Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Windermere Law 12 students take action on homelessness

Homeless-Clothing-Drive-Windermere-web

All proceeds from the Windermere Law 12 clothing drive go to the local Morning Star Program, which helps the homeless. Photo submitted

Clothing drive to support the Morning Star program

BY KATIE FRAIN

The homeless, housing and affordability crisis at an all-time high:

  • The most recent homeless count found that there are 828 more people who identify as homeless in Vancouver. This is an astounding 30% increase since 2014, which is the highest increase to date in Vancouver.
  • The number of homeless seniors (55 and over) went up by 185, which makes up 23% of the homeless population.
  • The crisis has particularly affected the Indigenous population. Metro Vancouver found that 34% of the homeless population identify as Indigenous, despite making up a mere 2.5% of the overall population.

The Morning Star Program, located at Collingwood Neighbourhood House, is dedicated to helping low-income families and individuals that have been affected by the housing and homelessness crisis in Vancouver. Staff provide recreational, educational, social and cultural programs for members of the community. They offer everything from day camps for children, support for Indigenous people, services for seniors, and food security programs such as shower and breakfast programs and rooftop gardening.

Morning Star gives so much to our community, and it’s time we give back, to aid them in supporting people affected by the housing and homeless crisis that has struck citizens all across Metro Vancouver.

Clothing drive

Law 12 students from Windermere Secondary School are hosting a clothing drive from October 10 to 20, 2017, to assist members of our community who are vulnerable to poverty. They are also hosting an educational campaign on housing, homelessness and the affordability crisis in Vancouver and will be studying long-term issues around affordability and renting in Vancouver.

The class is looking for new socks and underwear, new toiletries such as toothbrushes and soap, and lightly used clothing cleaned and ready for use. Donations can be dropped off at Room 211 at Windermere Secondary School, or directly to the Collingwood Neighborhood House. All proceeds will be going straight to the Morning Star Program, so come on down and support those who need your help.

Katie Frain is a student in the Law 12 class at Windermere Secondary.

Time is ticking on the homelessness problem

BY ALYSSA YAN AND CINDY CHEN

Homelessness isn’t “necessary.”

It’s a problem that policymakers can address and take action to improve the situation. Despite that, homelessness is still on the rise in Canada, specifically in Metro Vancouver where the number of homeless people rose up 30% this year, as compared to the most recent count in 2014.

More than 1,032 people are unsheltered, sleeping in doorways and alleys, or simply couchsurfing in Metro Vancouver. Furthermore, an additional 2,573 people are living in homeless shelters or transitional houses.

Too many Canadians are feeling the effects of the ever-growing housing crisis, and it’s time to take assertive action on homelessness!

Causes of homelessness

With nearly one in every 300 residents homeless in Vancouver, what is the main cause of homelessness?

The main cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing – due to rising housing prices and the average house in Metro Vancouver costing around $860,000, according to the Globe and Mail. This leaves most people scurrying to find a place to rent. Even while renting, an average person living with a roommate can start paying at $2,000+. That hefty price tag doesn’t even include taxes, student loans and personal needs, so imagine the price of living alone.

That leaves most Vancouverites needing to make $50,000+ per year, per person in order to even have enough money to pay rent. That kind of money is only achievable for a fraction of people, resulting in more homeless people in Vancouver than any other cities in British Columbia.

Alyssa Yan and Cindy Chen are students in the Law 12 class at Windermere Secondary.

Alarming homelessness numbers – No end in sight but there’s help around the corner

BY CHRISTAL DO

Homelessness is a rising issue in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and it’s no secret. There are so many keys that factor into the cause of people ending up on the streets. However, all but one is very obvious; housing affordability.

This year’s homeless count has skyrocketed due to lack of income and the outrageous housing costs of the real estate market. According to the same survey, the report counted 3,605 homeless people in total–a 30% increase since the last report in 2014. Yet, this number doesn’t include those who don’t seek help from public services, or are living in the crooks and nannies of places where volunteers aren’t able to find them.

According to Vancouver Sun (Sept. 15, 2017), “Vancouver rental cost for one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is now $2,020.” It’s going to get even harder for many people to make ends meet. Lack of income and the sizzling real estate market, it couldn’t be more difficult.

About half of the people surveyed in the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homelessness Survey stated that they were residents of the city for over a decade before ending up on the streets. Yet, we should keep in mind that this method of counting the number of homeless people all across the Lower Mainland only accounts for those in the state of absolute homelessness.

Types of homelessness

Absolute homelessness is the “visible” homelessness that we see on a day-to-day basis, such as those on the streets.

Meanwhile, there are many more people who are considered in the stage of “hidden homelessness.” Hidden homelessness is where these people have the opportunity to stay in shelters or are “urban couch-surfers”—those who do not have a regular address and temporarily stay in another household.

iceberg homeless count

Visible homelessness is only the tip of the iceberg compared to homelessness as a whole. Source: 2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver

Often times, visible homelessness is only the tip of the iceberg compared to homelessness as a whole (as shown in the iceberg image, provided by the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homelessness Survey report).

In addition to this, there is the idea of “relative homelessness”—when people are one pay cheque away from reaching the point of hidden homelessness.

With temperatures dropping, and Vancouver’s unpredictable weather, shelters are expected to be packed, while many others shiver in the freezing weather. Public services such as serving hot meals, food banks, and other programs are forecasted to be jam-packed with volunteers and guests for this winter season.

Are you looking for help?

The Collingwood Neighbourhood House is located in East Vancouver, and the Morning Star program for serving homeless folks occurs every Saturday morning from 7 to 10 am. Showers, a community breakfast, clothing exchange, and much more are offered to those who seek support.

Christal Do is a student at Windermere Secondary taking the Law 12 class.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Easter Seals Camps make a difference

Join the Woman2Warrior fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Swangard Stadium

Mohini Takhar Easter Seals Camp

At Easter Seals campsites, anything is possible, says Mohini Takhar.

BY MOHINI TAKHAR

“Camp is the best place on earth” is the famous phrase of Easter Seals BC/Yukon. Easter Seals provides accessible camps for children and more recently opened them up for young adults as well. These camps are extraordinary as they are designed for people with disabilities. They are located in Squamish, Winfield and Shawnigan. I have been going to Squamish for the past four years.

One word to sum up my experience is “magical.” And yes, I am talking about the version with fairy dust and wishes. You can be your own superhero if you want. At Easter Seals campsites, anything is possible.

At these campsites, children are able to face their fears and try things they have never done before. There is this activity called The Big Swing, but it essentially is ziplining. The first time I tried ziplining, I was probably thrilled but also terrified! The strangest thing is that it was the best feeling I’ve ever felt. That’s what this camp gives you. It will give you the opportunity to surprise yourself in wonderful ways. That’s the great thing about the camp. You can let go and be yourself, probably in ways you didn’t even know about. You kind of discover yourself and find the things you love.

Being yourself. It’s a bigger and more complicated topic for people with disabilities. My 24-year-old friend Emily Anderson says, “Camp gives me a sense of belonging, a place where I can just be me and not worry about not fitting into either the abled-bodied or disabled worlds.” Anderson uses a mixture of a crutch and a wheelchair to get around. She says, “When I was little, I didn’t want to go to camp, but by the end of the week, I didn’t want to leave.” Once you go to one of these camps, you’re in it forever.

Easter Seals Camps are magical

Children and young adults are able to face their fears and try things they have never done before at Easter Seals camps.

Easter Seals makes summer camp possible for people who need minimal and maximum support. Those who require minimal support wouldn’t need a support worker to assist them at camp as there are more than enough camp counsellors to help. This makes it possible for children with disabilities to experience summer camp like anyone else would.

The impact Easter Seals has on children and now adults is astonishing. Children have been going since they were six years old. Regardless if you’re in a wheelchair or not, you have the ability to be whoever you would like to be without limitations. It’s an amazing outlet that children can come back to every year. Throughout the years, I’ve become fierce and more confident. You have the opportunity to have random dance parties with some good friends and dance like nobody is watching. You tend to become a completely different person here, which is an amazing experience.

Easter Seals BC/Yukon relies on community support and special events so campers can have this one-of-a-kind experience. If you would like to send a kid to camp, please consider signing up for their upcoming event Woman2Warrior on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Swangard Stadium. Woman2Warrior is an untimed, five-kilometre run through grass, trail and track, featuring top-secret obstacles designed to test strength, agility, determination and endurance. To register check out woman2warrior.ca

Mohini Takhar graduated from Windermere Secondary and currently studies at Douglas College. In her spare time, she enjoys working with children and reading. She has spoken at events on behalf of the Centre for Child Development and is the 2016 recipient of the BC Council for Exceptional Children Yes I Can! award in the category of self-advocacy. thewritingsidee.blogspot.ca/

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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15th Annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival, September 30, 2017

Twilight Lantern Walk Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival

Festival goers get ready at Slocan Park for the Twilight Lantern Walk. Photo by Ben Rosen-Purcell

BY JUNE LAM

With fall fast approaching, Still Moon Arts Society has been preparing for the 15th annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival, held this year on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival is a signature festival that celebrates the full moon and harvest abundance, while honouring diverse cultural traditions. The festival will highlight art, music, environmental stewardship and community participation.

This year’s theme, Migrations, allows attendees to reflect on the global movements that occur every day, from the smallest of salmon fry to the largest of humans. Birds journey across land and sea to discover new places and build their nests; salmon and fish swim across vast oceans to spawn new life and continue the survival of their species and others; humans flow within and across boundaries to pursue new opportunities, reunite with loved ones or find safety.

With the current issues in our world, these systems of movement have played a significant role in people’s identity and relationships. As you yourself move through the festival and experience the installations of this year’s event, we invite you to discover your own stories and how you relate to this year’s theme.

MOON FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

Harvest Fair: 4–6:45 pm
Slocan Park

The event gets under way with the Harvest Fair, which will feature live music, food and a booths from local organizations, artisans and non-profit groups. Another featured activity is the Harvest Fair, a home-grown harvest competition, which features entries by local gardeners of some of Renfrew-Collingwood’s best fruits, vegetables and flowers. Enter for a chance to win some awesome prizes!

Twilight Lantern Walk: 6:45 pm

The Twilight Lantern Walk begins with a moonlit parade from Slocan Park to Renfrew Park. Festival goers light their own lanterns and walk the trails along the ravine, accompanied by live music as darkness falls. Passing by the river-stone labyrinth, the procession will be invited to a walking meditation surrounded by music and light. The parade then passes by various art installations and surprise performances until it reaches Renfrew Park.

Lantern Festival: 7:15–8:30 pm
Renfrew Park

At nightfall, time slows down as participants absorb the beauty of candlelight, exquisite lanterns, ethereal music and the shimmering stream. Just outside of the stream, you’ll find musicians playing at the main stage, a Tea Garden full of delicious treats for you to enjoy, and a finale spectacle featuring dancing, stilting, fire spinning and fireworks.

Leading up to the big day, there will be multiple lantern workshops throughout the month. Don’t have a lantern for the parade? For a small cost, varying between $10 and $25, come out to Slocan Hall (2750 E. 29th Avenue) to make one:

Sept. 16: Advanced Lanterns (12–4 pm) – no instructor present

Sept. 18, 19, 20: Bamboo Lanterns (4–7 pm)

Sept. 21, 22: Globe Lanterns (4–7 pm)

Sept. 23: Advanced Lanterns (12–4 pm) – no instructor present

Sept. 25, 26: Globe Lanterns (4–7 pm)

Sept. 27, 28: Glass Jar Lanterns (4–7 pm)

For more information, visit stillmoon.org or our Facebook page, @stillmoonarts.

June Lam is the communications coordinator at Still Moon Arts Society. She graduated from the Leadership Program at Windermere Secondary and is currently attending the University of BC. She is also an avid volunteer and has been involved in the Renfrew-Collingwood community throughout her high school career. 

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Logan the goat chews up Renfrew Ravine invasive plants

Logan the goat

Logan chomping invasive plants in the Renfrew Ravine. Photos by Bryden Fergusson

BY JULIE CHENG

On a Sunday morning in August 2017 in the Renfrew Ravine, about 20 enthusiastic volunteers turned out — plus one goat.

They were all there to pull, dig or munch invasive Himalayan blackberry and morning glory as part of Evergreen’s Uncover Your Creeks—Renfrew Ravine program.

Still Moon Arts Society invited Logan the goat (with professional goat herder Natasha) as a pilot project to see how goats can help keep invasive plant species at bay in parks. One-year-old Logan was the star of the show. He was gentle with kids, worked hard and ate constantly.

Evergreen is always looking for more volunteers!

The next Uncover Your Creeks Renfrew Ravine event is:

Sunday, September 24, 2017
9 am to noon
Meet at 29th Avenue and Atlin (across from the 29th Avenue Skytrain station)
Rain or shine!

More info: www.evergreen.ca/whats-on/event/uncover-your-creeksrenfrew-ravine/

 

Robin's goat cards

Robin from Still Moon Arts Society kept the volunteers going with her delicious goat cookies and inspired us with her whimsical goat art cards. Watch for her at the 2017 Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival on Saturday, Sept. 30 for more goat cards.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Guacamole for justice

Join the Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute on Thursday, September 21 for a screening of Min Sook Lee’s 2016 film Migrant Dreams, a documentary that explores the experiences of seasonal agricultural workers in Canada.

Guacamole for justice

Making the guacamole. Photo courtesy of the Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute

BY EMMA WARNER CHEE

On August 23, 2017, the Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute partnered with the Migrant Workers Dignity Association to offer a workshop called Guacamole: A Cooking Lesson for Justice. The Migrant Workers Dignity Association is a non-profit that supports migrant workers in learning and advocating for their rights, as well as in educating the public about the injustices faced by migrant workers.

Through an interactive, theatrical cooking lesson, the group made guacamole and learned about the injustices facing temporary farmer workers who grow our food, such as having to work long hours without overtime pay, being unable to access medical care and working in unsafe conditions. After the workshop, workers answered questions from participants and share some of their personal experiences.

The Food Security Institute aims to provide space for critical conversations about food systems. Join the institute on Thursday, September 21 for a screening of Min Sook Lee’s 2016 film Migrant Dreams (distributed by Cinema Politica), a documentary that explores the experiences of seasonal agricultural workers in Canada. A facilitated discussion will follow the film.

Please see the blog rcfood.wordpress.com or pick up an activity schedule from Collingwood Neighbourhood House for more information about this and other great events!

Emma Warner Chee is the urban agriculture assistant and summer student with the Renfrew Collingwood Food Security Institute.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Homeless program raising funds and donations in Renfrew-Collingwood

Windermere Girls Group Homeless Program Donations

The Girls Group from Windermere Secondary ran a successful socks and underwear drive to support the participants of the homeless program at Collingwood Neighbourhood House. Photo by Suzanne Liddle

BY ANA MATEESCU

The Collingwood Neighbourhood House Morning Star breakfast program has been running since 2004 and serves between 60 and 80 people every Saturday morning! Here homeless and tentatively housed people, from the Collingwood neighbourhood and beyond, are able to have a hot shower and get some clean underwear and clothes before a hot breakfast.

This program relies on the generous help of dedicated volunteers and donations from the local community.

Recently, the program partnered with the Girls Group from Windermere Secondary. The girls ran a very successful socks and underwear drive to support the participants of our homeless program! For two to three weeks they spent every lunch break promoting the drive at school and encouraging pupils and teachers to donate.

A regular attendee at the breakfast program, Michael Desbiens, went along to meet the girls to say thank you.

Michael has been coming to the Morning Star breakfast program for a number of years. For a long time, Michael was homeless and living on the street; he connected with the outreach workers at Collingwood and they helped him to apply for housing and eventually he got a roof over his head. He is healthier and happier now but he knows how important it is for someone who is homeless to have basic needs met such as having clean, dry socks and underwear.

On May 30 Michael visited Windermere Secondary and had lunch with the girls who participated at the drive. It was an amazing afternoon with interesting discussions and Michael said he felt again “young and full of hope” by listening and witnessing how these girls are making plans how they want to change the world.

Michael talked about his experiences and the girls plan to come and volunteer for the breakfast program every Saturday and engage other secondary schools from the Collingwood Renfrew area to raise awareness of homelessness.

A video story about May 30 Windermere Secondary girls group action is on the Collingwood Neighbourhood House website and Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIALpiJmP8I

Donate and shop!

The Morning Star breakfast program is always accepting donations of clean socks and underwear. You can also drop off donations at Vancity on Joyce and Kingsway.

Would you like to shop and help the community at the same time? Come check out our Collingwood Summer Market! On Saturday, August 19 there will be a yard sale on the front lawn of CNH with a wide variety of interesting items sold, with plenty of bargains. All the money raised will support CNH’s homeless program.

Come every Tuesday and Thursday 11-2pm in August and September in front of Collingwood Neighbourhood House to shop and support people who are struggling with poverty and homelessness.

Ana Mateescu is the homeless programs coordinator at Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Study Buddy Mentors needed for Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland

Big-Sisters-Study-Buddy-Mentors

Big Sister Anna (right) attended Little Sister Olimpia’s high school graduation. The two were matched for four years and Olimpia credits her Big Sister for helping her attend post-secondary education. Photo courtesy of Big Sisters BCLM.

Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland (Big Sisters BCLM) is in need of Study Buddy volunteers throughout the Lower Mainland, especially in Burnaby and the Tri-Cities.

The Study Buddy program is a weekly one-to-one mentoring relationship that focuses on school work. Little Sisters in this program not only improve their academics but also report a higher level of self-esteem. Take for instance, Study Buddy Anna and Little Sister Olimpia, who were matched when Olimpia was in Grade 9 and was, as she describes it, a “rebellious teenager.”

“I dropped bombs on Anna, testing her to see if she would stick around,” said Olimpia about their first year as a match. Anna stayed by her side.

“At the end of the day, Olimpia had self-perceptions that weren’t true,” said Anna. “Olimpia’s teachers and some of the other adults in her life were not supportive, viewing Olimpia as a problem kid on her way to dropping out of high school. But as I got to know her, she began to see otherwise.”

Now, Olimpia is in her first year at Langara College and is hoping to complete her degree in psychology or social work at the University of British Columbia.

“Without Anna’s influence in my life, I probably wouldn’t be going to college,” said Olimpia.

A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group supports Olimpia’s statement, showing that adults who had a mentor as a child are more likely to volunteer, donate, complete post-secondary education and feel confident.

“Mentoring has a powerful impact,” said Brenda Gershkovitch, executive director of Big Sisters BCLM. “Research shows that students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class. Plus, girls with a mentor are four times less likely than their peers to bully, fight, lie or lose their temper.”

In 2016, Big Sisters BCLM matched 775 girls in the Lower Mainland. There are currently 141 girls ready to be matched.

“We expect the number of Little Sister referrals to grow once school starts up in September,” said Gershkovitch. “Get your application in now, so we can give these girls positive mentors when they need it most.”

For more information on how to become a Study Buddy volunteer, visit www.bigsister.bc.ca/study-buddy.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News