Initiative brings message of hope and recovery
NORTH Shore residents will be among the volunteers leading by example at an upcoming event seeking to inspire those struggling with addiction to take positive steps in their recovery journey.
For the last seven years, the Vancouver-based Servants of Hope Society has provided a holiday meal to those experiencing homelessness as well as those struggling with addiction in the Downtown Eastside. The event, Feeding the Homeless at Christmas in Pigeon Park, is unique as a number of volunteers are in substance abuse recovery themselves, as well as having previously lived in the area.
This year’s event will be held Monday, Dec. 17 and Servants of Hope Society founder Sean H. is expecting it to be their biggest yet.
“I couldn’t feed myself 10 years ago and with a little hope, 10 years later, I’m now feeding 1,000 with the help of my friends,” he says. “If that isn’t hope I don’t know what is.”
In addition to the annual Christmas initiative, Servants of Hope runs a faith-based men’s recovery house in East Vancouver.
The annual holiday meal started small, seeing Sean and two of his friends, all three in early recovery, show up in the Downtown Eastside to distribute sandwiches, water, pop and clothing.
They were surprised at the outcome. “They were known in that neighbourhood for many years and they found recovery,” he says of the friends who accompanied him, “so we go back down there and next thing you know, there were all these people who remembered and knew them and had never seen them clean and sober.”
Those they were serving ran to get others, wanting them to see with their own eyes the trio’s success in moving forward on a positive, sober path. “That really, really affected me and it also really affected my two friends,” says Sean.
In the years that have followed, Sean has continued to lead the charge in presenting the annual meal, and participation and reach has continued to grow. The 2011 edition saw more than 100 people volunteer (primarily people in recovery, former area residents and some who had been served by the dinner in the past).
“They’re all together on this night in that neighbourhood and they’re just so grateful to be a part of it, and so happy that they can give back and giving back is the foundation for turning our lives around,” says Sean.
“We totally understand what it’s like for these people in the Downtown Eastside, for those that we do help, to be in a food line all year long. It’s just another food line? No, this is not another food line. This is like nothing they’ve seen,” he adds.
Together they served dinner to approximately 1,000 people in two hours. In addition, “Santa Claus” made an appearance and handed out gifts.
Sean hopes the event continues to convince those they serve that change is possible.
“When all you see is pain and suffering and misery, you need to see hope in order for you maybe to consider that there is hope for you,” he says.
Organization for this year’s event is on track and while Sean has been overwhelmed by interested volunteers – from throughout the Lower Mainland, including the North Shore – and donations of food, blankets and other gifts, there are a few items he’s still seeking. Warm clothing (mittens, gloves, hats and socks), chocolate, gift wrap and ribbon are currently on his wish list, as well as monetary donations to the society.
To make a donation or for more information on the Servants of Hope Society, visit servantsofhope.ca.
Why does Servant House exist?
After many years of wanting, hoping, and great desire I finally through prayer and conviction found the strength to step out in faith and approach my good friend Ted Haaksma about opening a Men’s recovery house here in Vancouver’s Eastside. It was with his encouragement over the years and with God’s blessing that my vision came to pass. Together we approached the elders of Hope Reformed church for both a covering and a blessing, we at that time met and discussed the idea and concluded that it would be of great benefit to both me personally as well as the church.
My needs at the time were simple I needed the prayers of the congregation for spiritual strength in order to run this type of ministry for I would be up against many challenges as the history of the house has proven. Along with the challenges the blessings have been incredible, the success rate for the men over all has rivalled that of many other similar houses doing the same type of ministry. The house itself has been operating now for eight years and the future is in God’s hands. To summarize just some of the achievements over the years would take a few pages but I have decided to condense it as much as possible.
Gerry who has been with me for seven of those years has been clean and sober since his arrival he’s gone from being totally destroyed in addiction to being a member of Hope Church as well as a productive member of society. Richard will tell you in his own words the benefit this type of dynamic has been for him, my nephew, Jayson , stayed with me for four years; upon leaving Servant House he has totally restored his life and gone onto a very successful life in business. Dennis stayed with us on and off for over two years met and married good a Christian women and now has fathered two children with her and has been clean for several years. Gord came to the house in need of transition and suffered from addiction went to Union Gospel Mission came back to the house briefly was then reunited with his family of six children at the time and since has fathered two boys and has been clean and sober for four years.
Over the last eight years at least ten men have come to the house in need of immediate detox from drugs or alcohol and gone on to treatment and some have came back to live at the residence to mention two (Gerry and Wayne ). Rick has come in and out of the house numerous times over the years and finally has found recovery and is now working in recovery houses in Surrey. Over the years we have had many referrals from Union Gospel Mission’s outreach and counselling staff who call often for placements or recommendations. The house has a very positive and supporting rapport with the mission. Since the beginning I have found temporary employment for over two hundred people, some have worked with the members of the congregation at their homes or places of work.
The two most gratifying and greatest personal experiences have been the feeding of the homeless at Christmas; the ministry that has grown out of this effort has been miraculous. Next is how the house stood by are dear departed friend Tom T. for six years as he struggled with a lifelong addiction to illicit drugs only to succumb to cancer and spend the last six months of his life amongst the men who both grew and learned more about god’s love through our time spent caring and supporting Tom at this very sad and lonely time.
The running of the house over the years has come with great personal sacrifice, I’ve had to find employment for personal funding and have had good well paying and promising jobs, only having to take time off or quit to focus on my main priority which has always been the house.
By Sean Heaney, Executive Director Servant House
Whether you like it or not you have no say in the matter.
Your tax dollars support “Harm Reduction / Terminal Addiction” here in British Columbia. Harm Reduction means The free distribution of over “Four Million Needles” yearly, One hundred thousand “Free Crack Pipes” , Vancouver’s world famous “Insite” and let’s not forget “Free Methadone”, VANDU– Vancouver Area Network Of Drug Users is generously funded to the tune of a quarter million dollars yearly; all this contributes to the continuous use and free flow of addiction at a very high cost to both you and me. “Millions and Millions” of dollars spent every year with no reduction of the problem. Here is how you can have a say and help to make a difference.
Why not support Recovery Based Abstinence so that we can make a difference and createNew Men and Women with the true form of harm reduction which should be based on adrug free life?
We are “The Servant’s of Hope Society”.
The Servants of Hope Society is a faith based men’s recovery house located on the east side of Vancouver. Founded by Sean H. in 2004 with a vision of men helping men through servitude and the overcoming of addiction. As unconventional as it sounds there has been a very good success rate for the house.
· Bringing the message of hope and recovery to the Downtown Eastside.
· Providing safe, supportive, recovery-based housing.
· To lead by example of how giving back to the community supports our recovery.
· Networking with numerous other Recovery Houses and Treatment Centers to provide solutions and hope for those still struggling with addictions.
Our men’s recovery house is in need of a vehicle for our Outreach Work, as well as daily functions. Please consider helping us as God leads you. We are also in need of Financial Support for our continuing operations; we are self sustaining but desire to grow and expand to enable us to help more individuals.
We have a charitable tax exemption status from the federal government and are able to issue tax receipts.
You can go to our website and visit the links above to verify who we are. Please do not ask us to go to other groups for support. May the Holy Spirit lead you in considering us as a worthy cause.
Executive Director of The Servant’s Of Hope Society
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 604-720-9335