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Victoria’s Our Place Society takes service on the road, honours Dandelion Society

New van helps continue outreach work of retired street community advocate Rev. Al Tysick
Our Place Society outreach worker Kim provides a coffee to a Pandora Street community member from the society’s new Dandelion Street Outreach van. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

In an effort to improve community access and establish the legacy of retired street community advocate Rev. Al Tysick, two Our Place outreach workers have hit the street in the society’s new Dandelion Street Outreach van.

A variety of resources and services will be delivered around the region five days a week starting at 6:30 a.m., said outreach worker Kia Ratt.

“All of our days are a bit fluid, and that’s the awesome nature of street outreach,” he said. “Generally, we’ll start the mornings with urns of coffee and bring it out to folks who’ve been super cold.”

The mobile service will provide members of the street community with clothes, transportation to appointments or a friendly conversation, each of which are vital for individual well being, Ratt said, adding the service has so far been “really well received.” Frequent stops will include Stadacona, Irving and Cecilia Ravine parks, Rock Bay and areas in Victoria’s downtown core.

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Outreach workers Kia and Kim in front of Our Place Society’s new mobile Dandelion Street Outreach van. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Transportation to transitional housing or to a new location is also important before the arrival of bylaw enforcement officers, whom Ratt said often confiscate what few belongings people have.

The new mobility also makes Our Place Society’s services safer and easier to access, said director of services Jordan Cooper. “People (experiencing homelessness) often isolate, or aren’t seeking out services even if they need it,” he said.

Physical or mental health conditions, COVID-19 and unease around the activity in front of the Our Place building can prevent some members of the homeless community from accessing services. “It we can at least meet people where they’re at and provide basic services, that’s what we’d like to ensure,” Cooper said.

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Making rounds throughout the street community in the Dandelion Street Outreach van continues the legacy of Tysick, who did the same independently with his Dandelion Society group in the 10 years prior to his retirement last year, at age 75.

“That was all his vision; connecting with people on the street, providing support and seeking out individuals that were being underserved,” Cooper said.

In honour of Tysick’s independent outreach and his prior years at Our Place Society, he added, “we wanted to do some more outreach on the street … So it really seemed like a good fit as Dandelion (Society) was trying to figure out how they’d proceed with Al retiring. We were able to take it on as a program at Our Place and continue his work.”

The Dandelion Outreach van’s supplies and operations are funded entirely through community donations, Cooper said, adding he hopes for the public’s continued support in lieu of government funding.

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