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Look out, the outreach ladies are back!

June 19, 2014


The Lookout Society’s outreach team was back to do another drive-through of the Fairview neighbourhood.

Once again I only crossed paths with them in an alley — the same alley as the last time. But this time the woman at the wheel of the little Lookout car actually said “hi” to me through her open window as she blew past me.

That’s progress, right?

I really hope they found what they were looking out for

They apparently weren’t in Fairview to assist the general homeless population. Once again the two Lookout volunteers appeared to be looking only for their “clients”.

They continued past me into the middle of the next block, slowed and stopped. This put them across from the former sleeping spot of the one street person in Fairview that I know they do consistently try to help.

I expected that, like me, they were headed to the McDonald’s on South Granville — me to get breakfast, they to continue looking for that particular homeless fellow.

I took a very meandering path and stopped frequently along the way to talk to binners and dumpster divers. And I binned a little bit myself.

So it took me all of an hour to reach McDonald’s. The Lookout volunteers beat me there, by about an hour.

I spoke to a homeless binner who gets there early every morning.He was sitting in his usual window seat looking out on the alley.

He smiled and confirmed to me that, yes, the little blue Lookout car had come by. It had turned off Broadway into the alley beside McDonald’s and slowed. The binner told me the two women had both looked directly at his bike and bags of bottles propped against the alley-side wall of McDonald’s. And then they had continued on their way up the alley.

If they really had swung by the restaurant just to see a particular street person was there then they wasted a trip; that fellow was barred from McDonald’s a few weeks ago for making a mess and yelling at the staff.

No one gets barred from McDonald’s forever but for the time being the Outlook people might try the Tim Hortons on the corner of Fir and West Broadway.

The Lookout Society has been in existence for over 40 years — since 1971, providing shelter beds and transitional housing. Their outreach program is intended to bring help and access to social services directly to homeless people.

Lookout is administered from the Downtown Eastside but has expanded its outreach efforts to include central Vancouver, New Westminster and the North shore.

My homeless friend Rick speaks highly of the two Lookout outreach “ladies” as he calls them. He says they are based out of the Yukon Shelter which is part of the Lookout Society’s presence in central Vancouver.

Homeless people need better brand recognition

It certainly appeared to me that the Lookout outreach team was being choosey but perhaps they were just having trouble distinguishing the street people from the non-street people in Fairview. That’s understandable actually. The homeless in Fairview are wearing the hand-me-down clothes residents in the neighbourhood throw out. So we do dress similarly.

The homeless binner in McDonald’s and I mused, not for the first time, that perhaps street people had a branding problem — and right here I want to cut off any ranchers in my audience before they chime in with their solutions.

We homeless people might think we stick out like sore thumbs but perhaps we’re more needles in the haystack. Perhaps we really need to indulge in some marketing: creating a logo, or a mark we could wear that could help outreach workers and others identify us at a glance.

Something simple. My binner friend agreed but said that unfortunately the best one, the star, was already taken. Darn!

Anyway. It’s something to work on. It would be nice to have it ready in time for the next Homeless Action Week.


  1. Slowcrow permalink

    Well……… THIS is a real touchy subject with me……. I will print out some of their EXTENSIVE research (?) findings and TRY to understand them. The dollar figures, for one thing, just drive me nuts……. I think it encourages animosity. (‘We give them so much……… ‘) And the wealth of knowledge that someone like yourself is, and yet you seem perhaps shunned (?). Like what, ‘don’t confuse us with facts…..’ Something is just very irritating, it would take just a few little, not expensive, HUMANE, things to make life easier. Do you see any consistent moving towards recognizing of SIMPLE solutions? You could probably come up with a ‘study’ more grounded in facts than all these professionals……… There are groups in the lower mainland who make sandwichs and bring supplies to the downtown eastside, because of the great need. Is it the same stuff happening over and over? Oh, oh…. Ranting, sorry……


    • Lookout has been at it since 1971. Strictly speaking the outreach they do is meant to help reconnect marginalized people to society. Outreach is meant to be a step in helping people get off the street and off the treadmill of handouts.

      Of course you have to do it properly.

      In the post on the the Anglican street ministry outreach I pointed out how Brenda and Brian were trying to really find, meet and talk to homeless people in Fairview.

      It appears to me that the DTES-based outreach groups only come into Fairview to practice what I called drive-by charity. I find that UGM is better than Lookout. At least UGM tries to assist all homeless people they see — they don’t play favourites like the Lookout volunteers seem to do but it’s very rare to see UGM in this area.

      whatever good the Lookout Society is doing it’s not visible to me in their street outreach program in Fairview.

      I’m not quite saying we’re just a check-box on their list of things to cover to get their government funding but I will state that helping the poor in the DTES appears to have been a big business for many, many years.


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