By Sarah Schofield
The weather may have been chilly, but hearts were warm on Saturday evening as a group gathered in the parking lot of the United Way of Chatham-Kent to celebrate and remember the friends they have lost to addiction this past year. Seeing an uptick of overdoses since the pandemic, the Candlelight Vigil was held at the end of National Addictions Awareness Week.
“The idea is you use alone, but COVID keeps you alone,” said social worker and R.O.C.K. Missions board member Colleen Lewis.
Volunteers from R.O.C.K. Missions who hand out food and check on the homeless or those in need of basic necessities in Chatham-Kent said the event is to show their respect to those who may otherwise slide away unnoticed, especially during a pandemic.
Andrea Sullivan, a volunteer and board member for R.O.C.K. Missions, said a loss is felt by everyone at the organization. While the event’s aim is to honour those gone, it also has the side effect of comfort and closure to those left behind.
“We know every single street friend by name; we know their stories. They’re not just somebody that we bring a sandwich to each week, we know them. When we lose a friend, we grieve that loss.”
Often, many displaced individuals have absolutely no inner circle, said Lewis.
“Sometimes our street friends don’t even get in the obits when they pass. They don’t get acknowledged at all. I’ve had a couple of street friends who say, ‘You’re the only person who knows I’m alive,’” she said.
A common misconception is those lacking basic necessities and shelter are just down on their luck, however the reality of their situations is much more complicated.
“They have been so traumatized and abused in their lives, they have absolutely no one,” said Sullivan, adding many don’t want to be a burden to others.
As winter approaches, Sullivan and Lewis ask those who may like to get involved to visit R.O.C.K. Mission’s website at www.rockmissions.com for more information but also remind the public that more than ever, kindness, patience and understanding is needed.
“Be kind to the street people. You have no idea what has happened in their lives.”