Larry had been living in a Vancouver SRO for many years. He had tried unsuccessfully – to find affordable accommodation in Burnaby, his home and preferred living in the area. Recently, with the assistance of the Outreach Workers from Progressive Housing, Larry finally found housing in Burnaby.
Larry describes himself as a recovering addict. He regularly attends the Outreach Resource Centre in Burnaby and the Union Gospel Mission in New Westminster.
Larry has an understanding of life on the street and crime as a way of survival. He is no stranger to either.
When the opportunity arose to become a guide for the 2008 Homeless Count Larry was one of the first to express an interest. By working with the Count he felt he would be giving back to the people and agencies that have assisted him. And he proved invaluable to his interview team. He showed compassion for those he met and worked closely with the team to complete the Count questionnaire. He could understand the situations experienced by the homeless because he, too, had been there. He was able to talk about services in Burnaby with people who had no idea they existed.
But the Count also proved rewarding for Larry. His team first went to the RCMP detachment to discuss possible sites to locate homeless individuals. At this meeting, Larry found himself, suddenly, on the other side of the law. The RCMP were consulting with him, treating him respectfully as a partner in assisting those who are homeless, regarding him as a success story, someone to be congratulated for the changes he has made in his life. The experience was extraordinary and made a huge impact.
Assisting with the homeless count gives me hope. Larry said. It is the feeling of hope that I want to give back. People think that giving money gives hope. It does. But it doesnt give as much hope as just saying, Hi, how are you. The Progressive Housing Society gives hope and a true feeling of being wanted. These are the things that I want to give back.
(Larrys name has been changed to respect his privacy)