A Winnipeg man is cycling across the country to raise money for the homeless and this week his tour brought him to Rossland.
Patrick “PAZ” Whiddon started out from his sister’s house in Chilliwack on March 22 after shaving his head, making his way east to Tofino before turning around to head eastward across Canada. Along the way, he’s growing his hair and beard to remind himself and others to practice non-judgment, raising awareness about homelessness and raising money for a therapeutic community for the homeless.
“It’s called Journey Towards Heroes and Homes, and I decided to go on a one year cycling adventure across the country to raise support and money to create a therapeutic community and have a positive impact on the homeless along the way,” PAZ explained to Rossland News.
Before starting out on his cross-country trip, PAZ had the idea to create a tiny home community for the homeless with community gardens, food forests and eco greenhouses — a place focused on not only re-homing the homeless, but helping them to heal. As fate would have it, PAZ came across such a place early on in his trip.
Woodwynn Farms, in Brentwood Bay near Victoria, is a therapeutic farming community that offers education and work programs for the previously homeless.
“When I was on Vancouver Island, I had a chance to do a tour and meet the people that have a therapeutic community out there,” said PAZ. “They take on volunteers, so I’ve been toying with the idea of maybe volunteering with them and actually living and being part of a therapeutic community — get an idea of something I can model it on, because it sounded very similar to the vision that I had for this journey.”
Growing food is an important aspect of the therapeutic community that PAZ envisions.
“Part of it is fostering a better relationship with nature, growing your own food — like putting energy into the food that you’re creating,” explained PAZ. “Then they’re able to nourish themselves off the benefits of the food they’ve been growing, and then also it’s a good way to give back to the larger community, wherever you are, [because] you can sell all the extra food at a public market.”
His desire to create a therapeutic community came out of his own hardships over the past five years.
“Some of the strongest pillars of support that I’ve known, and the closest community to me and my heart, kind of maybe crumbled in a way, and I found myself kind of slowly slipping into a kind of depressive state. I was slowly feeling like all the supports in my life were disappearing and I experienced kind of a downward slide that kind of brought me closer and closer to what I thought was the eventuality of being homeless,” explained PAZ. “It really created empathy in myself for the experience of people that were farther along that path, people who were truly homeless, sleeping on the streets, begging for money.”
PAZ is collecting donations for Journey Towards Heroes and Homes on GoFundMe. The money will either go toward starting a new therapeutic community for the homeless or toward supporting a pre-existing community that PAZ encounters on his trip.
But while PAZ is collecting funds for others, he’s relying on his own savings to get him across the country, which only gives him $11 per day to live on. To fill the gap, he’s relying on the kindness of strangers. He’s been using the website Warm Showers to find people he can stay with.
Having worked as a pediatric nurse and trained as a chiropractor, PAZ is used to offering help, but a big part of his personal journey is learning to ask for it.
“I’ve always prided myself on being able to help others, but I was very resistant to asking for help myself, and this journey is really underlining and accentuating that very thing,” he said. “The resistance that I felt in myself to just knock on someone’s door and say, ‘Hey, I need help,’ I avoided that for days, weeks, a long time.”
PAZ made it all the way to Osoyoos before he made himself knock on someone’s door to ask for help. The first three people whose doors he knocked on were unwilling to let him camp in their yard, but then he met a couple who were outside gardening and were happy to offer him a place to set up camp.
PAZ connected with Jill and Tim Peacock over Warm Showers and arranged to stay with them while he was in Rossland. He arrived on Tuesday, May 10 and spent the next day resting in town. The Peacocks arranged for him to speak to learners at Seven Summits and have tea with Mayor Kathy Moore.
PAZ started out from Rossland on Thursday morning, bound for Nelson. If things go well, he’ll be through again when he cycles back west.
“The plan now is to kind of head east to the other side of the country and then hopefully back again. I think a lot of that will be determined by how far I get in the winter time,” he said.
To donate to Journey Towards Heroes and Homes, visit gofundme.com/d39r3zvw. You can follow PAZ’s journey at facebook.com/JourneyTowardsHeroesandHomes/?fref=ts.