Calgary homeless say help Syrian refugees too

Some in the Calgary homeless community are challenging the idea that helping Syrian refugees means not helping the homeless.

Hundreds of homeless Calgarians received backpacks full of clothes and items to help them stay warm

Some Calgary homeless say help Syrian refugees too

CBC News Calgary

6 years ago
It's possible to help Syrian refugees and the homeless, say some Calgary homeless people 2:21

A number of the homeless in Calgary — while grateful for the help they're getting — are urging people to assist other groups in need, like Syrian refugees.

In the discussion around Syrian refugees coming to Canada, some people — especially online  —  have made helping the local homeless community first an online argument against supporting other groups.

But some members of Calgary's homeless community say it doesn't have to be an "either/or" discussion.

Zachary S. has been homeless in Calgary for about 18 months, but he says there is room to help both the homeless population and Syrian refugees. (CBC)

A man who has been homeless in Calgary for about 18 months says there is support for people in need locally.

Zachary S. says it doesn't need to be a competition for help.

"It's not their fault they're just in a really bad situation," Zachary said.

"For another group to say, 'I've got the bigger stick now, listen' … and (the Syrian refugees) have no stick at all."

Christina Cardinal needs permanent housing but says, 'It's good to help everybody in need.' (CBC)

Christina Cardinal, who is in need of housing, says it's possible to have more than one focus.

"I think personally from my point of view, it is good to help everybody in need," Cardinal said.

They were among about 250 people who showed up as StreetLight, a group that helps Calgary's homeless youth, handed out backpacks full of clothing and items to help people stay warm in cold weather on Saturday.

​Program director Allan Peters says there is definitely a need and Calgarians are generous in helping.

Allan Peters says it's important to take a global approach to helping. (CBC )

Peters says while his group is focused on Calgary's homeless, it's important to take a global approach to helping.

"I think that we have the responsibility to be working locally, working nationally and working globally," Peters said.

"And that's part of what makes being in a city like Calgary, province like Alberta, and a country like Canada incredible."

With files from Kate Adach