone from an average of nine per night to double that this winter.
Times are tough for many in town.
Very few of us are financially worry-free. But many of us can spare a bit more than we give. Go to www.squamishhelpinghands.ca to find out some of the many ways you can help.
And Squamish, you rock. May we hold fiercely to our desire to know each other, share a smile, wave or helping hand.