THUNDER BAY -- Dion Oxford wants to connect the dots between the people who live and work in Thunder Bay and those in the shelter system.
"It's not two separate conversations," said the mission integration director for the Salvation Army Toronto's housing and homeless supports.
"People who come from similar places where you are, who have slipped through the cracks of towns and cities across Canada and ended up in shelters like the ones we run."
Oxford is in Thunder Bay as the keynote for the local Salvation Army's Red Shield fundraising dinner behind held Thursday evening at the Valhalla Inn at 6 p.m.
The message Oxford hopes to leave people with is that the folks who use shelters are no different than anyone else.
"They're not from some other planet; they're not different from us," he said.
"We shouldn't be afraid of them. They're human beings with red blood running through their veins. They're someone's mother or father, someone's brother or sister. They have a real story just like everyone else."
The biggest challenge facing the shelter system is the lack of housing and Oxford said that issue is being felt across the country.
Thunder Bay is no different, said Major Rob Kerr, executive director for the Salvation Army Thunder Bay's community and residential services.
The local organization has several men who use its shelter that are looking for affordable housing, but there just isn't any available.
"They can't afford them. They're not suitable. Those types of things that make it difficult for men who really want a place to live and are getting their lives in order but they still can't find a place to live," said Kerr.
The Red Shield dinner is just as much about raising awareness on the issue as it is raising funds, he added.
Tickets for the dinner are $50 and are available by calling 627-6512.
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