Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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July 2019 issue of RCC News is here


This issue of the RCC News full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood.

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • CW Music celebrates 5 years in Collingwood
  • Celebrating Sharon Gregson
  • Remembering a local hero: Richard Berwick
  • New podcasts by Windermere students
  • Still Moon Arts events for summer
  • Celebration of World Refugee Day
  • Three Links community open house recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
  • CNH Community Choir premiere concert

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email

The deadline for the August 2019 issue is July 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.

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Windermere Law 12 students take action on homelessness


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


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


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


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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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


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

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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Collingwood Neighbourhood House says goodbye to devoted volunteer A.J. Wadden


Photo by Sandra Wadden


Adrian Joseph (A.J.) Wadden was one of the longest-serving volunteers of Collingwood Neighbourhood House’s Morning Star breakfast program (for people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness).

A.J. volunteered with us for more than 10 years. He would arrive in the wee hours of the morning to help set up tables and chairs and whatever else needed doing. His assistance was important to us and we appreciated his sense of humour and efforts.

A.J. had a 25-year career as a longshoreman, 10 years as a member of the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) Local 500, retiring last year. He had a life-long love of sports and was an avid cyclist and ice skater.

“Everyone on the Morning Star team looked up to A.J.,” said Bill McMichael, another of our original Morning Star volunteers. “For over 10 years, he would arrive with the early shift to set up the multipurpose room for a group of 70, doing the work three volunteers took to take down three hours later. No one has ever worked harder or better or smarter than A.J. And still, he remained a gentle and generous man, whose smile brightened the kitchen on even our darkest and rainiest of mornings. He was the best of us.”

Terry Taylor, another of our originals, said: “I would sit with A.J. and chat after the set up was ready for the breakfast program. We talked about life and other things. He was always very respectful and courteous to others. He was a soft-spoken man with a delightful sense of humour. I will always remember those chats with great fondness.”

A celebration of life service was held for A.J. at the Sunrise Community Centre on Sunday, September 11. The room was filled with Morning Star volunteers, longshore workmates, friends and family and members of his church. Pastor Elsie Quick, Pastor Ernie Culley and A.J.’s wife Sandra spoke about A.J.’s life.

A.J. is survived by his wife Sandra and siblings Marguerite, James, Carl and Vera. The family has asked in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the B.C. Cancer Agency or the Vancouver Hospital Palliative Care Unit in A.J.’smemory.

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Dedicated chef of Morning Star breakfast program honoured with national award


The early morning crew is ready to spring into action. Photo by Richard Berwick

The early morning crew is ready to spring into action. Photos by Richard Berwick

It’s tough to find cooks with engaging personalities and Canada-wide reputations, working hard hours at community venues like Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH). We have one at the Collingwood Saturday Breakfast Program and her name is Nafisa.

Nafisa Sultana arrived in Canada from Bangladesh in February 2009. She found her way to our kitchen five years ago, three years after I started scrambling eggs and washing dishes with other volunteers for the Saturday Breakfast Program in 2008.

Not your typical chef

In our work with a largely homeless or home-challenged group of regulars – of all ages and many ethnic backgrounds – we found in Nafisa a professional chef capable of organizing all the details of a successful program: food purchasing and storage, thoughtful preparation of balanced meals, guidance for the volunteers who range from high schoolers to the people of the diverse communities that comprise the staff and public of CNH.

From left, Maria (Philippines), Nafisa (Bangladesh), Taeko (Japan) ready to serve the cobbler.

From left, Maria (from the Philippines), Nafisa (Bangladesh) and Taeko (Japan) are ready to serve the cobbler.

On any given Saturday, you’ll find the jam-packed kitchen filled with volunteer galley hands with ethnic origins, and past lives, in Bangladesh (that’s Nafisa!), the Philippines, Japan, China, Vietnam, India, Kazakhstan, Korea, Canada and the U.S.

I’ve watched Nafisa move in her career seamlessly from refugee to resident, from hard labour at Pizza Hut, to cook and then chef at New Hope Community Services Society in Surrey and at Langara College – all the while earning her culinary arts degree at Vancouver Community College.

These have been difficult simultaneous commitments, but the extraordinary challenge that Nafisa counts as the work she treasures, above all else, is walking into our kitchen at 5:30 in the morning every Saturday and getting meals – breakfast and lunches – out to anywhere between 50 and 80 hungry people.

Not your typical Saturday

Here’s what it looked like in the kitchen on this particular early fall Saturday morning:

I arrive at the kitchen about 6:30 am, about an hour after Nafisa and Chris have lit the boilers and cranked up the ancient oven with a pilot light that works when you don’t look at it (I exaggerate, slightly). Nafisa, Chris and Viktoriya (last resident in Kazakhstan), are hard at work on the bag lunches, washing veggies, digging out the big fry pans that work well when the grill goes to sleep, as it did today.

Nafisa sees me step into her kitchen, gives me the usual bear hug through all of my guilty lateness and sharpens a couple of knives for me to chop the onions, peppers and tomatoes, and then to make a marinade for the omelets.

Advice from Nafisa: “If you use that cleaver, you’ll get the liquid over everything.” She’s right, of course. I can only bristle in my amateur-cookness. The sausages are burning in the oven, but only a little.

Volunteers file in and do the basics of breakfast: slicing loaves for toast, putting out the milk and juice, the peanut butter and margarine and jam, getting coffee out to the folks waiting for the call to come and pick up their breakfast plates – omelets, sausage, pilaf, fruit, apple cobbler for dessert, breakfast cereals on the side.

When it’s all over, we hear the occasional review from departing clients: “Thanks for everything. Eggs were a little hard.” “God bless.” And so it goes. Nafisa stands back to watch her kitchen run like a clock going backwards, dishes collected and washed, tables cleared, some of the men lingering quietly at their tables wanting to chat a bit about their week.

Nafisa is coming into her own professionally as first-rate Canadian chef, and will be honoured on November 2 in Toronto with the 2016 Be-a-Star (all-Canada outstanding chef) award from Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services for her work at Langara College. But she is at home with us at Collingwood for the long run, always with an astonishing well of energy on Saturday morning.

Dr. Richard Berwick is a volunteer with the Saturday Breakfast Program at Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News