All wishes, great and small
Natasha is a young mother staying at the Sandy Merriman House shelter with one wish this Christmas: size-five pajamas for her three-year-old son, themed by Disney’s movie Cars — well, maybe some Cars toys for him to play with, too.
While she’s lived in Victoria for eight years, Natasha says her biggest challenge at the moment is “being alone” and waiting to hear if she can find an apartment for her and her son who lives with his grandmother until she can provide for him again. And if she had one wish for herself? “A Starbucks travel mug.”
Natasha’s story is just one of 100 similar wishes being heard through the Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List program, an initiative that has linked the Greater Victoria community with some of the humblest desires from those on the streets.
Since 2005, the non-profit has brought thousands of gifts to those less fortunate — from equipment needed to get a job, or small luxuries that make things briefly feel “normal” again, to gifts for estranged teenage daughters or extra layers to keep out the cold. This year, the group aims to serve all the members of Victoria Cool Aid’s Next Steps program, Sandy Merriman House and Rock Bay Landing.
“The hope is that we can show the homeless that they are not invisible; that they are cared for,” says Jennie Keeran, co-founder of the program. “It also allows the public to see that the homeless are not nameless or faceless, nor are they an ‘issue.’ They are individuals with different personalities and histories.”
Keeran says just the knowledge that people care enough to read their stories has a huge impact. Residents can view stories and wishes online, then bring donated gifts (some new, some used) to the respective shelters by Dec. 22.
“One year, we had a woman donate her late husband’s guitar to someone who was wishing for one,” says Monique Cummings of the Shelbourne Street Church of Christ, which partners with the program. “Even though it was very sentimental to her, she could finally part with it, knowing someone wanted one so badly.”
Fill a wish or learn more at: HomelessPartners.com. See more ways to access or give assistance here: Santa’s Helpers: Organizations around Victoria grant wishes to those on the other side of the giving tree
Search for Emma still on
The search continues this week for Emma Fillipoff, the 26-year-old woman who has been reported missing since Nov. 28.
While police have no further information on the case so far, homeless advocate Rose Henry has joined the search party and an intense postering campaign with Fillipoff’s mother, who flew in from Ontario last week in hopes of finding her daughter.
“Right now, I have been driving Emma’s mum around at night and talking to various people of the streets. Her mum is here without any family support or a car,” says Henry. “Most of the time she is on foot and talking to strangers, and praying that someone will have seen her daughter and that she will be found so that she can get the right support for her.”
Fillipoff was last seen by friends on Burdett Avenue, between Blanshard and Quadra, and was reported to be living at Sandy Merriman House before she went missing. She does not have a history of being gone for long periods. Fillipoff is described as 5’5” with a slim build and long blond-brown hair. Call VicPD with information: 250-995-7654. M