Firsthand experience in getting soaked provides a small insight into being homeless

It only lasted four hours, but getting soaked by driving rain and wet snow made me think of what it's like to experience that daily.

Spending four hours in the rain (mixed with occasional wet snow) on Sunday gave me a new appreciation of just how difficult it can be to be living outside at this time of year, as many homeless people do.

I was part of a large group helping a friend move. There was a lot of things to be packed in trucks and trailers, and the move required that some of us stay outside in the rain for virtually the whole time it took to fill the various vehicles.

I thought I had prepared properly, bringing extra clothing, much of which was waterproof. At the same time, the cold rain kept driving down, and clothing needed to be warm. I thought I had the right mix of waterproof and warm, but it didn’t take long for my clothes to get wet.

My coat got wet gradually, but after three hours in the rain,  it was thoroughly soaked. Because it was thick and warm, I didn’t get particularly cold, but I got very wet. My pants got wet much earlier, and I should have put waterproof wear over them. By the time I foolishly realized that, they were soaked.

My car seat is still wet from driving back home.

I worked my way through three pairs of gloves. All of them became thoroughly soaked, and as result my hands got quite cold.

All of this was challenging, but I had an ace up my rain-soaked sleeve — I could look forward to immediately going home, taking off my wet clothes, and stepping into a warm shower. When we finished, that is exactly what I did — and that shower felt very, very good.

It was a good lesson in the reality that far too many people face.

Many people have no homes to go to, and no showers to use as soon as they step inside a dry area.  They are forced to keep wearing wet clothing for many more hours than I did, and in some cases they have no dry clothing to put on at all.

Here in Langley, the Gateway of Hope does offer some temporary respite to homeless people, and they do have a chance to dry out and get warm for a short while. But they head back out to sleep on the streets, or in a wooded or secluded area. It’s a very difficult existence at this time of year.

In November, I was spending more time than usual in downtown Vancouver to take part in Shaw TV broadcasts relating to  municipal elections. I regularly saw homeless people sleeping in alcoves which kept the rain off them in the middle of the day. This was not in a down and out part of the downtown Vancouver area, but along Burrard Street, near St. Paul’s Hospital.

We have the same challenge in Langley, and indeed most Metro Vancouver communities have a significant number of homeless people. Some have shelters offering meals and emergency beds, some offer even more (like Gateway), but all of them are  Band-aids on a growing problem.

People become homeless due to job loss, mental heath issues, addiction and many other issues.

They are forced to get wet when the weather is foul, and can do little about it.

Experiencing this firsthand, albeit for a short time, was eye-opening.