British Columbia

High tea and Christmas cheer served up for Surrey homeless

Miracle 135A is a volunteer-driven event that provides food and and care packages to people living on Surrey's notorious 135A street.

'It's not so much about food, it's about loving people,' says anti-poverty advocate

Volunteers prepare high tea for homeless people living on 135A street in Surrey. (CBC News)

Many local charities are serving up Christmas dinners for those in need this year, but a group of volunteers in Surrey decided to break with tradition and serve high tea to people living on the city's notorious 135A street.

Miracle on 135A is an event that began three years ago with a single pot of chili. On Saturday, finger sandwiches and tarts were handed out along the two-block stretch of street where approximately 200 homeless people are living.

"It's not so much about food, it's about loving people," said anti-poverty advocate Erin Schulte, who added she wanted to provide treats that recipients rarely have.

"It's about reminding them that they are cared about at this time of year."

Attitude adjustment

Kimberly Knight is living on the street and was touched by the generosity she has seen over the holiday season.

'There has been a lot of support," said Knight. "It's amazing."

But she said there are some neighbours who are less than kind.

"People have to change their attitudes," said Knight. "Some people have pretty harsh attitudes toward street people."

Kimberly Knight lives on the street in Surrey and said community support during the Christmas season has been amazing. (CBC News)

Something has to happen

One volunteer also hopes to change the perceptions about homelessness.

"There is a lot of judgment that we need to get rid of because anybody could end up in this situation," said Shirley Raz, who volunteered at the event with Nightshift Street Ministries.

Raz had a niece with a drug addiction who lived on the streets for many years before she passed away. This inspired Raz to help others like her niece.

"Something has to happen here and the first thing is that people need to become aware of the issue," said Raz.

"I think we need to have a social conscience."

Volunteers handed out care packages that included fresh fruits and vegetables at Miracle 135A's annual event. (CBC News)

Cold challenges

Cold weather adds to the challenges already facing those living on the streets.

Care packages handed out at Miracle 135A included hand warmers and thick socks, but Schulte said there is still a need for gloves and blankets and warm clothes.

"And if anyone invents a heating device that won't burn down a tent, come find me," said Schulte.

Vancouver's homeless face cruel dilemma — do you risk lighting a fire to survive the cold?

Despite the low temperature, many recipients were in high spirits. 

"It's a happy time of year, or supposed to be, so it makes us feel good," said Michelle Wilson, who was leaving the tea party with a smile and a new pair of mittens.

With files from Jon Hernandez