A Visit to Potter’s Place Mission in the DTES

10 06 2009

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I realize that sometimes I feel so different from the people that I am trying to help, and I want to make an effort to get to know them, so yesterday I went to Potter’s Place Mission in the downtown east side.  This was my first time in over a year meeting homeless people again. My life has been a bit of a whirlwind since coming back home. In the Winter of 2007/2008 I was deeply involved with organizing the Cold Wet Weather Mat Program at Coquitlam Alliance Church, and I spent nearly every day before I left for my exchange in Vienna working on this project. Then I went to study in Vienna, Austria for one year and just came back home about 2 months ago. What is interesting is that when I left Vancouver over a year ago, my church was sending young people to Potter’s Place every Tuesday to provide the band for the church service, cook meals, and serve food to the homeless. I went to Potter’s Place last night, not even sure if I’d see anyone I knew, and then all of a sudden there was a big group of young people from my church, who have all been coming diligently every Tuesday. It was like nothing had changed since I left and I was touched by the dedication I saw in the young people. Many of them are in high school, and they shared with me how they love coming every week to meet with the homeless, and one girl shared with me how she hoped that her new friends whom she met last time would be there again. It was really touching to see the relationships that people were building with the homeless in the DTES, and the dedication of young people who simply wanted to help them.

I have to say it was a new experience for me. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. It’s one thing to organize a homeless shelter in the Tri Cities from the comfort of a clean church kitchen, and quite another to be immersed in the environment of the DTES. I’m glad I went though, and was happy that I got a chance to speak to two of the visitors at Potter’s Place. I learned a bit about the realities of street life – I guess sometimes I am quite an idealistic person and it still shocks me to hear about the drugs on the street and the difficult life that some people have to face everyday.  It’s hard to imagine. I must say that I am so impressed with the volunteers who run so many of soup kitchens and outreach centers which help the poorest and most disenfranchised people in our society. If you’re one of them, please feel free to share your stories and experiences. Hearing from people like you is what motivates me to use my skills in business and other areas to continue working on this problem.

I’d like to end with a bible verse, which I saw at the Potter’s Place Mission website:

“Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”

Luke 14:23