Residents in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside get new shoes
As many as 250 homeless and low-income people swapped out sub-standard footwear for new shoes
As many as 250 people living in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside got new shoes today, free of charge, thanks to an annual event put on by Union Gospel Mission and Vancouver online shoe retailer, Shoes.com.
"This the ultimate shoe store for somebody that can't afford a pair of shoes," said Jeremy Hunka with Union Gospel Mission. "This is a huge deal for people who just have bad or falling-apart footwear."
Steven "Red" Robinson is living on the street in the neighbourhood. He walked in with shoes that weren't that old, but their soles were peeling off, and his feet were suffering from a bad case of trench foot or "street feet," as he calls it.
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"It's a warm burning sensation," said Robinson. "You just go numb and your brain just cuts off any kind of acknowledgement that your feet are rotting. That's what it is."
Robinson tried on several pairs of shoes and boots but ultimately settled on a cowboy boot that would stand up to some weather.
49-year-old John Weah didn't have too many options to cover his size 15 feet, but he seemed pretty happy with a pair of dress shoes.
"Pretty cool. It looks like a million dollar man," he said, looking at the new treads on his feet.
"Oh yeah you get respect. The women like it," Weah said of the fresh footwear. "I'll probably get a new girlfriend with these shoes."
For the company donating the shoes, the event is a chance to give back to the community and raise awareness for what Shoes.com co-founder Sean Clark refers to as "footwear health."
"I saw a gentleman come in with plastic bags on his feet," said Clark. "To see the dignity with people and how they carry themselves [with new shoes on] was an incredible sight to see."