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WATCH: How a simple smile or wave can help combat homelessness

People asked to look inward and question stigmatizing views

  • What do you do when you see a homeless person?
  • How your actions can have an indirect impact on the issue.

We all have a role to play in addressing homelessness.

And that can be a simple wave, a warm smile, or a friendly hello to those we pass in the street.

That’s the message from the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society’s latest public awareness campaign. The Face Homelessness initiative aims to reduce stigma against people experiencing homelessness, as it can perpetuate the problem and create worse conditions for those sleeping rough.

“We want people to face homelessness rather than ignoring it,” Executive Director Stephanie Gauthier said. “We really want our audience to reflect inwards, to question any stigmatizing views they might have. We want people to be able to consider the impact their views, their words, and their actions can have on people experiencing homelessness and our efforts to end homelessness locally.”

At the heart of the campaign is a 30-second animated ad that shows a young girl and her father walking down the street. The pair approach two people experiencing homelessness. The little girl initially appears frightful, but when the people give her a wave, she smiles and waves back. Her dad, initially concerned, also then smiles and waves.

The ad ends by asking people to not let stigma overshadow one’s humanity.

Journey Home’s Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH) members played a central role in developing the video. LECoH’s mandate is to be a voice for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. It operates as the eyes and ears for what’s happening on the streets.

“Fear, isolation, anger, hopelessness, and an overwhelming amount of contradictory information is just a few of the emotions and issues homeless folks face on a daily basis,” LECoH member Stephanie Krehbiel said. “Grief and trauma remain major challenges for folks on the street.”

All levels of government have a roll to play in addressing the issue, Tim Richter, the founder, president, and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said, especially given the extraordinary scope of the problem.

He said 1.7 million Canadians live in core housing and 36 per cent of all Canadians know someone who has experienced homelessness or experienced it themselves. He said the solution will be a massive undertaking that will take time as the problem has been 40 years in the making.

“I’ve often joked that it’s the political equivalent of a high school dance,” he said. “Everyone is standing around the edges of the dancefloor, staring at their feet, waiting for somebody else to make the first move.”

He applauded local projects to get the ball rolling on coming up with solutions. He encouraged residents to prod elected officials to do more, and to take time and volunteer with local organizations that need help.

Published 2022-04-06 by Tyler Marr

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