Homelessness truly touches us all. This is Tim’s story.
“In my work, especially as a first responder we get to see people how they really are, how they live, and usually under the most difficult of conditions.”Tim Baillie, Retired Surrey Firefighter, Community Activist & Volunteer.
As a firefighter I met a lot of people who are pretty hard to forget: the old woman in distress, who when you go to her house you discover she has little to no furniture, only a couple of dresses and an empty fridge, literally hanging on by a thread to avoid being homeless. The regulars on the street, the mentally challenged and people others would never notice, I actually made it my business to get to know them. But worst of all are the kids. To me that is the biggest tragedy of all, living in mom’s car, couch surfing, hungry, poorly dressed, homeless.
It can really affect you. It’s one of the reasons why the fellows in my hall and the membership as a whole reached out to support the Front Room, a great Surrey based organization that feeds the homeless. We saw an opportunity to serve Christmas Dinner back in 1998 and soon after, we were serving (and are still serving!) a full meal once a month.
In my opinion, too many people treat the homeless as if they were invisible.
There was alcoholism in our family – my father was a binge drinker and on occasion we came within days of having the house sold out from under us. It was this experience and my role as a firefighter that made me realize there were things I could do over and above my official work duties to help others in need.
They say homelessness touches us all and we all have a personal story. For me it was the son of close family friends. Doug was a regular kid, a hard worker and overall nice guy. He was only 17 years old when a 250 lb. pipe crashed down on him so hard it smashed his hardhat. It was devastating to him and everything in his life changed as a result: he ended up homeless, living in a shack with no heat and no water somewhere just off of 128th.
My friends asked if I could help and so I was able to get Doug a hearing and navigate his way through the system. There was an inquiry of course, but since he appeared to only have soft tissue damage his claim didn’t go too far. I did the best I could to help my friend and ironically something really amazing happened. His outlook on life changed, he stopped seeing himself as
a lost cause, he finally had hope. During his last few years he slipped back into believing in himself; it took knowing that someone cared about him, that someone was looking out for him, that made all the difference in the world. And I know this to be true because his mother told me. She gave me a handmade quilt with a firefighter motif on it complete with our crests as a thank you. I still have that quilt, and it will always be treasured. I didn’t treat her son as if he was invisible and the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society does not treat the homeless as if they were invisible either. Please Give so they Can Give.