Homeless heart attack victim in Richmond fighting back

"John" tells his story as donations sought for 10th annual event to help the city's homeless population

After suffering two heart attacks, “John” was unable to return to work and, not too far down the line, unable to pay his rent.

Having nowhere and nobody to turn to, John (name changed) found himself living rough in his pick-up truck on Dyke and No. 2 roads.

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Being 60 at the time, he found it nigh impossible to get a job, not least because of his health and the fact he had no fixed abode.

Two and a half years later, an encounter with one of St. Alban’s Church’s many Outreach and Advocacy Program volunteers would change John’s life.

St. Alban’s helped initially to have John and his truck towed to the church parking lot, before he cleaned himself up and “made himself presentable” to the program lead.

That was five months ago.

John now spends most of his week volunteering to maintain the building and grounds at the church and is on the cusp of getting his own home again, thanks to the outreach program.

As well as regaining a roof over his head, John admits to reclaiming something just as important – his dignity.

“I basically ran out of money and I didn’t know where to turn,” John, a former steel fabricator, told the Richmond News of becoming homeless.

“They helped me seek out the help I needed. I don’t mind helping them, because they’re helping me.

“Every day (before St. Alban’s stepped in) I was fighting against the ministry, but now it seems to be going better; you sometimes need help to show you the way.”

John is still living in his truck, at an undisclosed location in Richmond, but since finding St. Alban’s outreach program, he’s getting help with several matters, including disability applications.

“(The housing) is getting closer and closer; I’m on the list and have moved up, I’m told,” he added.

John, according to the outreach program’s Dianne Woodhouse, has made himself very welcome around the church.

“He has basically been our caretaker and knows every person who comes here,” Woodhouse said.

John is a shining example of the good work the church’s program can achieve.

And Woodhouse is hoping there is another one or two Johns in the crowd of homeless people that will show up at the church’s annual Richmond Community Connect event, which takes placed Thursday, Oct. 18 at 9 a.m.

This is the event’s 10th year, with hot food, medical care, dental care, haircuts and bike maintenance – all donated by around 35 vendors from the local business community - among the day-long help waiting for the VIP clients.

“Donations, money is best, for ponchos,” said Woodhouse, when asked what kind of help the event needs.

“We bought them from the dollar store in the past, but it is the dollar store and they don’t last long.

“We need proper rain pants - we get a lot of requests for them - so we want to buy them, as well as sleeping bags and waterproof footwear.

“People get ‘street-feet,’ which is awful. I’ve taken people’s socks off and the socks are sometimes embedded in the skin.”

If you can help, send monetary donations to c/o Richmond Food Bank Society, #100-5800 Cedarbridge Way, Richmond, V6X 2A7. Make cheques payable to “Homeless Connect.” Drop off new socks, underwear, boots and backpacks at the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store in Steveston.    For more information, email RichmondCommunityConnects@Gmail.com.

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