British Columbia

She's giving hundreds of Christmas cards to homeless people with the help of school kids, seniors

Erin Schulte started off making cards with her grandsons for homeless people on Surrey's 135A Street. It quickly grew into something bigger than she ever imagined.

'They're simply homeless, not worthless.'

A pile of christmas cards to be given to homeless people, all collected by Erin Schulte. (Erin Schulte)

Erin Schulte says her grandchildren didn't know the true meaning of Christmas.

Like many young people, they made lists of the toys and other things they wanted and that got Schulte thinking.

"It was just really disheartening … basically you're just asking for things that you want," she told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff. "In my own household, I wanted to bring back the true meaning of Christmas, which is charity and giving back and spreading joy and love to your neighbours."

Schulte is a homeless advocate and runs a pop-up soup kitchen on 135A Street in Surrey — also known as the Surrey Strip.

That neighbourhood is where dozens of homeless people live in tents or under tarps. Many people suffer from addictions, and overdoses are a fact of life — and death.

Homeless, not worthless

Schulte wanted to give the people there something to smile about at Christmas time, so she is handing out cards she made with her grandchildren or has received from elementary schools and seniors' homes.

"Dear friend, I am thinking of you. I care about you," she read from one card, written by a boy in Grade 2 who also drew pictures of a Christmas tree and other festive trappings.

"We wish you every good thing for this coming year: strength inside when you need it and kindness from others when your spirit is down," she read from another, choking up. "I had to stop reading them after a while because some of them are just lovely."

Erin Schulte is giving out hundreds of Christmas cards to homeless people in Surrey this year. (CBC)

She believes she will give out close to 700 cards this season — about 225 to people living in tents on 135 A Street and the rest to tent camps, recovery homes and emergency shelters around Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

"To know them is to love them. They're simply homeless, they're not worthless. They're people that I love dearly," Schulte said.

"I just wanted them to be reminded  — and have something that they could hold onto  —  to be aware that people were thinking about them at this time of year."

Listen to the full story:

​With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition