Young people living on the streets are dealing with bigger issues than imaginable. Addiction, abuse, homelessness, and self-hatred are constant companions.
But Joe Roberts wants to see that change, and he brought that message to Maple Ridge on Friday.
Embarking on a campaign called The Push for Change, Roberts plans to wheel a shopping cart from one end of Canada to the other to raise funds and awareness for the issue of youth homelessness.
The trial run for this campaign has Roberts pushing his modified cart from Calgary to the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, with the final stop on Saturday.
“This is training,” Roberts said of the 1,071 kilometre trial run through the worst terrain the country could dish up.
“We needed to know we could actually do it.”
While Roberts is behind the cart, he and business partner Dr. Sean Richardson have a growing team with them, including members of the Salvation Army.
Coincidentally, Roberts also hooked up with members of Maple Ridge’s Salvation Army team through mutual friends.
Together with Tim Sarsfield and Darrell Pilgrim of the The Caring Place in Maple Ridge, an impromptu visit was set.
“I said ‘Dude, I’m coming right by there [The Caring Place], of course I’ll do it [come in to speak]’,” Roberts said, recounting the initial conversation.
“Literally in like five days, they basically filled the room,” he said.
Roberts’ stop in Maple Ridge wasn’t about promoting the trial run he is on, or the pending 14-month cross-Canada journey, It was about his story.
He knows the challenges of homelessness and addiction. He lived them during the darkest years of his youth when he scrounged for drugs, lived under downtown Vancouver Eastside bridges, and committed crimes to fuel his painful habitual needs.
The Salvation Army was part of his journey out.
“My message is to encourage those on the path and to thank those who helped me,” Roberts said.
In his presentation, he noted the pivotal moment when he sold his boots for drugs and saw the rock-bottom point he’d sunk to.
Those days seem far from the successful business man he has become. Roberts is known as the Skid Row CEO, a speaker who talks about his past to tell others change is possible.
The final stop of the trial run is at 1 p.m. Saturday at The Salvation Army Vancouver Harbour Light at 119 East Cordova. Roberts was quick to mention the support the Salvation Army is providing to his efforts.
“They met us in Kelowna, they met us in Maple Ridge,” he said. “They are a big part of it [The Push for Change program].”
At Saturday’s ceremonies, Roberts will officially launch the cross-Canada journey and a countdown to the May 1, 2013 start of the “Push” which begins in Saint John’s Newfoundland.
With more than 8,000 km, in six to eight hour days over the course of 14 months, Roberts has his work cut out for him, but he stays focused on the cause.
“There’s nothing that’s not doable,” he noted. “I will be trekking in the middle of a Canadian winter from Sudbury to Winnipeg.”
Prior to the May 1 start, Roberts and his team will be assembling resources and support to make the journey, and the fundraising, a success.