Montreal woman overcomes homelessness, gives back with free BBQ
Anne Las used to go to Place Émilie-Gamelin for food, now she's the one distributing it
On weekends, Anne Las fills her backpack and shopping bags with homemade sandwiches and cookies and granola bars and juice.
She then walks to Place Émilie-Gamelin and distributes them to people who are homeless and hungry. She's gone often enough that people wait for her arrival.
"It's to give back to the community," Las told CBC's Homerun.
"Being homeless is terrible," she said. "I mean people ignore you, because they [think] 'oh you're just homeless, you're lazy, you're dumb.'"
It's a story Las knows all too well.
From the Philippines to the Fairview Mall
Like many before her, Las came to Montreal in 2014 through a sponsor who wanted to employ her as a full-time live in caretaker.
"I was expecting to move here to have a better life. But I had nothing," said Las with tears in her eyes.
She was eventually able to find work as a caregiver, Monday to Friday. She was given room and board during the week, but come the weekend Las had nowhere to go.
So she would spend her time at bus and metro stations, and Fairview Pointe-Claire Mall—which she described as her weekend sanctuary.
"I was expecting to move here to have a better life. But I had nothing," - Anne Las
When she ran out of money and was hungry, she would bus downtown to look for change and food.
She had heard through her friends, who were in a similar position, that groups would sometimes distribute free food at Place Émilie-Gamelin.
Getting back on her feet
She is accumulating hours so that she can become a permanent resident in Canada, hopefully by December 2017.
"I am blessed and lucky to be here and to be able to be back on my feet. I had no family or friends when I arrived here," she said. "I met wonderful people who helped me and let me stay in their place until I was able to give back to the community."
Haircuts, diapers and a big BBQ
Las tries to go to Place Émilie-Gamelin every weekend with her bags of cookies and sandwiches.
This is the second annual BBQ and the biggest event thus far.
It was organized by Donner Pour Aider in collaboration with its umbrella organization the Montreal Homeless Support Group—a network Las created.
Doulien Wetshonga, president of Donner Pour Aider, said over 400 people showed up to the event, and more than 500 people were there including volunteers.
Volunteers gathered at the public space Saturday to make hamburgers, distribute clothing, toiletries and diapers for people in need.
Wetshonga praised Las for her volunteer work.
"When we organize events like this we work as a team. She excels," he said.
Las was hesitant to talk about herself, but she says that spreading awareness about the situation of homeless people in Montreal is one of her goals.
"It's not an easy story to share," she said. "But it's important."
with files from CBC Montreal's Homerun