News

Making the holidays brighter for Saanich's homeless

Constables Roy Radu and Jen Symonds, with the Saanich Police bike squad, on the Galloping Goose Trail. They’re holding shoes, blankets and sleeping bags they’ve received from University of Victoria students for distribution to the homeless living on the trail. - Don Denton/News staff
Constables Roy Radu and Jen Symonds, with the Saanich Police bike squad, on the Galloping Goose Trail. They’re holding shoes, blankets and sleeping bags they’ve received from University of Victoria students for distribution to the homeless living on the trail.
— image credit: Don Denton/News staff

While most of us gather around Christmas trees and dining room tables this weekend, a few people living in Saanich will face the harsh realities of homelessness, which don't take time off for the holidays.

"There is certainly no lack of people in need," says Const. Roy Radu, with Saanich police's bike squad. "There are a lot of organizations that help out throughout the year, but you do tend it see it cranked up a notch in the festive season."

Mobility is not a problem for Radu and his fellow bike squad members, allowing them to frequent the hidden areas in Saanich where as many as 80 homeless people live in solitude. Through these visits, life stories are shared and relationships form.

"These are some of the people we're working the closest with every day," Radu says. "We spend time interacting and just getting to know them. They've all got some pretty neat stories."

As the weather worsens through winter, the bike squad will try to ensure every person is taken care of.

"When it gets really cold, we'll go out and look for them specifically and make sure that they're in shelters, or they're warm and comfortable," Radu says. "We'll sometimes get donations of boots and shoes, gloves and scarves and toques, blankets and sleeping bags. We'll go around with those – and that's very well-received."

In years past, the squad has handed out gift cards and even taken some of the people they meet out for breakfast.

"That's been really special. It seemed to be really appreciated," Radu says. "It's not just at Christmas, it's about making them feel good all winter and all year."

Radu says organizations in Victoria deserve more credit for having a sole mandate to help the homeless.

"We (on the bike squad) are fortunate, because we get a little bit more space and opportunity to get right into where they are, but we're not Santa Claus," he says, noting it feels good to be able to take the time to help someone who is truly in need. "That holiday spirit is felt year-round in this community."

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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