On Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, when The Chilliwack Progress published a story with a photo on its front page of Emily Blondeau and her common-law husband, Kirk Munroe, bathing their four-month-old son, Andrew, in a small, five-litre tub in their truck, the city of Chilliwack immediately stepped up to help.
The family had been living in their vehicle at a local truck stop for almost two weeks. As a result of the economic downturn in 2008, Munroe was laid off from his job on Vancouver Island. The family headed east looking for work and a new home. Due to the vast increase in job losses, the paperwork for Munroe’s EI payments was taking longer than expected. They didn’t qualify for welfare since they didn’t have a permanent roof over their heads. All they had was the $900 Blondeau was receiving per month in maternity leave.
When that issue of The Progress hit people’s doorsteps, Chilliwack responded. People showed up at the newspaper wanting to help. Emails came flooding in. Dozens of families were willing to open their homes to the young family. As a result of the story, the Munroe-Blondeau family was given an apartment to live in, rent-free, until they were back on their feet. Local businesses and residents donated furniture, food, and other living supplies. Munroe was even given several job applications.
A follow-up story ran later that week, on Friday, Feb. 13, 2009 updating Chilliwack about the family. “We want everyone to know that we’re okay,” Munroe said. “And we don’t know how to thank them all.”
PhotoSensitive is a non-profit collective of photographers committed to using black-and-white photography to address social issues. PhotoSensitive’s new exhibition, Picture Change, is a Toronto-based show dedicated to highlighting the ways that photography makes a difference in the world by provoking action, reflection, or even a change in a policy or law.