They were down on their luck.
They were tapped out.
They were being harassed.
But a group of Chilliwack’s Good Samaritans sprang into action to help them.
The couple known as Anna and David were flat out on the streets of Chilliwack. They’d been trying to eke out an existence, with their sweet dog Jessie, on wooden palettes under tarps. They were holed up against a closed restaurant building on Luckakuck Way.
When arctic outflow winds signalled the arrival of the nastier winter weather, their story touched the hearts of some generous locals.
It started when one person started complaining about the homeless couple, living under the tarps by the former A&W building, and cut one of the tarps up in frustration. That prompted several people to respond with acts of compassion.
Greendale resident Sue Knudsen scrolled through hundreds of Facebook comments to get the gist of their story. She checked with her hubby, and then took a chance and opened her motorhome, on her family’s three-acre farm, to the couple who was on the streets.
“I thought why couldn’t they stay here? It would be warm at least. I knew the weather was going to get yucky. I knew David worked at the mall, and it is really not that far away.”
She was one of several people who stepped up to give what she could to relieve the distress. The little effort to help Anna and David gained momentum.
Donations started trickling in from a variety of people, and included everything from bedding, clothing, food, to dog food, a porta-potty and even an offer of a manicure for Anna.
Knudsen said she’d helped folks before after hearing about the couple’s story on social media.
“It’s all coming together now,” she told The Progress. “It’s funny because I’m always on Facebook checking on all the groups, seeing what’s going on.
“I was so sick of the crime and the lack of anything positive happening. I figured, what does it hurt to reach a hand out to help? I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I have made my way, and with wonderful husband, and if we can help somebody who needs a hand now, all the better.”
She knows they are taking a chance.
“It’s true. I don’t know these people. But if you don’t take a chance and reach out, you’ll never know, right?”
Many people were “floored” at how quickly it all came together, including the first person to suggest that people of Chilliwack could take action, “chip in a couple of bucks,” and help Anna and David.
“I just can’t believe how much everyone has done,” wrote Ian Simson on social media. “I got home from work and checked the thread and was floored at how well this turned out.”
People have gone out of their way to donate all kinds of items and household goods for the couple. Some came to visit with and meet Anna. They arranged pickup and drop off of donated goods, and helped the couple move their bags of stuff and few belongings to the Greendale location they are now staying at.
Anna and David immigrated to Vancouver more than 10 years ago. They made their way to Chilliwack and David eventually got a job at one of the local malls. He was a mechanical engineer in China but his credentials are not recognized here.
The couple said they were thankful to have made it to Canada from China, and Anna said they picked Canada because it was full of nice people. But it has been a tough slog. They have no family here, and were struggling to secure enough funds to cover housing, and could not enter a homeless shelter because of their dog.
Now they are feeling so grateful for the all the kindness that’s been shown to them.
Lindsay Wheeldon-Hlokoff works for Sue Knudsen’s business on the Greendale property.
She spent most of a day gutting and cleaning the motor home with the help of a few other community members.
“To see the smile on Anna’s face was worth it,” she said.
With all the negative posts on Facebook, it was good to have a positive story.
“I was flooded with messages from people who wanted to help. It’s been amazing.”
Catherine Roos started a Facebook group called SPARKS for Special People Acts of Random Kindness, as a result of the groundswell of desire to help the needy.
“I’m just humbled and so incredibly moved that this ‘thought’ blossomed into these people feeling loved and having a warm, safe, dry place to continue bettering themselves,” Roos wrote.
As Carol-lynn Williams-Robichaud wrote on Facebook: “This whole story is good for the heart.”