helping the homeless

Starting a Conversation with a Homeless Person

On Winspiration Day Vancouver this year (May 7th), we had the privilege of being spoken to by Trish Garner, Community Organizer for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. Her words, as one would imagine, were powerful but simple: talk to a homeless person. Start a conversation. Ask them their name, where they came from, and how they’re doing.

The simple act of treating a homeless person as a human being can evoke incredible and unexpected reactions. Many people don’t realize that for someone living on the street, questions or conversations about their well-being and who they are and what they’re interested in may not occur for months or even years.

When’s the last time that man on the corner of your street uttered his name to anyone? Find out!

We take our friends’ and families’ and coworkers’ interest in us for granted, and because it’s something we don’t typically go without, we don’t notice when others don’t receive the same privilege.

Trish urged us to start a conversation, and to not walk by without making eye contact. In Vancouver (especially in the Downtown Eastside), it’s easy to ignore others’ suffering because our city is busy, and as locals, we become desensitized to the presence of those without homes.

But we need to be inclusive. We’re all people. We all want and deserve the same basic life essentials, such as safety, shelter, food, and social outlets. There are programs in place to provide our community‘s growing homeless population with a few of these things, but having a conversation with someone who hasn’t been able to tell their story is a priceless and unique gift that is offered far less than it should be.

Trish recently reached out to take her challenge further:

“After starting a conversation with a homeless person, if you want to do more, I invite you to dinner through our Connections program where we treat you and someone in poverty to dinner together. The goal is not to help them. The goal is to know them in a small way, and to know yourself in a different way. Connections between people is what life is all about. Make a connection across the line. And let yourself be moved to action.”

So let’s not forget what Trish asked of us on May 7th—let’s actively ensure we all start a conversation—the conversation. The only conversation that might matter to someone who is desperate to just be treated as someone.

Get chatting, Vancouver—you’ve been challenged. Start a conversation with a homeless person, and if you feel so inclined, take it a step further by checking out the Connections program offered by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.