Pop-up care village aims to help Calgary's vulnerable population

Asking for help can be a challenge, and when you’re living on the streets, accessing basic services can be even harder. As Craig Momney reports, one community is hoping to get the most vulnerable all the help they need under one roof.

It’s an initiative involving dozens of local organizations and businesses coming together to support those facing homelessness in Calgary.

The Pop-up care village, which was set up at the Kerby Centre on Tuesday afternoon, is designed to support the community by offering basic and necessary services — all under one roof.

It’s a service one man can relate to all too well.

“I never asked for help until I was 28 years old, on my deathbed of addiction,” said Robert McLaren.

“I finally asked for help.”

McLaren lived on the streets from the age of 10 until his late 20s.

He said that in fear of shame, he never looked to anyone for help. But now, years later, he’s the one collecting donations, supporting those who are in the same shoes he once was.

“I just celebrated 13 years sober from hard drugs. I remember being homeless on the streets and being able to get nothing,” he said.

“To be able to come back and give to these people makes me feel warm-hearted, and to have my family do it with me is more rewarding that anything.”

Damon Parisian has been clean from drugs for five years. He was also at the event on Tuesday to help give back. He said he knows how critical these services are to those in need.

“It opens up avenues for a lot of people that may not know what help is,” Parisian said.

“A lot of people don’t know how to ask for help because of trauma and stuff they’ve gone through in their life.”

Fifty organizations were helping at the pop-up care village on Tuesday, which offers several free services such as health care, clothing, food, immigration and housing support.

“We want to create and ensure that we have a safe space for people to relax and just have fun so they’re not constantly in that survival mode,” said Bill Zheng, manager of the pop-up event.

“They can seek all the services that they need in one place at one time, and just kind of get all of their needs met rather than going to all of the organizations all over Calgary,” Hanna Woodward, program co-ordinator at BeTheChangeYYC, said of the event.

The next pop-up care village is scheduled to take place in September.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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