Homelessness truly touches us all. This is Laurie’s story.
“When I tell someone that growing up in Surrey I was homeless, they often find it hard to believe. Unfortunately it’s true. I sincerely believe it shaped me into the person I am today.”Laurie Larsen, Surrey School Board of Education Trustee, Vice Chair
It’s hard to imagine that growing up I went to 14 different schools and moved at least 21 times. As the child of alcoholic parents there was very little stability in my life. Sometimes I would come home from school and be told we would be moving the next day and sometimes we only had only a few hours to pack up and move. It was usually for the same reasons: the rent wasn’t paid or the hydro was cut off.
I was always poorly dressed and often picked on at school. The first time in my life that I had new shoes was in grade six, they didn’t fit properly, but I wore them anyway. I guess you could say I got used to people looking right through me as if I wasn’t there. In spite of everything school was a haven for me. I owe a debt of thanks to my grade 5 teacher who saw in me that education was important and made me feel like I was a real person. However, random scars and memories surface when I tell my story. Having my name on the blackboard as the kid who didn’t pay her school fees was always humiliating, coming home from school and seeing the WOSK furniture van taking our furniture away was literally heart breaking.
At 12 my parents separated, that night we had to sleep in my mom’s car and the next day we went and stayed in a strawberry field shack for the summer picking berries. We were always under the threat of eviction, if we didn’t meet the quota, then we would have no place to live at all. My mom and I went to look at a rooming house in Whalley at the end of summer, but then my aunt offered for us to live in her unfinished basement, which was never a home (the other kids were left to live with other people during that time until we moved into my aunts). Those were very dark days, I remember crying myself to sleep saying “we don’t have a home” over and over. Somehow I survived, I graduated from Queen Elizabeth High School with first class honours and won a scholarship! Later, I went to BCIT (that was a long journey, but again I graduated with honours). I got a job with the City of Surrey and I am very thankful for the opportunities that working for the city afforded me. Eventually I became the President of Local 402 for the City of Surrey.
Today I am a Surrey School Board of Education Trustee, Vice Chair of the Board (by the way, we no longer allow the teacher to write names on the board to shame the student who cannot pay her fees). I have a successful life and have instilled the value of giving back to the community into my children with volunteering at the Front Room and the Surrey Food Bank. I myself have also volunteered at Kekinow and Protein for Children.
Although difficult, I chose to tell my story of homelessness in the hope of promoting compassion & understanding, and, to encourage people to support the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society. By giving to this very worthwhile organization you are supporting a variety of homelessness initiatives in Surrey.