News / Vancouver

Richmond escape room replicates experience of being homeless

A formerly homeless man worked with an escape room company in Richmond to create the immersive experience.

Canadian olympic medalists Georgia Simmerling and Stephanie Labbe try out an escape room that aims to give participants an idea of the frustrations of being homeless.

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Canadian olympic medalists Georgia Simmerling and Stephanie Labbe try out an escape room that aims to give participants an idea of the frustrations of being homeless.

Terry Lawrence was homeless for two years — and he wanted to show other people what it's like to be homeless and try to escape from homelessness.

Lawrence worked with EXIT Canada, an escape room company that has a facility in Richomond, to create an immersive escape room experience that duplicates the frustration and dead ends of homelessness. Union Gospel Mission also partnered on the project.

“Homelessness was like a maze,” Lawrence said. “I helped build ‘Encounter’ to educate the public on just how complicated homelessness really is and help others.”

In this video, Canadian olympic medallists Georgia Simmerling and Stephanie Labbe attempt to make their way out of the escape room. They encounter an "invisible barriers" maze, are stumped by hard-to-fill-out bureaucratic forms and scramble to spin multiple wheels representing basic needs like "find a meal."

In addition to the escape room, formerly homeless people will be on hand to speak to participants about their experience.

To try the Encounters escape room, which is free of charge, sign up at ugm.ca/encounter. Encounters is part of Homelessness Action Week, which starts Oct. 8 and runs to Oct. 14. 

Recent numbers released by the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts show there has been a dramatic rise in homelessness throughout the Lower Mainland within the past five years: between 2011 and 2017, homelessness grew at four times faster than population growth.

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