— Kevin Underhill
When Bernice Kamano told the small crowd, during a candlelight vigil on National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, about a young man who had passed away living on the streets, she couldn’t bring herself to read the whole story.
The young aboriginal man had battled homelessness among other issues in his all-too-short lifetime. Attendees and stopper-bys at Whale Wall in downtown on Dec. 21, listened to somber presentations and observed a moment of silence, remembering those who passed away living on the streets in 2015. It was only fitting that a cold wind accompanied the shortest day of the year. The sentiment was clear from the beginning and echoed throughout the event: end homelessness in Victoria.
Hilary Marks, with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, led the event as volunteers passed out electric candles. She hopes one day they won’t have to hold this event at all.
“By law we all have the right to housing but unfortunately we don’t all have it,” Marks said. “I wish we could stop this and just house people and have them living longer and have a better quality of life.”
Marks said the mission is to end homelessness by 2018 and she thinks if everyone is on board and doing the right things, there’s no reason they can’t accomplish their goal.
“I’m hopeful and I’m keeping my faith that it’s going to happen.”
Among the roughly 35 people in attendance was Jeremy Loveday, a Victoria city councillor. He said this event serves as a reminder of the work that needs to be done to find a home for everyone in the city.
“I’m here to remember what people without homes face on a daily basis,” Loveday said. “This event raises awareness but it’s really about remembering and holding space for those who have lost their lives living on the street.”
According to Loveday, the coalition reports that 367 people are sleeping on the streets or in shelters every night. Marks said the mayor and council are doing a good job — more than past governments have done — but added municipal leaders can’t do it all.
“We need new provincial government. Housing is a right and Christy Clark doesn’t seem to understand that,” she said. “We need money, we need housing and we need to start building.”
The emotional presentations came to a close and whatever sunlight was left disappeared as the crowd dispersed. National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day may have come to a close but for many, life on the streets is an every-night battle.