By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
A chance encounter has led a Durham Region woman to try and bring some hope to homeless individuals.
Krista Kilian has launched Randy’s Starfish Project, and it is an initiative with quite an interesting back story.
A while back, Kilian was in the Moss Park area of Toronto taking a self-development course.
While on a lunch break, she went to a local supermarket and saw a sign on the ground reading: “Homeless, will work for money.”
Kilian put $5 in a cup near the sign and soon engaged in a conversation with the homeless individual.
“The man thanked me, and I decided to sit and have lunch with him,” she recalls.
Eventually, the man revealed his name was Randy, and he has a criminal past, something he was ashamed to admit.
Kilian told the man he had paid his debt to society and it was time to move forward.
Randy revealed he always wanted to be a youth worker but didn’t think he could.
Eventually, with the support of 90 people, Kilian raised more than $1,000 to help Randy cover the youth worker course costs.
A friendship has developed from the initial meeting, and the two meet weekly.
However, Kilian explains Randy doesn’t rely on her financially.
“It’s friendship. I don’t support him with anything other than a caring ear or a person he can call.”
She believes the man’s initial reaction was because nobody cares about the homeless, why bother trying to change his situation, and he just needed someone to believe in him.
“A lot of people in his position feel the same,” Kilian says.
With the growing homeless population in Oshawa, she saw the potential to achieve the same type of relationship closer to home.
So she created Randy’s Starfish Project in hopes of developing “a Big Brother, Big Sister relationship for people without homes.”
Kilian has been busy communicating with different organizations serving the homeless in the community, and meeting with “allies” who are willing to help out with the cause.
She is hosting a launch event for the project at Station Gallery in Whitby on Thursday, Jan. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m.
The event will feature workshops for those interested in volunteering from 6 to 7 p.m. and 8 to 9 p.m.
There will also be a number of speakers, including McKenna Otter, a local 12-year-old who raised more than $5,000 to distribute 500 bags containing hygiene items to the local homeless.
Also speaking will be Matt Kotsopoulos, an Oshawa resident with personal ties to the Refuge Youth Centre.
There will also be an art exhibit featuring works of Patty Bowman Kingsley focusing on a vision for addressing homelessness in Durham.
Those attending the event are asked to consider providing old, unlocked cell phones or bringing food donations for Feed The Need in Durham.
Kilian said the project will focus on helping those in Oshawa and Whitby for now but could expand to other parts of the region in the future.
The work she’s done has shown her the direness of local homelessness, Kilian says.
“The number of shelters we have in Durham and the amount of time [people] are allowed to stay in them is really minimal,” she says.
She notes there are a lot of organizations and individuals doing good work in the community but she thinks a more cohesive effort would help everyone.
“My main goal is to get all of the different groups connected in a way that we have a collaborative vision,” she says.
For more information on Randy’s Starfish Project, contact Kilian at 647-640-9106, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit randysstarfishproject.ca