British Columbia·Photos

Downtown Eastside residents write love letters to family

Betty Gloria "Che" Carrillo sets up a table full of pens and coloured paper on the corner of East Hastings and Main Street and invites residents to write messages to lost loved ones this holiday season.

Many people have lost contact with their loved ones and one woman is trying to change that

Betty Carrillo invites Downtown Eastside residents to write letters to their loved ones during the holidays in hopes of reconnecting them. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Betty Gloria "Che" Carrillo set up a big plastic table full of markers and coloured paper on Tuesday at the corner of East Hastings and Main Street in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Behind her was a large piece of white cardboard with "Letters of Love DTES" spelled out in red Christmas ribbons. 

"Over here, there are a lot people that feel rejected," said Carrillo.  

Her hope is to change that this holiday season by reconnecting people with their families. 

Carrillo hopes by sharing the letters on Facebook, she can reconnect people with their families. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Carrillo will take people's handwritten letters, scan them and upload them to a Facebook page called 'Letters of Love From the DTES.'

People can also send a message through the Facebook page to Downtown Eastside residents and Carrillo will print it off and try to find the person it was addressed to. 

"They feel empty, hollow. So by connecting that aspect of them, I think I'm stepping into a good road to link both the suffering and the families," she said. 

'I love them anyway'

Residents of the Downtown Eastside dropped by throughout the day Tuesday to write their messages.

Kimo Ueki wrote to his first grandson. 

"It says Merry Christmas Bryson, Love Grandpa." 

Ueki has never met his grandson, but hopes to one day. 

Carrillo points to a letter from a Downtown Eastside resident. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"Down here you get stigmatized, so they kind of think you're an alcoholic or drug addict or gangster. So you get excommunicado from your family," he said, noting he has been sober for 20 years. 

"I love them anyway. It doesn't matter who I am," he said. 

The tables will be set up across from the Carnegie Centre again on Wednesday, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Carrillo will post the letters on a Facebook page with hopes they'll be seen by family members. (Ben Nelms/CBC)