Homeless participants help launch Street Survival Guide

Surviving life on the streets just got a bit easier thanks to the efforts of a team of people who have experienced homelessness in the city.

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness has partnered with homeless participants to create a guide for everyone facing life on the streets.

Surviving life on the streets just got a bit easier thanks to the efforts of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and a team of people who have experienced homelessness in the city.

The coalition is launching its Street Survival Guide on Thurs., Feb. 7, a year-in-the-making project that asked those without a home and resource groups to brainstorm about what everyone on the street needs to know.

“I’ve never been homeless myself, so there would be no point in me creating the guide,” says Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director of the coalition. “We wanted to bring in people who know, first-hand, what is needed.”

The guide provides information on how to survive, and move on from, life on the streets, but its production took a team of about a dozen individuals meeting weekly since September — eight of whom have experienced homelessness. Some participants struggled with addiction, mental health challenges, current homelessness and unemployment. The guide acts as a comprehensive resource to address these issues, as well as the smaller details like where to go for laundry, hygiene, food and health care.

“The entire process was collaborative,” says Hannah Rabinovitch, guide coordinator. “From phoning agencies to double check address and hour listings, to asking people’s friends and service providers for feedback on first editions of the guide — we made formatting and content decisions as a team.”

Food and stipends were distributed to compensate people’s time and participation. And while the guide will remain free, Wynn-Williams estimates that the total cost of the project is around $50,000, including staff time, design and printing costs of the first 1,000 copies, made possible through grants by the United Way of Greater Victoria.

The small guide offers 20 pages of resources for all segments of society — singles, youth, families, seniors and aboriginal people — and includes a fold-out map in the centre. This is the coalition’s first social-inclusion-based project, and is part of the coalition’s mission to end homelessness in Greater Victoria by 2018.

“What was important to us was that we made this guide readable, understandable and relevant. What we heard from the community was that it should be readable, portable and durable,” says Wynn-Williams. “So, the first thing we did when we got one was drop it in water to see how it held up. It did!”

All are invited to attend the launch event Thurs., Feb. 7, 3-5pm at the Central Library Meeting Room (735 Broughton). M

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