On December 24th at midnight, my street family and I gathered on the steps of the legislature buildings for a candlelight vigil, to remember those we’ve lost as well as everything that we’ve gained. As we stood in solidarity and silence, I had time to reflect on how deeply grateful I am for every gift that’s been given during 2015.

It’s been a year of much growth and many milestones, thanks to the incredible generosity of people like you, throughout Greater Victoria. We’ve seen our total gift amounts double since last year! But just as importantly, this means that an awareness has been spread further and deeper throughout the city, with a better understanding of our street community sinking into our collective knowledge.

Early last year, we challenged you all to an Easter Match campaign and you more than rose to the occasion, spreading hope for renewal and rejuvenation. Thank you for contributing and exceeding our expectations!

During the Thanksgiving season, you supported us in making and distributing 100 turkey sandwiches. You also helped us as we partnered with Victoria’s Christmas Backpack Project, an annual grassroots initiative to provide our street community with backpacks full of necessities on Christmas day. Over the course of the year, you helped by stuffing more than 140 backpacks that we handed out to men and women in need. You also provided us with the means to hand out a total of 32,500 cups of hot coffee, piles of warm socks, and outerwear.

This year, we saw more than a few people housed for their first time in years. One of these people was Terry, whose apartment we were even able to renovate before he moved in, thanks to your support. Terry had been in and out of transitional housing for over two years, and finds it difficult to see so many people still struggling while he lives in a “palace.” He is beyond thankful for everything he’s been provided with, through your gifts.

Recently, some other men who we housed together in a community living arrangement on Bay Street invited my outreach workers and I to a Christmas dinner that they cooked themselves and were proud to present to us! It was amazing to see their empowerment and this beautiful expression of their desire to give back.

I am truly heartened by each gift that was given and thankful for all of the ways we’ve been supported to use these gifts to create hope. Times are changing. Our team is changing too, with Geoff moving onto law school outside the city and Chris joining us as we continue to seek out opportunities to provide comfort, dignity and hope.

Happy New Year!