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Reaching out to connect with the city's homeless

Community rallies for annual event, aims to help, heal

Dotted alongside the city's bustling roads and lurking behind shiny shopping centres lies a community of people, ignored by some - yet in plain sight of us all.

It's estimated that up to 250 people are homeless in Richmond and it's something that keeps volunteers and businesses coming back to help with the annual Homeless Connect Day, now entering its third year.

This time, however, the newly formed Richmond Homeless Coalition - a collaboration of local organizations, businesses and social agencies and faith groups - will be running the show on Oct. 20, which gives the city's homeless population the chance to become VIPs for the day and also checks on their general health and wellbeing.

It's also a vital opportunity for the organizers and volunteers to, as the event's name suggests, "connect" and perhaps form some kind of relationship with the souls that walk through the door on the day.

"The event is about a community response to the issue of homelessness," said Sandy McLeod, Homeless Connect's event co-coordinator and Way Community Church Volunteer.

"Community participation and involvement is essential to drawing attention to this issue and to those who are currently experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness because of life experiences such as job loss, health issues, etc.

"Complacency isn't an option if we believe everyone should have a home."

Organizers are inviting people to volunteer or donate clothing and/or hygiene products.

Financial contributions can also be made to cover the expenses of this event, which involves close to 200 volunteers.

Local businesses also play a major role in making the event a success, something that participants are very proud of.

"(We) believe firmly that local businesses must remain an integral element in supporting social programs," said Biz a la Carte Services' Fahim Dhalla.

"We are very proud to have been a part of Richmond's Homeless Connect Day for three years, and we hope that this will continue for many years to come."

On the day itself, community members will be providing services to people who are homeless, such as health services, foot care and massage, dental information, haircuts, bike repair, food and clothing.

Also on site will be many community agencies available to assist with resources such as addiction services, youth services, income assistance intake, mental health services and employment services.

Other local businesses such as the Steveston Rotary Club, Save-On Foods and PEDAL Bike have rallied to the cause, donating supplies and/or volunteers to support the event's financial costs.

Additionally, various community groups have also pledged their support and many will be present at the event including the Richmond Poverty Response Committee, the Richmond Food Bank, McNair High School, Hugh Boyd Continuing Education, St. Vincent De Paul Society, the City of Richmond, Richmond RCMP, Vancouver Coastal Health and Chimo Crisis Services.

A pancake breakfast and a hot lunch will be served to the VIPs, as well as providing "guests" with hygiene kits and a take away nutritious snack.

Homeless Connect Day takes place at St. Alban's Church (7260 St. Alban's Rd.) on Thursday, Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To volunteer, contact Harry at To donate hygiene products, clothing or money, go in-person to Broadmoor Baptist Church, 8140 Saunders Road, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Tuesday to Friday. Cheques payable to Broadmoor Baptist Church, put note on check "Homeless Connect" and send to the above address.

The deadline for volunteering and donating is Tuesday, Oct. 11.