CALGARY (CityNews) – A man who once lived on the street as a teen is leading a group of volunteers in a mobile outreach program.
Once a week, the volunteers with Be The Change YYC hit the streets of Calgary offering food, warm clothes and hope to those who need it.
The volunteer-driven outreach program was founded in the summer of 2015 by Chaz Smith, who wished he had something like this when he was living on the streets.
“We’re just trying to offer a better quality of life and encourage people to end the cycle of homelessness and provide program referrals that will do that. When I was homeless, when I was hungry and when I was cold wandering parkades, I wished that something like this existed.”
Part of what the group does is try to create a community for those without a home, left behind and fending for themselves.
“When we talk to the youth that are experiencing homelessness, we know some stats indicate 40 per cent are LGBTQ,” said Smith. “They will say that their families or their communities forced them into things like conversion therapy. This is them saying you can’t be gay and if you are gay get out of my house. Unfortunately, they end up as youth in the shelter system.”
The organization hopes to one day open an outreach centre complete with computer access a small kitchen along with laundry and showers.
While they work towards the big dream of helping more people transition out of homelessness, they stay focused on connecting with others every time they’re on the streets.
“It actually makes me feel really good,” said one woman who receives support from Be The Change. “It goes to show that people do care and that’s what a lot of homeless people have to understand.”