There will be a familiar face outside the London Drugs on Yates Street for the next few months.
For the past four years, Craig has sat outside the building selling calendars that highlight homelessness — in which half of the proceeds from the sale go back into his pocket.
“There’s human contact. It brings out my humour doing this,” said Craig, a low-income Victoria resident, who did not want to publish his last name.
The Hope for Shadows project originated in Vancouver in 2003 to challenge the stigma and stereotypes that existed about the Downtown Eastside. Each year, the calendars feature photos taken by residents of the Downtown Eastside to share stories about their own community through their eyes.
Low-income or homeless people become vendors, purchase the calendars for $10, sell them for $20, and keep the profit.
The project expanded to Victoria a few years ago with roughly a dozen people selling calendars on Fort Street, in the Cook Street Village and outside the Bay Centre. Vendors also sell Megaphone, a monthly magazine, for $2.
This year’s calendar, which launched last week, is a look back on the 12 years of the project’s history and how it has helped raise awareness about poverty, addiction and homelessness around the province.
Craig suffers from multiple-sclerosis. The program is his only source of income from October to January. In the past, he’s sold more than 60 calendars.
“It gives me a good way to get out and meet new people,” said Craig, who sells the calendars from Wednesday to Sunday from roughly 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. “I just want to bring awareness about the homeless issue that is a major problem and let people know that we are advocates for them. That’s why we do what we do.”
Jessica Hannon, project lead for Megaphone’s Hope and Shadows project, said it has been successful in Victoria, adding not only does it provide employment but it also gives vendors a sense of employment.
“People can feel isolated, can feel like they don’t have something to contribute and what we see with people participating in the Megaphone and Hope in Shadows vendor program is that this is meaningful work for people,” she said. “It’s a way for them to feel connected to the community and they are contributing something that’s worthwhile.”
Vendors will continue to see the calendars throughout the year on the streets of Victoria.