You don't really expect to find, to borrow from our friends at West Vancouver's Mayor and Council, "the true spirit of the season and the best spirit of our community", at a homeless shelter on one of the coldest days on record. But this is exactly what happened as we trailed Jason, Jay, and James of the West Vancouver Firefighters Charitable Society on a tour of the Lookout Society's North Shore shelter lead by Jody, the shelter's tireless manager.
For the record (again--and we won't tire of repeating it) West Van's firefighters have been, through their benevolent society, the single largest donors we've had to date through the Dundarave Festival of Lights to the North Shore Shelter. They have multiplied several fold the generosity of every tree sponsor. Through this generous and heroic giving they have helped all of us answer the reality of homelessness in our community fearlessly and hopefully.
The numbers are grim. There are more people -- including, for the first time this year in the Shelter's history, seniors -- turning to this discrete building for help against the soul-killing, life devouring reality of homelessness. The first floor of the shelter, which only two years ago was reserved only for cold weather, emergency housing, has bunk beds that our now filled all season long. This is, second only to Lionsgate Hospital, the hardest-working building on the North Shore with a 107% occupancy rate and a cold weather policy of never turning anyone away.
We are made for bigger things than just keeping body and soul together against the cold. We're built to thrive. Together, with our roots deep in our community, we can save lives, transform personalities, bring encouragement, hope and power to people who have known little more than despair and isolation. The proof of this is in Chef Don Guthro's work in founding the North Shore Culinary Training Program at the North Shore Shelter. This program, which receives new money every year from the Dundarave Festival of Lights, is answering homelessness in the best way possible: one person at a time.
The way forward, as shown by our firefighters, is to answer the reality of homelessness with a deeper humanity. Answering the needs of the seniors and anyone else who is homeless in our community does not make us heroes, it keeps us human. There is a fierce beauty in this work of ending homelessness together. This fierce beauty is the true spirit of the Christmas season and the best spirit of our community.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.