Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Where I Will Call Home for a Year

I have had some people asking about where I will be living when I am in the DTES, so I thought I would write a post.

I will be living in a Single Room Occupancy Hotel (SRO) also called a slum hotel in the DTES. Wikipeda describes a SRO as a multiple tenant building that houses one or two people in individual rooms (sometimes two rooms, or two rooms with a bathroom or half bathroom), or to the single room dwelling itself. SRO tenants typically share bathrooms and/or kitchens, while some SRO rooms may include kitchenettes, bathrooms, or half-baths. Although many are former hotels, SROs are primarily rented as a permanent residence. I will not have a kitchen and I might have a bathroom.

I do not think this adequately describes the conditions of an SRO. My first experience in an SRO was in San Francisco, where I was working in urban missions with the Center for Student Missions. I was delivering meals to people living in SROs. I remember walking into a dark, musty, and dingy stair way, scattered with garbage, the carpet and walls where stained and I saw vomit in a corner. I could smell a mix of stale and new cigarette, marijuana and crack smoke, and both animal and human waste. The stench remained me of a the same smells from a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico, but made worse because they were confined in a building.

I was in complete shock; I could not believe people in North America lived in such deplorable conditions. It was one thing when I experienced poverty in a developing country, I expected that, not that it makes it any less horrible, but when I experienced poverty conditions like that in my own back yard it shock me to the core. From my time in San Francisco the SROs where the most disturbing and upsetting, and I saw a lot of pain and brokenness, but the SROs are what put me over the edge and made me want to run and hide. So it is a little more then ironic that I am going to be living in an SRO! Oh Jesus please help me. Please be praying for me. The SRO that I visited when I was at RAW was one of the better ones I have ever seen, but there is no grantee that I will be living in that one, and there still are mice, bed bugs, and cockroaches as roommates. Please do not worry, I will have human roomates as well, I will not be alone in this.

I do not write all this for you to feel sorry for me. No, I write this because I want people to become aware that we have poverty in our own back yard, you do not need to go to Mexico to love the poor, lost and broken, you just need to go downtown and walk the streets, volunteer at a soup kitchen. Get involved in your community, Jesus has people for you to love right here in your own community.

With love,


Saturday, 26 March 2011

RAW Taster

On Sunday March 20th 2011 I went down to the Eastside in Vancouver for my first visit. I attended RAW (ready and willing) a three day youth event, that gives participants a little taste of eastside living.

I walked into RAW with a handful of fears about living in DTES, and walked away empty handed and filled with peace.

I feared that I would get fat! I know this is a slightly vain fear, but it also is a concern for my health, because I will be eating shelter food and  not attending a gym I feared that all my hard work to stay healthy would go to waste. I had the opportunity to eat at Harbour Light, the place that I will be eating my three meals at, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a well rounded meal, now I just have to monitor how much I eat since they are big man portions, and I am not a big man! As War College students we fast junk food and sweets during the week, which is a positive for my waistline! In addition to the relatively healthy eating habits, we have Drill class (physical activity) twice a week, we walk everywhere and I will be living in a building with stairs. The getting fat fear has been to put to rest, or to activity!

I feared my living conditions, sharing a bathroom with a floor of strangers, and cockroaches, mice and bed bugs. I will be living in a slum hotel, which can be compared to developing county conditions. One of the current War College students to their room, and I got to see where I might be living, while it was very small, and I would be sharing it with someone, it was not to bad at all, I have shared tight space before and I don't have a problem with it. I was very happy to see that we might have our own bathroom, not all rooms do, but I am praying that God will bless me with one. There are mice, bed bugs and cockroaches. I hate cockroaches. I saw a couple, they are very small compared to their African cousins, so I think with your prayers and God's grace I will be able to handle them.

There were more fears and anxieties, God was faithful to bring peace to all of them! I still am a little nervous about the cockroaches, so please be praying.

Now a new anxiety has come up: what am I going to do when my year is up? I don't think I am going to want to leave! My mom said this this is how I have always been, I will be all anxious and worried, and then as soon as I go I love it and don't want to leave. Somethings never change. That being said I know that through all the experiences I have had in my life where I am fearful, God has used them to change me, and I know that he will do the same with this year in the DTES.

Many blessings on you,


Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Bit About the Downtown Eastside

These are just some of the hard cold facts. I hope to fill this blog with some flesh and blood stories in the future.

The Downtown Eastside (DTES) is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver and is known as "Canada's poorest postal code."

The area is noted for a high incidence of poverty, drug use, sex trade, crime, as well as a history of community activism. The area was the victim of significant urban decay, once the core shopping district in the city, the retail shops that flourished until the early 1980s are now gone.

The Downtown Eastside, as defined by the City of Vancouver, was home to 16,590 people in 2001, appormixetly 12,000 are low income. Many of these low-income people are those who suffer from severe alcohol and drug addictions and mental illness.

There are estimated to be over 700 homeless people in the Downtown Eastside. Most of them can now find a space in a shelter at night or find a friend who will put them up. The remainder will sleep under a bridge, at the side of the street, in an alcove or wherever. Some prefer to sleep outside as some shelters are unclean, (bed bugs, rats, etc.), or unsafe, (drugs, gangs and other predators). Most of the homeless are suffering from severe addiction and mental illnesses.

According to the city, 10% of the residents self-identified as Aboriginal in 2001, which comprised approximately 10% of the total Aboriginal population in the city. In the same year, 43% of the population were immigrants, with 23% of those being from China, 5% from Vietnam, 2% from Hong Kong and 14% from all other countries. The average household size is 1.3 residents; 82% of the population lived alone. Children and teenagers make up 7% of the population, compared to 25% for Canada overall.

The Downtown Eastside has a high incidence of HIV infection. Vancouver's drug problem has grown steadily worse over the last decade with the most common drugs being heroin, crack cocaine, cocaine in powdered form (which is often taken intravenously as well as simply insufflated/snorted), and—increasingly--crystal methamphetamine.


In a Nutshell

What is War College?

The Salvation Army presents The War College, a postmodern incarnational training community to equip and enlist warriors to win the world for Jesus with love.

Location:  Vancouver, Downtown Eastside

People descend on Vancouver in hordes, in searching for the good life. Tragically, many of these people fall through the cracks, as the world’s promises of ‘the good life’ fail to live up to expectations. The marginalized people end up in the downtown eastside, the campus of The War College. Trappings of luxury are eerily juxtaposed with homelessness, wide-open drug traffic and use, and prostitution.

Living Arrangements: Downtown eastside living, among the people, close to the bone. Free from affluence and worldliness.

Duration: One year, including three three-month semesters and one two-month deployment.

Cost: Costs are $6,000 Cdn. This includes fees, books, room, and board. I am budgeting an additional $2,000 for transpiration, medical, spending, emergency, and miscellaneous.

Distinctives of The War College

Devotion“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind …” Luke 10:27.  The year at The War College is one of devoting oneself above all to God. All potential idols are cast away aiming for the eradication of sin and a pure heart of love that comes from The Father.

Service“… and your neighbour as yourself” Luke . At The War College we position ourselves as neighbours to those we encounter in every context. Pouring out our time, resources and emotions are a part of Isaiah’s rebuke, “Spend your life on the poor” Isaiah 58.

Incarnational – Jesus didn’t go home to heaven to sleep every night. He left the comforts of the most exclusive gated community to dwell with us. We live in community with each other and with those we chose to minister with. We are nurtured more when we live in constant community with 24/7 opportunities to love and be loved.


Jesus - To encounter Jesus Christ in the distinctives of The War College, falling in deeper love with Him; integrating intellectual, emotional, experiential and spiritual spheres achieving fullness of Christ and his reign in our community.

Identity – To provide nurturing relationships that help students discover their true self in Christ, dealing with sins, hurt, while celebrating unique giftings and personalities.

Roots – To offer essential Christian foundations in living a practical life of pure love with a consistent world view. We pray that our students would grow deep into the love of God.

Fellowship – To share in corporate activities of prayer, worship, service, solitude, study, fasting and other disciplines forming mature, disciplined warriors.

World-Winning – To equip, spur and send students to take the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth through cell-pioneering endeavours

Questions? Comments? Concerns?


I have been accepted in to The War College and dropped my deposit cheque in the mail!

IT'S OFFICIAL! I'm going to live and volunteer in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) starting September 10, 2011 till August 24, 2012!

Stay tuned :)