If anyone knows the importance of a hand-up, it’s David (Divyesh) Gadhia, whose family fled from Uganda’s brutal regime in 1972 when he was 10. He remembers the anxiety his parents felt as immigrants trying to build a new life in a part of the world where they knew no one. He also remembers the community supports available to the family to make their landing just a little bit softer.
“We’re very grateful for the opportunity Canada gave us. We had great access to education, employment and an opportunity to better our lives.”
As a young man, he went on to university and great success as a developer in the hotel and gaming industry in BC and Alberta. However, he’s never forgotten the importance of lending a helping hand to those in need.
That’s what compelled him to give to Streetohome three years ago. “It aligned with our family’s philosophy of supporting those programs that help people become more self-sufficient, and lead more productive lives.”
“Streetohome’s model is to prevent homelessness in the first place and help individuals living on the streets and in shelters move into supportive housing. We are impressed with how Streetohome supports vulnerable individuals,” says Dave. “It isn’t a hand-out, but a hand-up.”
Streetohome funded the capital portion of the Vancouver Rent Bank that provides interest-free loans to individuals who experience financial difficulties and are at risk of eviction and becoming homeless. In the first two years of operation, 413 individuals including 91 children have benefited from the support provided. Supports include advocacy on their behalf with landlords and utilities, financial literacy training and navigation and referral to community resources.
“Homelessness is a complex issue, and I’m not an expert,” explains Dave, “But, what I do know is that Streetohome provides the most holistic solution to addressing the problem.”
Streetohome leverages private sector dollars in partnerships with provincial and municipal governments and non-profit housing providers to fund the bricks and mortar. Non-profit organizations provide the supportive services – income management, grocery shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, social skills and referral to healthcare, social and vocational services in the community – many homeless individuals need to remain stably housed.
Streetohome is currently fundraising for almost $900,000 for Fire Hall #5, a partnership between Streetohome, the City of Vancouver and YWCA Metro Vancouver, which will provide 31 units of housing above a fire hall for single mothers and their children who are fleeing abuse or at serious risk of homelessness. The safety and security of living above the firehall, with a 24 hour, 7 day a week presence will provide reassurance to this vulnerable population. The neighbourhood is also well suited for families, with many community facilities and schools nearby.
It’s the kind of innovative and sustainable solution that David believes is needed to solve homelessness in the city.
“I have great confidence that Canadian society – which is all encompassing and inclusive – will be able to find a solution to homelessness. I can’t even begin to think that it’s not possible.”
Dave’s strong sense of helping the community was instilled by his parents and his faith. “As long as I can remember, they inspired in us an obligation of sharing and giving back to the community.”
He’s tried to impart those same values in his two sons – both at university – by taking them to volunteer at soup kitchens when they were youngsters. “While we’ve been very fortunate, it was important for my wife and me to expose our children to all aspects of society, and instill an appreciation of what they have been given and the importance of sharing their good fortune to make the world a better place.”
Now in his fifties, Dave is practicing what he preaches. He has left the commercial real estate behind and is investing in the organic consumer industry, including food and skincare products made with sustainable products that are renewable, less harmful to the environment and which employ fair wage policies. He’s excited about his new ventures as it gives him the opportunity to live his values of sustainability every day.
For Dave, it’s not about earning the biggest profit anymore, but earning a profit that’s good for everybody.