For people who are homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness, Christmas can be a sad, lonely and cold time of year, especially for those who are estranged from their families.

The Society To End Homelessness in Burnaby, and our collaborative planning table, The Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness, hosts an annual Outreach Christmas to bring warmth, cheer and fun for these men and women, many of whom we know well.  The event is 100% volunteer and donor supported, demonstrating that Burnaby is a caring community that generously reaches out to people who are the most vulnerable and living in extreme poverty.

On Thursday December 7th, 2017 Outreach Christmas was held at the Royal Oak Ministry Centre, with 173 + people served.  This is more people than last year, and more than we had expected!  Another sign, perhaps, of the growing homelessness in Burnaby. All were warmly welcomed and participated in the festivities put on by the volunteers who made this event so successful.  There were 61 people helping during the event, with many more providing important support such as soliciting and collecting donations, putting together the Christmas presents and providing special food treats, while others transported materials and equipment, set up/take down work as just a few examples.

All told, approximately 132 people volunteered their time to create Outreach Christmas. They came from diverse backgrounds including community services such as Charlford House, Rotary and Lions Clubs and Burnaby Public Library, or businesses including Vancity, Ethical Bean, PODS, North Road BIA and 12th Avenue Elementary School, and the faith community including Royal Oak Ministry Centre, Southside Community Church and Masjeed Al Salaam, also private citizens and two dignitaries. In addition, 5 staff attended from Progressive Housing Society to ensure that people were able to access critical services.  We thank all of them as it could not be done without them!

Outreach Christmas generated lots of smiles, laughter, tears, hugs, enthusiasm, fun, music, dancing, presents, card giving, gathering of needed items and an abundance of caring.  We provided a scrumptious pancake breakfast, learning table, scrapbooking, card mailing, showers, clothing distribution, guessing game and a hockey shootout tournament.  Santa arrived with presents for all and photo opportunities; the JD Project provided fabulous live Christmas music that people danced to.  A person receiving services with an amazing voice sang a few songs sharing her joy, a real treat for all.  Of course there was also the traditional turkey lunch, bingo and various other games in the afternoon.

Our Society continues to collaborate with diverse stakeholders to plan local solutions for ending homelessness.  Let us all have a New Years wish that 2018 brings concrete solutions to homelessness in Burnaby.  It is only through collaboration and support of this wonderfully diverse and generous community that we will achieve this, and having seen the inclusivity of faith communities, service organizations, businesses and local residents come together to make the Outreach Christmas event so very successful, our Society believes that 2018 will see positive change in our community.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and all the best in the New Year!

Thank you for making Outreach Christmas a memorable and welcoming celebration:

Vancity for partnership, financial support, prize donations and volunteer support

Burger King
Burnaby Community Services
Burnaby Public Library
Burnaby Edmonds Lions Club
Burnaby Hospice Society & Thrift Store
Burnaby Lougheed Lions Club
Burnaby Meals On Wheels
Burnaby RCMP
By Design Construction
Charlford House
City Core Catering
City of Burnaby
Coast Capital Savings
Creekside Community Church
Dysco Services Ltd.
Ethical Bean Coffee
Home Depot
Individual Donors
Lions Kingsway Terrace
Masjid Al Salaam
MLA Anne Kang
MLA Raj Chouhan
MLA Janet Routledge
MLA Hon. Katrina Chen
MP Peter Julian
MP Kennedy Stewart
MP Terry Beech
New Life Community Church
New Vista
North Road Business Improvement Association
Progressive Housing Society
Purpose Society
Rotary Club of Burnaby
Royal Oak Ministry Centre
Salvation Army
Snow Cap Enterprises
St Thomas More Collegiate
Southside Community Church
The JD Project
Tim Hortons
12th Avenue Elementary School
Willingdon Church