The frigid temperatures that have settled in, aren’t numbing the hearts of our community.
We may grumble about the cold as we warm up our cars and bundle up our babies while preparing to vacate the cozy comfort of our homes for the day.
But with the spirit of Christmas lurking around, we often stop to think of how we can give to those who don’t enjoy the same luxuries as we do.
Like those who don’t have a warm home to return to. A bed of their own to snuggle up in. A family to love.
These are the approximately 38 people sleeping at the Gateway Shelter, or 65 at the Howard House. Then there are the 19 recovering addicts at Bill’s Place and the 39 former shelter clients who can afford the rent at the Blair apartments. Not to mention the countless others who are couch surfing or staying in hotels.
And even while there are some extra mat spaces available at the shelters, there are still individuals out there who continue to sleep on the streets of Vernon.
Homeless camps have been dismantled in an effort to clean up the city and bring individuals in from the cold.
But despite all the efforts of bylaw workers, shelter staff and ordinary citizens, not everyone wants to leave the streets.
It’s hard to imagine spending an entire night (on top of the day) out in the cold. But between mental illness, past experiences and fear, some don’t feel the need to go.
For the staff at one 58th Avenue business who have befriended a local homeless fellow, they aren’t sure how else to help the man who curls up under the heat vent at the side of the store at night.
They’ve brought him an extra sleeping bag, boots, warm clothing and food, but despite their pleas, he won’t go to the shelter.
“We all feel that heart-wrenching feeling and want to help but don’t know what to do,” said one of the workers at the home-building supply business.
“His mindset is, ‘this is my home and if I leave my cart someone might steal it.’”
Shelter staff have tried to persuade him as well, but to no avail.
While some make the choice where to sleep at night, being homeless is not a choice anyone makes. It’s a circumstance that they have unfortunately fallen into, whether it’s drugs or mental illness (or more realistically a combination of both), social circumstances, financial woes, marital issues. While we may not be able to change a person’s circumstance (despite our best intentions), we can change their outlook and we can give them hope.
This time of year there are countless individuals who are doing just that – whether it’s through a monetary or food donation to the Salvation Army, a Christmas gift to someone who would otherwise receive nothing, or a simple donation to a street person.
There are numerous efforts out there, between food drives and Christmas dinners to give to those who need it most. And it’s comforting to see the spirit of the season shine so brightly.
While the season can get us wrapped up in our own little world of giving, don’t forget about those who will truly benefit. It doesn’t have to be big, even the smallest gesture can have a large impact.
To quote a recent pay it forward initiative from Vernon Active Health.
“Never get tired of doing little things for others, for sometimes those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart.”