NEWS

Dundarave Christmas festival highlights seniors' homeless problem

11/30/2014 03:07 EST | Updated 01/30/2015 05:59 EST
West Vancouver's annual Christmas tree decorating contest is shedding light this year on a growing trend of seniors in need of shelter.

Along the West Vancouver waterfront, just behind the Dundarave pier, the contest has been an annual event since 1990.

Started by a local restaurant, it used to be a competition for the best-looking tree. It still is, but five years ago the Dundarave Festival of Lights took over and turned it into a fundraiser too.

"There's still a best tree competition, but tree sponsors are also competing to raise the most money for homeless people on the north shore," says Michael Markwick with the Festival.

Local MP John Weston says people are surprised to hear there are people on the brink of homelessness on the North Shore.

Even though the community houses some of the most expensive real estate in Canada, it comes as no surprise to Tom Roberts whose North Shore Lookout Shelter is always full.

"We have a lot of seniors there," he said, "and people of all ages."

Roberts says homelessness is an issue in every community. Markwick says he's seen it himself firsthand.

"We have a friend who is well into her 70's, born and raised in West Vancouver and we learned last week that she's now couch surfing because there's a reno-viction and she's left her apartment."

Since the community took over the tree decorating contest from a local restaurant and turned it into a fundraiser, it has raised $140,000 for the North Shore Lookout Shelter.

The Dundarave Festival of Lights is open for the next three Saturdays, and offers free concerts and a display of more than 100 Christmas trees in its "Forest of Miracles."

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