Where can all the street people go?

I read in a financial magazine that 95% of Canadians live within 30 days of bankruptcy.

It’s stimulating to imagine your ability to earn screams to a stop, you don’t have a partner, you have a couple of kids. How long could you last?

Louise Stinson says it’s a good way to step into the shoes of many, many clients who use the David Busby Street Centre daily. While it’s easy to ‘cast judgement’ on people, it takes a lot more courage to look at yourself and at where you (or I) would be if disaster struck. If your starting gate is already back of most people’s, your ability to recover is really compromised.

These are the people who fuel the work of Louise Stinson, counsellors, medical people, board of directors, kindly business owners who donate food and services, people who make up the community that is bursting at the seams of 2000 square feet at Trinity Anglican Church on Collier St.

The Centre, which opened in 1993 in the church hall, with the encouragement of David Busby (rector of Trinity at the time) has to move. So do the weekly AA meetings, flu shots, counselling sessions, showers, food, beverages, resume help, housing help, someone to negotiate a room rate or speak with a landlord.

In 2008, the Centre will see 34,000 visits. That means about 2000 people a year. Some people come every day. Some are transient. Some have mental health challenges and soak up the care and the environment that makes them welcome. Some have physical disabilities. Some are on disability pensions. Some are families.

Of those 2000 people, about 40% are regular ‘members’ at the Centre. There is a small army of support in Barrie for people in need… food banks, Sally Ann, David Busby Centre, E Fry, Youth Haven, Barrie Community Health… all of these are centred in the downtown core. That’s really the location where people without transportation and resources need to be.

“We need 4500 to 5000 square feet of space, primarily on one floor. We need to keep our services and by September, 2008 (4 months) we need to be in a new location,” says Louise.

The Centre’s board of directors is looking; so are community supporters; it’s a tremendous challenge to find the right place with the right neighbours who understand the work being done at the centre, within walking distance to downtown services.

To that end, the board is holding its own Gala, on Friday, May 9. Georgian College dining room will be aglitter with fine food and silent auction items.

With tickets at $100 each, people can expect a $65 tax donation. This is the first time the Busby Centre has tackled this kind of fundraiser… its annual operating budget of $100,000 comes from donations, United Way, County of Simcoe, Faithworks. The community is leaping up to the plate, with corporate sponsors Kwik Kopy, Galbraith Family Law Office, Jones Consulting Group, Boilermakers’ Union Local 128, Paul Wessenger Law Office, Tom Bolland Public Accountant, Black & MacDonald, Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

Clearly the best part of the evening will be hearing from Rubin Carter whose tumultuous life was played out by Denzel Washington in the movie, Hurricane. For sports fans, lovers of life, those in the field of helping, those with an eye on our whole community, this represents a real effort to help.

Want a ticket? Call the Busby Centre at 739-6919. Or check in with one of the Board of Directors: Don McNeil (B101), Anne Black (Simcoe County Board of Education), Norah Busby, Linda Gibson (Autism Services), Rick Jones (Jones Consulting Group), Eric Kennedy (Staff Sarjeant, downtown community patrol), Alys Murphy (counsellor) Bethany Obermayer (Trinity Church), Paul Terry Lancaster (Write First Time), Paul Wessenger (Lawyer), Lori Bedford (County of Simcoe).

These are the people who are mobilizing to find a new place for a critical service.

Thanks, to the whole Busby team!