Rev. Al Tysick is on a first-name basis with most of the hundreds of people who make their beds on Victoria sidewalks, in shelters and in temporary housing every night.
He knows the Easter long weekend is markedly quieter downtown, as many public service and office employees retreat to celebrate with family or take a much-needed vacation.
“People on the street don’t get a long weekend, they’re in constant survival mode,” Tysick said, between his daily hospital and shelter visits.
It’s his familiarity with the streets that makes his remembrance of the 30 people who died on Victoria’s streets last year so much more meaningful.
“These people suffered unnecessarily,” he said.
This morning (March 29), Tysick and volunteers with the Dandelion Society will read out those 30 names during a Good Friday service and breakfast in Centennial Square starting at 9:30 a.m.
Last year, more than 100 people turned up for food and fellowship.
“If there’s anything about religious holidays the homeless community can relate to, it’s the suffering of Jesus Christ, which is traditionally remembered on Good Friday,” he said.
Chris Geater, a community relations officer at Victoria Cool Aid Society, called the deaths a tragedy, but said units such as the Victoria Integrated Community Outreach Team have been successful in connecting the street population with valuable help.
“VICOT is really helping those people stop or avoid becoming part of the ceremonies like the one on Friday,” he said.
More supportive housing is needed to help transition people from shelters to self-sufficiency, Geater added.
“Every night, we have people we have to turn away because of a lack of space.”
Tysick will ask people in attendance at the Good Friday service to write down their own burdens and nail them to a wooden cross, a symbolic gesture that recognizes the pain, struggle and hope on the streets.
Dandelion Society volunteers walk the streets of Victoria at 5:30 a.m. every weekday morning with blankets, muffins and coffee for those who need them.
To learn more, visit hopeliveshere.ca.