Working Group hosts a series of events aimed at helping homeless

A Nanaimo Homelessness advocate wants people to experience what it’s like to be homeless for one night by sleeping in Maffeo Sutton Park Saturday.

Emma Irving

Emma Irving

A Nanaimo advocate wants people to experience what it’s like to be homeless for one night by sleeping in Maffeo Sutton Park.

Emma Irving, a member of the Nanaimo Working Group on Homelessness, has organized a campout in the park from 1 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 1) to 8 a.m. Sunday (Oct. 2) at the Lions Pavilion.

Irving said she wants to raise awareness about homelessness in the Nanaimo community.

“I always wanted to make a difference,” said Irving.

She said she has spoken to many people who don’t realize the extent of Nanaimo’s homelessness problem.

With the heated debate about social housing projects, Irving wanted to host an event that helps people understand the struggles people endure. She’s also hoping to change people’s perspectives about homeless individuals.

“The people who are going in the housing are not going to be shooting up the neighbourhood, they are just people,” said Irving.

Irving received her social services diploma from Vancouver Island University and plans to return next year to pursue a bachelor of social work.

The 19-year-old is passionate about making a difference in the lives of people living on the streets. Irving has worked as a tenant support worker and saw first-hand how hard some individuals work to survive.

“They inspired me so much seeing how hard they are trying to survive in our culture and our community and it makes me want to make it easier for them,” she said.

Irving hopes at least 60 people attend the campout. People attending can bring sleeping bags, tarps or a tent. People are invited to bring food to share with others attending the event. Participants aren’t required to show up exactly at 1 p.m. on Saturday but can come join the event whenever it is convenient for them, said Irving.


Working group aims to Connect

The Nanaimo Working Group on Homelessness is trying to connect with homeless individuals on a personal level this Friday in Maffeo Sutton Park.

The organization is hosting Connect Day, an event that offers individuals a chance to access services and talk to social agencies between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday (Sept. 30) in the park.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for people to connect to services,” said France Tellier, a member of the Working Group and director of programs for the John Howard Society.

Tellier said Connect Day gives people a sense of inclusion in the community. The working group didn’t hold the event last year, but decided to bring it back because of its popularity and success in previous years.

The event features Vancouver Island University dentistry students who are offering teeth cleaning, toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as four free dental visits. VIU nursing students are offering foot care sessions and blood pressure checks and will also be handing out coats and socks. A free hot dog lunch will also be provided.

John Horn, social planner for the city, said the Working Group spreads word about Connect Day through social services such as the Salvation Army, 7-10 Club and outreach workers.


Fundraiser supports survival packs

Nanaimoites can enjoy a beer and burger tonight (Sept. 29) and support an effort to supply homeless individuals in the city with survival packs for the winter months.

Emma Irving, a member of the Nanaimo Working Group on Homelessness, created the fundraising night to create survival packs to be given to homeless individuals visiting shelters.

“It’s really important for me to raise money for people in our community,” said Irving. “We don’t really have that many shelters in Nanaimo and they fill up quickly.”

The packs are meant to be distributed to individuals if there isn’t any room at the shelter so they have supplies to help them through the cold nights. Irving hopes to purchase gloves, socks, backpacks, sleeping bags and other items. She said the number of packs created depends on how much money is raised.

The beer and burger fundraiser is at the Wellington Pub starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available at the door. The event also features a silent auction and a 50/50 draw.