Robin CampbellGuest Column
Since Manna Homeless Society’s beginning in 2011, we’ve been joined by tremendous individuals who are dedicated to bringing friendship, hope and essential provisions to the less fortunate members of our community here in Oceanside.
The integrity, vision, commitment and sacrifice I’ve personally witnessed volunteers bring to our team both inspire and encourage me in this endeavour of transforming lives. Your generous gifts of time, labour and finances are what makes this mission possible. Without your contributions, many people in need would face hunger, isolation, despair and poverty alone.
A simply spoken “thank you” seems so paltry a return for everything you’ve done, but I’ve had the privilege of seeing your hearts, and I know gratitude is not what you’re after. Your passion is to bring back the hope and light into the eyes of real people who have real needs.
With your generous support, Manna Homeless Society had the opportunity to build transformative relationships and distribute necessary resources. We gave out 3,600 survival packs in 2014, an increase of 50 per cent over 2013.
Our mobile mission van has enabled us to reach people wherever they are with nutritious groceries, warm clothing and sleeping supplies like blankets, tarps and tents. As you know, by compassionately meeting an impoverished individual’s immediate needs, we build relationships and make connections that can be life changing.
In addition to our work on the street, our patience, persistence and passion have had results with other parts of our community, too! We’ve increased public awareness about the cycles of poverty that are happening in our neighbourhood and individuals and agencies have paid attention.
When past mayors witnessed the deplorable conditions people in our neighbourhood live in, they were incited to take action. In fact, the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness was started four years ago after Teunis Westbroek and Ed Mayne were given a small glimpse into the living conditions of some local residents. The Sunrise Rotary Club of Qualicum Beach also recognized and supported the importance of the work we do. Through raising public attention to issues of poverty and homelessness, we’ve been able to gather and distribute much needed resources to impoverished people.
Take our free bicycle initiative, for example. It’s actually difficult for most people to realize that accessible transportation is a major obstacle for people affected by poverty; however, last year, we were able to collect over 70 bicycles from various concerned members in our community who wanted to be part of the transformative work we do. This initiative empowered individuals affected by extreme forms of poverty, abuse and homelessness to really connect with the resources they need, apply for work, get to work, make it to important medical appointments, and begin their journey to healing. The success of this initiative, indeed, shows that when communities come together we really can make a difference.
Many of you may also be aware that a few individuals have expressed concern about our approach to alleviating the heavy burden of poverty. Increasing housing costs, inability to access education, mental health, physical disability, social barriers, these are all challenges that need to be addressed.
In fact, in addition to providing food, clothing, survival equipment and temporary shelter, it is our goal to connect people with the necessary resources which will help them to flourish. Our hope is to partner with organizations and individuals who will assist us in offering training, counselling, personal coaching and life-skills guidance.
By establishing trusting relationships and a safe place for people to talk and access food, clothing and temporary shelter, we are taking the first, and often times, most important step in preparing people’s hearts for more permanent solutions and change.
Our vision has been, and always will be, to ultimately help people find sustainable solutions. And by meeting immediate needs, we are the gateway to that vision.
On behalf of the homeless and the less fortunate, a very big thank you to the Oceanside community.
— Robin Campbell is the founder of the Manna Homeless Society. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.