A chocolate bar can go a long way

13-year old John had started coming downtown Vancouver from his Burnaby home shortly after his father had killed himself two years ago. Wandering the streets and mixing with the wrong people, John was dabbling in drug dealing and was becoming known to police.

Our Outreach team had been trying to connect with John but he wouldn’t open up. A worker from another organization said the key to talking with John was to offer him a chocolate bar. So our Outreach Worker Laura started keeping Aero bars in her pocket and whenever she saw John, she would strike up a conversation over the chocolate bar. Eventually, John was persuaded to visit our drop-in centre which he did a few times but he always kept his “distance”.

Over a few months, the Outreach team would see John on the street, talk with him and would give him their card, encouraging him to visit the drop-in. They knew that John was living in a safe-house (where he frequently hoarded his food so that he could take it home to his mother) after having fled his abusive step-father, and they realized this was only a short-term solution.

One night, the Outreach phone rang and it was a hardly-recognizable John. He was sobbing and all that Laura could understand was “umbrella” and “step-father”. It turned out that when John had gone home to visit his mom, his step father was there, and they got into a fight. John was beaten by his step-father with an umbrella. The Outreach team drove over to John’s mother’s house, called the police, then talked with John’s mother about his safety and his living situation. It was decided that they would try and get John to his brother’s place in the prairies.

When they took John back to the safe house, they were settling him in his room when they noticed a book beside his bed. Laura asked about the book and John handed it to her. She immediately noticed John’s bookmark: it was an Outreach card, one of many the team had given him over the past few months.

Soon the arrangements were made to fly John to his brother’s. Laura accompanied John onto the plane (where he received a flight deck tour), made sure he was settled, asked him to call when he arrived, left him with a hug, and of course, an Aero bar. John is now settled in and happily living with his brother.