Even though Bruce Curtiss has only been in Victoria for the past two weeks, he’s already set a lofty goal for himself — helping to end homelessness in the city.
“I would love the next 16 years to work myself out of a job,” said Curtiss, the new executive director of the Mustard Seed.
“I would love for this job to be short-term and temporary because we’ve solved a problem. I would love to end poverty, homelessness, marginalization, addiction, that’s my dream.”
Curtiss comes to Victoria after working at the Union Gospel Mission, an organization that provides meals, shelter, outreach and chaplaincy services in Vancouver, in various roles for more than 16 years.
He originally started as a volunteer and then moved on to a part-time support worker. From there Curtiss became senior chaplain, chaplain manager and eventually manager, creating programs that prevent people from falling into the cycle of homelessness.
Over the years of serving at a grassroots organization, Curtiss oversaw much of the day-to-day services, and has witnessed first-hand more than his share of tragedies on the streets. He’s responded to people getting hit by cars, overdoses and suicide attempts.
“It’s a tough plea. It’s so destructive. It just breaks my heart. It’s really engrained in me to really want to make a difference in not just the individuals’ lives. Individuals make up the community and that filters out into neighbourhoods, communities and cities and hopefully globally, that things can change,” he said.
However, Curtiss knows he can’t bring about change on his own, noting not one agency can solve the problem of homelessness and that it must be a collective community and societal effort.
At the Mustard Seed, Curtiss hopes to continue his hands-on approach with people in the local community, walking and talking to people on the streets.
According to the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, there are roughly 1,300 homeless people in Victoria.