Small Things Make a Big Difference in Overcoming PovertyOthers, Community , Support
Contributed by: Youth Unlimited (Greater Vancouver)
The old C-21 youth drop-in centre in Abbotsford was a great space for young people to connect. Over the years, the Verge team got to know a number of young people who had either been homeless at one time or another, been in foster care and were aging out, or were just living in relative poverty. Over time, we build relationships with them. In our conversations, we would sometimes hear about the ‘sketchy’ living arrangements they had, which could range from couch-surfing or literally living under some bushes, to renting space in a friend’s suite or apartment, or moving in with a roommate they didn’t know just to be able to afford rent. For none of them it was a choice they made, rather they were trapped in this precarious cycle. Often we helped them move, because of these daring circumstances.
In visiting with them, or sometimes by picking them up or dropping them off where they lived, we would find out that they lived with little or no furniture, or stuff that was basically falling apart or filthy. So, we started keeping an eye open for decent used furniture that we could get for free through Freecycle.org or through other contacts.
Over a game of curling, I was telling a friend of mine about the impact it had made for me to bring just an easy chair to a girl who lived in a flop house and didn’t even have her own bed. That chair became a refuge for her in the house because it was hers. There was only room for her in the chair. Thus, it created a safe space for her, a place where she could be by herself and nobody could try to take advantage of her precarious situation. This chair became the first step in getting control over her life situation again.
My curling friend is semi-retired and does renovations for seniors who are either down-sizing or cleaning up their homes. After hearing this story he offered to give us some of the stuff that those seniors are getting rid of, rather than just taking it all to the landfill.
When another supporter who is a real estate agent heard about this, she called me one day to ask if I could use a whole apartment worth of furniture. Someone had left behind all their furniture when they sold their apartment, and she had to have it out of there for the new owners. We were able to give most of it to a young couple we worked with who had three kids, and they were able to move out of the girl’s mom’s apartment and into a basement suite.
In our goal to alleviate poverty among people we often focus on the grand scheme of the problem. However, helping young people to get free furniture has been an amazing way of communicating how much we care about them. At the same time these small acts of generosity and help made a genuine improvement in their living conditions. What I learned over time is that doing small things to affect even one person’s living situation can help stop the cycle of poverty in their life, and help to communicate that Jesus cares about them unconditionally.
Written by Chris Hyslop (Member of the Verge team in Abbotsford – Greater Vancouver Youth Unlimited)