Karen speaks to a packed Festival Longhouse
Karen O'Shannacery has been named to the Order of British Columbia, the highest civilian honour of our province. And we are very proud to say that Karen, the force of nature behind the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, is a friend of the Dundarave Festival of Lights. There are few British Columbians whose life work speaks so powerfully to the community we ought to be—a community that leaves no one behind, that celebrates the beauty of every human person, and refuses to treat anyone as disposable or unworthy of love.
It was a powerful moment in the Festival Longhouse last season when Karen took the mike and, as only she can do it—with warmth, courage, and inspiring determination, challenged us to see the day when every bed in a homeless shelter would lead to a permanent bed. The answer to homelessness, on this reasoning, is a home.
This is a happy moment for all of us to take stock of the future of our communities. The pressures of life can be so great that it takes a conscious, determined effort to think about the world as it ought to be, to ask tough questions about the ways people are pushed to the margins of our society, and then make the leap of faith necessary to make change happen. What marks Karen as a remarkable British Columbian is the courage, vision and joy she brings to this work of conscience, justice and mercy through the Lookout Emergency Aid Society. There are, to put it bluntly, hundreds of people this year on the North Shore and thousands across Metro Vancouver who would be homeless were it not for the tireless work of the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, the agency Karen helped to found. So here's to Karen O'Shannacery and the work we hold in common of making sure no one is left out in the cold.
Karen O’Shannacery has worked for more than four decades seeking solutions and providing comfort to the homeless and disenfranchised of Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Ms. O’Shannacery’s compassion for those less fortunate has led to the establishment of quality resources and housing. She has a thorough understanding of the issues, is a tireless advocate for homeless people, a respected, well-spoken leader and a team player who works across boundaries to achieve change. Among her many successes, Ms. O’Shannacery’s has created 17 housing projects, including three multi-use buildings, renovation of two single-room occupancy buildings and the opening of Antoinette Lodge, subsidized housing in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. She co-founded a provincial Shelter Network and was instrumental in the purchase and renovation of New Westminster’s former College Place night club, which now serves as a homeless shelter and transitional housing.